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Country Life | Mayo Museum is National Treasure

The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, at Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, is a must-see heritage experience for visitors touring the western region.

Striking contemporary architecture combines with Victorian Gothic design at this impressive museum site, which welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year and is easily accessed from the nearby Wild Atlantic Way.

The modern museum building is home to Ireland’s National Folklife Collection and sits alongside Turlough Park House, a historic home dating to 1865. All of this is set within a beautiful parkland with formal Victorian gardens, woodland sections, a river and an ornamental lake.

Admission to the museum and Turlough Park House and Gardens is free. In the museum itself, visitors can journey through four floors of award-winning exhibition galleries to learn about an almost vanished way of life from the relatively recent past. Audio and visual displays, objects, rare photography and archive film footage depict the rich heritage and fascinating cultural traditions of rural Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Next to the galleries, Turlough Park House provides a striking contrast, giving visitors an insight into how wealthy and influential landowners lived during the same era. There are three restored rooms open to the public.

Designed by a well-known architect of the era, Thomas Newenham Deane, the house is a beautiful example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. It was the ancestral home of the Fitzgerald family for more than 350 years before it became the site for a National Museum of Ireland.

The house overlooks a man-made lake with ‘picnic islands.’ Other garden features include a Victorian glasshouse, formal terraced lawns, a vinery, outdoor art installations and woodland walks and trails.

The Museum Café is located in the former stable block and service wing of Turlough Park House, looking out to an original cobbled courtyard. The Museum Shop next door offers a wide range of unique Irish crafts, gifts and books.

Energetic visitors can opt to walk or cycle to the museum, via a spur of the famous Great Western Greenway. This 10-kilometre cycling and walking route links Castlebar to the museum grounds and passes through picturesque countryside along the way. Bicycle parking facilities are available at the museum and bike hire is available in Castlebar.

While admission to the museum is free, guided tours must be booked in advance. Group tours with an experienced museum guide cost €40. The museum also offers a free programme of temporary exhibitions, activities and events year round and visitors can see what’s on at www.museum.ie.

Visitors who enjoy their time at Turlough Park should be sure to visit the three other National Museum of Ireland sites, all located in Dublin City and all offering free admission.

The NMI – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks, Dublin 7, displays silver, ceramics, glassware, furniture, clothing, jewellery and coins as well as a military history collection, which tells of Ireland’s military and revolutionary past.

The NMI – Natural History at Merrion Street in Dublin’s City Centre houses a comprehensive zoological collection while the nearby NMI – Archaeology displays some of Ireland’s most priceless and iconic treasures.

To plan your visit or for further information on upcoming events and exhibitions, see www.museum.ie.

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