Knock is an ideal place for visitors who want to discover something of rural Ireland outside of the main urban areas. A gem in the heart of County Mayo, Knock is a beautiful village that has been a place of pilgrimage for over a century. For religious visitors and holidaymakers alike, the settlement has plenty to offer in terms of bed and breakfast accommodation, as well as a larger-scale hotel with 68 rooms. The west of Ireland, surrounding Knock, is renowned for its natural beauty and is popular with hikers and cyclists. The wider County Mayo area is home to some of the republic's best links courses, often sporting stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean.
Take a stroll around Knock to discover one of the world's most important Christian shrines. In excess of a million pilgrims come to the village church each year to worship at the place where, in 1879, 15 people claimed to have witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St John. Pope John Paul II went to the church himself during his famous visit to Ireland in 1979, and the site remains important in the area for both believers and non-believers.
Head south from the shrine for around a hundred metres to get to Knock's fascinating village museum. For visitors who don't necessarily know what all the fuss is about with a Victorian age vision, the museum helps to put the whole phenomenon into context. Not only does it delve into the details of what happened in 1879, but also charts the rise of Knock's tourism industry and often runs workshops, such as drawing and painting sessions.
Use the bus service or hire a bicycle to head to the nearby village of Kiltimagh. The 10-minute journey is rewarded with Kiltimagh Railway Museum. During the 1980s, the local Historical Society acquired the old goods store and converted it into a museum devoted to all things locomotive. As well as railway artefacts, the museum covers the period when many local inhabitants emigrated from the area, making it a favourite for Anglo-Irish and Irish-American families, among others.
Situated a little further to the northwest of Kiltimgh is Foxford Woollen Mills. It takes about half an hour to get there by road from Knock, and the mills offer the chance for visitors to see how County Mayo's famous rugs and tweeds and blankets are fashioned in 19th century surroundings. The visitor centre also houses a well-run restaurant.
Return to Knock in the evening to enjoy what the village has to offer in terms of nightlife. Like many places in rural Ireland, the pub is the centre of village life and Knock has several to discover, including the New Thatch Pub and Kilkenny's Bar. Flanagan's is another hostelry offering a warm welcome, situated a few kilometres to the south in Treanrevagh.
Travelling to Knock really means opening up all that County Mayo and the rest of the west of Ireland has to offer.