Religious shrines and grottos are widespread acoss Connemara, with a special devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Whatever your religion or denomination, such shrines must be seen as outward manifestations of a deep faith. If you aren't Roman Catholic, or even a Christian, you can still visit these shrines and admire the devotion of those who erected them and who maintain them; and you can enjoy the undoubted sense of peace which so often pervades the areas in which they are erected.

The shrine/grotto at MOYARD (Dooneen), just past the pier, and on a small piece of land jutting into the sea at Ballynakill Bay, is a marvel, with much to see. There is a small parking spot on the opposite side of the road (the N59, though you would never believe this narrow winding road is a main arterial road!); but you should take great care when crossing to the grotto entrance, as it's on a bend, the visibility is bad, and the traffic can be quite heavy at times. So be warned.

Wander around the grotto, taking time to observe the winding trail leading around the Stations of the Cross, and spotting the many and varied (and ever-changing - they are constantly added to or moved) statues and smaller devotional objects. There is a large statue, more or less life-sized, of Padre Pio, in a cave with a locked barred gate, to the right of and below the large statue of Mary.

Whatever your beliefs, this grotto is a marvel and a peaceful place to visit.


 Below is a selection of photographs of the statues and devotional objects to be seen at Dooneen (Moyard) - though these do change, and some have been added and some altered since we took these photos:


Dooneen is by no means the only shrine to marvel at.

One that we like especially - obviously the work of a deeply religious person - is to be seen in the Partry Mountains, north of Leenane, on a small road leading towards Toormakeady.


There is, we think, something especially poignant about this shrine: Mary, protected from the elements, but also somehow trapped, behind the glass casing. The whole is made from scraps and bits and pieces; but it is no less a testament to faith and devotion, and that is how we should view it.


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