The word Maam is derived from the Gaelic word Mam meaning mountain pass. The Maam Valley, which extends from Carragarew north-westwards to Leenane, lies at the centre of a deeply dissected mountainous region. It is flanked on the south-west by the steep rocky ridge of the Maumturk Mountains which rise to well over 2,000 feet at several points. To the north-east the valley is bounded by a group of lower, less hostile hills known collectively as Joyce’s Country. The valley floor is relatively flat and covered in most parts with blanket peat or thin podzolic soils overlying glacial deposits. The valley is drained by two river systems. Bealanabrack and Failmore Rivers which flow into Lough Corrib east of Maam Bridge. A smaller unnamed river drains the northern end of the valley, flowing from the watershed at Culliagh Beg down to Killary Harbour at Leenane.
One of Maam’s most famous residents was Alexander Nimmo who build a house beside the Beanlanabrack River was once a Bianconi Posting Inn formally known as”Corrib Lodge/Maam Hotel but today it is known as Keane’s Bar and is one of the oldest licenced premises in Ireland. On the way to Leenane you will see a signpost for ‘Leaba Phádraig (Patrick’s bed) and ‘Tobar Phádraig’ (Patrick’s well) which is a place of pilgrimage, they were traditionally visited in July. The well was believed to cure cattle as well as some human ills. The annual pilgrimage to Mám Éan was revived after having been closed down in the early 20th century because of the heavy drinking, and faction fighting that went hand in hand with the day. There are now three pilgrimage days to Mám Éan ,(St. Patrick Day, Good Friday, 1st Sunday August)
On Saturday April 23 1921, the Maam Valley was the scene of a famous ambush by the IRA during the War of Independence, a patrol of fourteen policemen under the command of Detective Inspector Sugrue travelled from Oughterard at 3 am in the morning, their mission was to search the house of Padraic O’Máille, MP for Galway and Connemara where it was suspected members of the IRA were hiding. It was during this operation that they came under fire from members of the Connemara Flying Column at Mounterown the battle lasted several hours until further police and auxiliaries arrived around 1.30pm