Tír Sáile Sculptural Trail

Tir Sáile Sculptural Map

Tír Sáile Sculpture Trail was the largest public art ever undertaken within Ireland.  During the Mayo Year 5000 the project was constructed as a Cultural Celebration that was inspired by the human imprint in earth or stone plus the landscape over fifty centuries.  A key component of the project was to incorporate natural materials with the environment.  In true ‘Meitheal’ style artists produced fourteen artistic designs along the North Mayo coast.  The Trail begns in Killala then follows a coastal route through Ballycastle, Belderrig, Belmullet down towards Blacksod.  The present Trail consists of eleven art works as several that have degraded back into the landscape. [i]

This Sculptural Art Trail had its genesis in the discovery of the extensive Neolithic site on the North Mayo Coast. The Interwoven tapestry of the physical Landscape with the Cultural Heritage combined to provide the artists involved to produce their inspirational creations.  Sculptures included the following Gateway to the North Mayo Sculpture Trail at the Old Culleen’s School, the Inter Communications Park at Killala Harbour, Tonnta na Blianta at Kilcummin Pier, both Tearmon na Gaoithe & The Echo of Nawascape at Lackan Bay, Sli na nÓg at Lackan Cross School, Courte Hence at Ballycroy Cotteges,, Battling Forces at Down Patric Head, Wind Trees at Mulingelly on the Ballycastle / Belderrig Road, Dun Caochain Head at Carrowtique, Stratified Sheep at Balinboy Visitor Farm, Acknowledgemet at Claggan Island, Reconnections at the Belmullet Canalin, Idir dha Shaíe at Mullachroe plus Deirbhle’s Twist at Fallmore. [ii]

The Tír Sáile art works with Sculpture Trail was formulated as the notion of a ‘Meitheal’ which was a way that groups of local people worked together towards a common goal.  The principle informed all aspects of the development of the project for the collaboration of artists, community engagement to the enhancement of public or private sites to host various artists with their chosen sites.  A key aspect of the Commission was the use of natural materials. [iii]

North Mayo Sculpture Trail Tír Sáile is Ireland’s largest Public Art Project.  This site – specific project was located in sites as diverse as a disused quarry to agricultural lands.  In several areas the gnesse of the Céide Fields was interwoven with the physical landscape.  The local stones, earth, or terrain provided inspiration for the artist involved in the venture. [iv]

Tír Sáile in Belmullet consisted of fourteen site specific sculptures installed along the North Mayo coastline during 1993.  Six were located within the Erris area.  The project was part of the celebrations of Year of Mayo 5000.  It was inspired by the human imprint on earth & stone at the Céide Fields.  The project involved collaboration of local communities, public organizations also private parties.  Local families hosted the artists involved.  The sites from J – O may be viewed on Erris Beo Map.  A special hand – book is also available to download at local tourist offices. [v]

Since its inception the Sculpture Trail of Tír Sáile has heightened the scenic beauty with the wealth of cultural heritage.  The Trail was inspired by the Céide Field’s Interpretive Centre nearby.   The use of natural sourced materials was an important element in the Project.  The rugged coastline allowed for exploration of a variety of sites.  These sites varied from a disused quarry, small fields, stones, sand dunes to agricultural lands on stony ground.  A sculptural Symposium was held initially before the traditional ‘Meitheal’ form of work was the chosen ethos.  Work commenced during June 1993, then continued over three weeks.  The Art Works were in situ for the Year of Mayo 5000.  This page has several sketches of sites available to view. [vi]

This was the largest public art project developed during 1993 in County Mayo.  Initiated originally by artist Marian O ‘Donnell at a Symposium related to the discovery of the Céide Fields.  The outcome suggested the installation of fifteen mixed media sculptures based on various locations along the North Mayo Coast.  The primary aim of the Tír Sáile was the ‘intention of artist with the natural environment by way of imagination’ in order to celebrate the past, relish the present & embrace the future.’  An update during 2018 revealed that several works had worn away or had been removed.  Remedial work was undertaken on several with new signage installed along the route. [vii]

The site has images, sketches plus maps of the Sites.  These several descriptions below may be of interest:

Tearmann na Gaoithe

This installation is a vernacular Sculpture born of its environment.  ‘This is a vernacular sculpture born of its environment.  The stone quarried and thrown up by the waves, has been laid so as to form a shelter, a sanctuary, a place near the pulse of the tide, the breath of the winds.  It belongs only here.’ according to artist Dubliner Alan Counihan.  The site is located on a headland just to the right of Killala Bay, left of Lacken Bay.  The stones were sourced locally then he produced a cell made of sandstone slabs inside a ring of flush – laid stones on the ocean’s edge.  The Sculpture evokes mediation with sanctuary that recalls the monastic tradition with eremitical cells of the western seaboard.  Latitude is 54280501, Longitude is 9.226558.

Also one may view images on site: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-e

Court Henge

This installation is located in a green area at Ballycastle Cottages close to the Megalithic Court Tomb of Ballyglass in North Mayo.  The artist Tony Murphy from Ballina suggested the site as ‘a meeting place – ‘an open circular enclosure of stone; incorporating seating in its inner circumference, with an earthen embankment falling behind, inspired by the Megalithic monuments.’ The grassy mound structure encloses a central courtyard, flanked by two smaller enclosures.  These are lined with Lacken sandstone flags.  Latitude 54.277808, Longitude 9.361285.

Images available on this link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-g

Battling Forces

Danish Artist Fritze Rind’s Sculpture portrays that this is a place where strong elements – sea, storm, land, gives continuous battle to man and each other.  The thirty metres long sculpture gives form to a frozen moment in an on-going struggle between two forces of a different nature.  He states his art is ‘a cutting versus a throttling force – no one knows which will win or how long the struggle will endure…’’  The Sculpture is produced from Lacken sandstone with local uncut limestone that symbolizes two very different forces, one of pure clean – cut, man- made while the other is a vast pile of organic uncut stone that attempts to surround it.  Latitude is 54.321842, Longitude 9.344341.

Images on this site: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-h


Westport Artist Marian O ‘Donnell designed this art piece as a fifty metres sculpture of earth & stone, that provides bothshelter that also draws attention to the existing unmarked burial mound.  She stated that ‘Acknowledgement is a liturgy to communal memory, an earthwork monument to all the anonymous dead, whose memories have been lost ana are only remembered through the tradition of the placing of unmarked stones.’  The use of earth with gneiss stone produced the Sculpture that is bisected by a narrow-curved passageway.  This draws a visitor right through the artwork into the earth then to emerge into the surrounding sea’s vastness.  Latitude is 54.180133, Longitude 9.70805. Several mages are on this link:


Stratified Sheep

Niall O ‘Neill from Wicklow designed this Sculpture that reflects the land structure.  It expresses the rural culture that formed it over the millennia.  The structure is located at Ballinboy Visitors Farm on the Bangor Road in North Mayo.  The work was constructed from Lacken sandstone together with local granite. Each form is produced with several stone layers to reflect the natural stratification of the land itself.  Latitude is 54.221237, Longitude 9.753175. Images are featured in this link:


Deirbhle’s Twist

This Sculpture overlooks Blacksod Bay it was based on St. Deirbhle’s legend.  Offaly – born Michael Bulfin stated that ‘The Stone is the Landscape.  It was always here.  I have just, in a sense, rearranged it!’  His Sculpture was made as he raised the existing granite boulders prior to their arrangement in an ascendant order in situ.  The Spiral is a representation of the Megalithic Sites whilst it also is a reference to atomic physics.  The Sculpture remains in good condition.  Latitude is 54.09549, Longitude is 10.08511. Images are on this site: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-o

Echo of Nawascape

This Art – Work by Japanese Mariyo had as its theme a likeness to ‘nawa’ or a DNA rope.  The theme recalled the DNA helix with representation of continuity of life on earth, sea also sky.  The site is located at Lacken Bay on the sea – shore edge, it also drew attention to the water, as the organ of life in this complex relationship.  The project consisted of a group of earthen mounds that appeared like rolling rope.  It had a central pace paved with Lacken sandstone.  Latitude 54.280501, Longitude 9.226568.  The site is under review, in need of restoration. This link includes images:


Intercommunions Park in Killala

This installation was located on the western side of the bay.  Artist Japanese Mariyo created an environmental work in the form of a small art park.  She stated that ‘Walking around the mounds, sitting on the stones, listening to the wind and the waves…All of us were in the maternal sea before we came.’  A sketch is portrayed where the land was reclaimed from the sea plus returned later to the sea. The artwork is now decommissioned.

Sketches / Images feature at this link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-b

Tionnta na mBlianta

This Sculpture according to Artist Englishman Simon Thomas Represents is a timeless pattern, ten by eighteen metres inlaid on the concrete retaining wall on the shoreline.  Gneiss, the oldest rock at the centre, emanating outwards, with basalt and on through the ages of man, symbolised by copper, iron and stainless steel.  The structure itself was incorporated into the existing retaining wall at Kilcummin Bay.  The Pattern was a Fermat spiral, projected at midnight from the top of a 8.5 metre pole guyed into the seabed at low tide.  The motif was chalked into the wall, it was later drilled then plugged with in – bands from the centre outwards.  The motif itself may be viewed as a representation of time influenced by the source of the Belmullet gneiss plus its proximity to Céide Fields.  Materials used in the construction included the following: Belmullet gneiss, basalt, copper.  The has degraded with the Motif faded. Iron plus stainless steel. Latitude is 54.263845, Longitude 9.209397.  Images may be viewed at this link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-c

Wind Trees

Nigerian Artist Eilish designed this Sculpture with the purpose that ‘the work forms a gigantic handprint set into the hillside’.  Her Sculptural work stated that ‘At each fingertip a dry – wall reflects the rock strata below.  The wind blowing across Muingelly hill will play upon pan pipes set in each wall and sculpt the five different indigenous trees growing there.’  The site was located on the Ballycastle / Belderrig Road that overlooks Down Patrick Head & Dún Briste.  The site is off limits at present due to repairs. Latitude is 54.303318, Longitude 9.424460.

This link includes images: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-h-1


German Artist Walter Michael produced this Sculpture based on the local legend of the One – Eyed Giant.  It also is named after the nearby townland of Dun Caochain.  It is located on a hill in Cathru Thaigh in North Mayo.  The Sculpture is a one – hundred – foot – long structure.  When viewed from the site entrance the exceptionally long face shrinks to present the perfect the correct proportions of the structure. Latitude is 54.311139, Longitude is 9. 821348.  This site is weather dependent also under review. This is featured link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/site-h-1-1  [viii]

New Artworks

During early 2017 Mayo County Council with Aras Inis Gluain commissioned three public art residencies project in Erris, Co. Mayo.  The selected Artists were Garath Kennedy, Joanna Hopkins, Noah Rose also Selma Makela.  They produced Structures in Carrowtigue, Bellmullet plus on Claggan Island.  The original artworks trail was installed over twenty – five years ago: most Sculptures underwent a thorough maintenance programme that included new signage, repair plus the creation of a new website.  The website was launched with the finalized project.

These three Sculptures are featured below:

Marram Meitheal

Artist Joanna Hopkins’s artistic project involved the assistance of several local island people also school children.  The initial idea was to create a socially engaged project with discussion or exploration of the Marram Grass.  Several events were organized to assist with replenishment of the Marram Grass cut for the paper making.  Her project included Marram Grass or Bent Grass being planted along the Claggan coast to help slow down erosion also to enforce the island’s access route.  Members of the public made handmade paper from the Grass.  This was incorporated into a Sculptural Sand Fence installed on the dunes.  A video was produced to document the process with local people’s narration of daily life on island.  The Sand Fence is located on the left-hand side of the road leading to Claggan.  Images with video are included on this link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/about

Time Rite

Artist Garath Kennedy stated his vision was to ‘unbury & recover the material culture from the bog at a time collectively agreed upon as prescient.’  His exploration was a critical play with material, place, trace & legacy in Carrow Thigue with surrounding area.  Bog wood was exposed by Bord na Mona industrial harvests of the bog.  That process was dated to the so – called ‘Pine Flush’- a natural afforestation of North Mayo following the collapse of the Neolithic farming activity in the area over 5,000 years ago.  The trees were interred but preserved within the bog following climate change.  Images of bog with view from Corrán Buí beach across Broadhaven Bay is featured on this link: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/newartworks



The translation of the title of Sculpture is ‘a sudden gust or wind which comes out of nowhere, particularly noted along the cliffs.’  This joint project focused on maritime or meteorological knowledge local to the area of North Erris.  Both Artists looked at the particularly descriptive detail that existed in Erris with the Irish dialect related to sea or weather.  They combined their own field recordings from across the Mullet peninsula, offshore islands as well as under the sea.  They created temporary sculptural sound Installations that layered Erris – Irish words with English translations also mixed with natural environmental sounds.  Those were installed at various locations in & around Belmullet.  The Artists worked with children from Belmullet National School then held a small ceremony where they became ‘ekeepers of the weather – wordsí’ – as a prerequisite to protect then pass on to next generation.  There are several images on this site: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/noah-rose-selma-makela  [ix]

In the 10th October 2017 edition of Mayo News Column, a report stated that during 1993 as Mayo celebrated Mayo 5000 the largest Art Project in Ireland was installed in North Mayo.  It was designed to explore a number of themes that included the role of art in the making of community or place – themed related humans adorning of the historic landscape whether agricultural, settlement, mythology, folklore also life or death.  The project consisted of fifteen site – specific artworks created by use of a specified limited range of organic materials that were installed at intervals along the North Mayo coastline from the Moy Estuary to the top of Erris Peninsula.  Over the years several pieces have disappeared.  During the twenty – fifth Anniversary of the project during 2018 a maintenance programme was initiated with new signage created; a website developed plus new works.  A two – day Symposium was held in Áras na Gluine in Belmullet to launch the website, to celebrate also to reflect on the project. (Anne – Marie Flynn)  [x]


Original May with booklet may be viewed on this site: https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/en/history

Talk by Gemma Tipton of the Irish Times on Tír Saile may be accessed at this link:



[i] Mayo Arts Service (https://www.mayo.ie/arts/public-art/mayo-north-sculpture-trail) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[ii] Visit North Mayo (https://www.discoverireland.ie/mayo/the-north-mayo-sculpture-trail) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[iii] Home Tír Sáile (https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/en/home-english) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[iv] Walking (http://belmulletcgs.com/walking/) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[v] Tir Sáile http://visitbelmullet.ie/gowilddetails/tir-saile-sculpture-trail/) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[vi] Tír Sáile (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/things-to-do/museums/tir-saile.html) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[vii] Tír Sáile (https://www.northmayo.ie/tir-saile-the-north-mayo-sculpture-trail/) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[viii] Home Tír Sáile (https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/en/home-english) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[ix] Home Tir Sáile (https://www.northmayoarttrail.com/en/home-english) [assessed 25th April 2020]

[x] Mayo News 10th October 2017

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