We are grateful to Cathal Henry who supplied many of the photographs and most of the historical information for these pages.
Charlestown is located at the intersection of two National Primary routes, the N17 and the N5, on the eastern border of County Mayo, adjacent to the town of Bellaghy in Sligo and close to the County Roscommon border. Because of its very central location on these two major roads, Charlestown is an ideal stopover on a journey through Mayo and is a perfect destination from which to explore other locations in Mayo and surrounding counties. It is a well planned town with wide streets and good parking facilities.
With the continued development and expansion of Ireland West Airport Knock, Charlestown is now one of the most accessible towns in the West of Ireland and the number of visitors to Charlestown has increased considerably since the development of the airport. Charlestown is a traditional Irish town with and a wide range of accommodation available where visitors will experience hospitality and good food, friendly local pubs and shops and a vibrant community spirit and interesting local characters.
Prior to becoming Charlestown the area was referred to as 'Dillontown'. The Dillons were a prominent family who came to Ireland around the time of the Norman invasion and owned land in much of Connaught including 83,000 acres in Mayo. Charles Strickland was the land agent for the Dillon estate and he wanted to establish a rival town on the Mayo side of the Sligo border because tenants of the estate were treated unfairly in Bellaghy (Sligo) when they went to sell their crops at the market place - see Early History of Charlestown.
A wide range of activities and attractions are on offer to people visiting the area. These include a choice of golf courses within easy reach, fishing in the many local lakes and rivers, mapped walking routes in beautiful rural surroundings, cycling trips on quiet, country roads and visits to some of the many archaeological sites in the area.
St. Attracta's Well is probably the best known relic of St. Attracta's ancient mission in the fifth century and is located in Tample, 2 miles from Charlestown. Tample graveyard has the famous Costelloe Tomb located there. Urlaur Abbey, in the parish of Kilmovee was founded in 1434, but was destroyed by Cromwellian soldiers in 1654. Urlaur Abbey and lakes are a 10 minute drive from Charlestown. Lough Talt, a well-known trout fishing lake, is five miles from Benada Abbey, built in 1483 by the Augustinians.
About five miles from Charlestown is Barnacahogue Stone Fort which dates back to the seventh or eighth century. Ringforts were the homesteads of farmers who lived in Ireland about two thousand years ago, and the remains of stone houses and wooden huts are often found within the walls. Stone forts are particularly common in Western Ireland where stone was more plentiful and where every inch of earth was needed for tillage.
The famous journalist, John Healy, was born in Charlestown and documented the town as the subject of a serialised social commentary in The Irish Times, which he later published as "No One Shouted Stop" (Death Of An Irish Village). This book, published in 1968, chronicled the economic and social decline of rural life in the West of Ireland in a time of widespread poverty and mass emigration and was highly critical of government policies towards rural areas such as Charlestown.
The John Healy Memorial Weekend is now an annual event, each October, in Charlestown. The N5 Charlestown bypass, which opened in 2007, is also named in his honour.
Notable landmarks in Charlestown include the Town Hall (built around 1900), St James' Church, and the old 'Eureka' Cinema which opened its doors in 1939 and provided many hours of enjoyment and entertainment, particulary for the younger generation.
Local tourism interests have developed a range of leisure walks and cycle tours in the area, and details of these are available in restaurants and places of accommodation.