The small town of Knock in County Mayo (population 595 in 2002) on the west coast of Ireland is a slightly odd place to find a bustling international airport along with hotel, hostel and camping accommodation for tens of thousands of people and the shops, bars and restaurants to see to all their needs.

The answer lies in the fact that knock has become, alongside Lourdes and Fatima, one of Western Europe’s leading Catholic Marian shrines. Here, at the gable end of a church, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared at 8:00pm on 21st August 1879 accompanied by St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist.

Since then Knock has blossomed as a site of national and international pilgrimage. It now sees more than half a million pilgrims visit every year. The leading light in the expansion of Knock was one Monsignor James Horan. It was he who successfully lobbied for the construction of the Our Lady Queen of Ireland Basilica (which can hold a congregation of 10,000), the Knock International Airport and the 1979 visit from Pope John Paul II; commemorate the centenary of the virgin’s apparition.


The main attraction in Knock is obviously the shrine to the Virgin Mary. The original Church of the Apparition, stands alongside the much larger basilica as places of prayer and contemplation. There are also extensive gardens and smaller shrines ideal for quiet reflection. The site has a rest and care centre for sick and invalid pilgrims.

The Knock pilgrimage centre also contains a folk museum which uses contemporary artefacts to throw light on life in and around Knock at the time of the apparition. The museum even contains an entire thatched cottage of the kind most of Knock’s residents would have lived in during the late 19th Century.

In the Roman Catholic church devotion to Mary is especially significant during the Novena in the middle of August. This special week of prayer includes both the Feast of the Assumption and the Feast of Our Lady of Knock. The shrine will be at its busiest but also its most vibrant during this period.

Further afield there are some great outdoor opportunities around Knock. Set in the heart of Mayo the town is surrounded by gorgeous countryside- perfect for walking, hiking, cycling and horse riding. There are few opportunities to hire equipment in Knock but the neighbouring towns of Kilkelly and Charlestown are well stocked and used to catering for tourists.

Knock is close to the river Moy, a heartland of Irish fishing or simply a beautiful spot for a ramble


Shopping in Knock comes in two varieties- the essentials of daily life or religious objects. There are plenty of small shops and stalls selling the latter. You can get all sorts of Catholic paraphernalia here from traditional rosary beads and bibles to holy water bottles, crucifixes, coloured prints and models the Virgin Mary.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Knock has a range of restaurants and pubs which serve the needs of the year-round stream of pilgrims that visit the town. They serve decent, filling food though the prices can be a bit steep as they cater for a mostly captive audience.

As long as you’re not fasting there are some traditional Irish dishes that shouldn’t be missed. Champ (mashed potatoes mixed with spring onions, or scallions) topped with plenty of butter is a great side dish. Colcannon is a fried mixture of potato, bacon and cabbage. The proximity of the sea means some great fresh seafood is available, especially mussels, prawns and oysters. Of course no day can begin without a full Irish breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding and potato bread.

There are several pubs in the town, most of which put on some traditional music nights every week. You won’t find any nightclubs or more upmarket bars in Knock as nearly all visitors are pilgrims to the shrine, visiting for quiet prayer and contemplation.

Tourist Information

Knock Shrine Tourist Office,Knock Shrine,Knock, Co. Mayo,Ireland

Tel: +353 (0) 94 88100Fax: +353 (0) 94 88295

Email: info@knock-shrine.ieWeb:


Knock is served by its very own International Airport, Ireland West Airport, almost universally known as Knock Airport. It was built in 1985 after a long campaign by local priest Monsignor James Horan. The campaign to build an airport met with suspicion and cynicism in many quarters and was commemorated in a song by popular Irish traditional musician Christy Moore, called simply Knock.

The airport is 16km from the city centre and it takes flights from across Europe on both budget and established airlines including Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Easyjet and Air France.