Mayo County Council logo

Elly Bay Beach

Beaches - Elly Bay

Welcome to Elly Bay, one the Blue Flag Beaches along the County Mayo coastline.  This popular Beach is located on the Belmullet peninsula, about 9km south of Belmullet town.

About Elly Bay
Bird Life
Area of Scientific Interest
Local History
Further Information


Rating Regional Importance

Elly Bay a small sheltered bay, adjacent to Elly harbour, is situated in the Mullet peninsula along the extreme north western corner of Mayo.  The coastal lands around Blacksod and Broadhaven Bays together with the interesting peninsula of Mullet are underlain by rocks of Pre-Cambrian origin dating back to Lewisian and Moinian times.  The underlying geology of Elly Bay is Lewisian Gneiss.

Elly Bay Beach:

Designation: Natural Heritage Area.

Special Area of Conservation Interests: Botanical, Ecological, Geological, Ornithological and Zoological. 

Rating: International importance.

Elly Bay beach is part of a larger area which contains diverse habitat types, predominantly marine.  The designated area includes considerable stretches of dune systems up the western coast of the Mullet Peninsula.  Behind the dunes are extensive areas of dune grassland and machair, these areas of grassland are of considerable botanical importance.  The Mullet/Blacksod Bay complex is also important for the range and extent of maritime and coastal habitats and for the important number of breeding waders and wintering wildfowl that use it.

Bird Life:

Bird Colonies

This site includes several brackish lakes, that is, Termoncaragh Lough, Cross Lough and Leam Lough.  They are important for breeding waders including Dunlin, Snipe, Lapwing, Redshank, and Ireland’s only site for breeding Red-necked Phalarope.  The area is also important to wintering windfowl including the Tufted Duck, Scaup, Whooper Swans, Golden Plover and Barnacle Goose. 

Along the shoreline of Blacksod Bay, areas of saltmarsh occur in sheltered bays and inlets.  Blacksod Bay itself holds internationally important numbers of Brent Geese, as well as considerable numbers of Oystercatchers, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed-Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and Sanderling.  The following birds can also be seen at the beach:


Great Black-Backed Gull
Lesser Black-Backed Gull
Herring Gull


Sandwich Tern
Little Tern
Common Tern
Arctic Tern

Area of Scientific Interest:

Typical Beach Dune Machair

Low, flat windswept sand plains known as Machair are found on the western seaboard.  The  term means the entire area from the beach to the ‘Backland’ or the area of sand plain surface, exclusive of the fringing coastal dunes.  It consists of a mixture of Siliceous and Calareous sands in varying proportions.  The siliceous sand is derived from glacial tills and sediments deposited on the offshore platform after glaciation.  Calcareous sand is derived from shells of animals which lived and still live on the offshore platform.

The beaches to the seaward side of the machair are confined to a small bay between high headlands.  The upper limit of the beach is marked by a pebble or cobble ridge behind which there are low sand dunes, forming a simple ridge.  The machair is formed as a result of coastal adjustment to the excess supply of sand in the offshore zone, which existed after deglaciation.  The proportion of calcareous sand decreases with the age of the dune system, distance from the sea and degree of water saturation.

Behind the dunes, the topography of the machair is characterised by a flat or gently sloping plain, normally below 20 feet, whose flat and low altitude appears to be a reflection of age.  A seaward-facing sand escarpment marks the landward limit of the low flat machair, the backslope of the escarpment extends through to the backland.

Machair Vegetation

The machair is a fully stable and completely vegetation covered sand plain.  Marram and lime grass, typical of open sand habitats, occur widely on the sand dunes and inland where erosion and redeposition of the sand are active.  The stable areas of the plain carry a characteristic grass-legume community closely related to that of calcareous grassland, though lacking some of the more strongly lime loving species.

Grazing has been such an integral part of the development of machair that it must rank as one of the formative factors along with climate, substratum and physiographic processes.  The machair has been farmed in a way which has caused little loss to either its fertility or to its geomorphologic interest.  Recently more interest in improving the agricultural capability has been shown.  However in this environment, chemical fertilisers can make the machair more susceptible to erosion, therefore organic fertilisers are preferable from a conservation point of view.  In addition, where the machair is ploughed or subjected to excessive traffic, overgrazing or allowed to carry an excessive population of rabbits, the vegetation cover is destroyed and wind erosion occurs.

Local History

Binghamstown situated eight miles north of Elly Bay was built in 1796 by Major Denis Bingham.  The town was built essentially a ‘landlord village’ providing services for Bingham estate.  It was not until 1817 that a main road was constructed into Erris from Castlebar and it was only in 1824 that it finally ran through Binghamstown to the extremity of the Peninsula.  In 1795 Richard Bingham built his castle at Elly Bay.  It was built Castellated Style with the offices and gardens commensurating with the full extent of the building.  Built on the northern reaches of Elly Bay, today nothing substantial survives of Bingham Castle except for low grass covered foundations.  A portion of the Castle was deliberately pulled down in 1929.  The remainder was subsequently removed over a period of years and the stone used to build later dwellings in the locality. 

In 1825 Belmullet a rival settlement was established by the Carters.  As the town grew the cattle fair became more popular and soon had taken much of the trade from Binghamstown.  Finally in a desperate attempt to keep Binghamstown fair alive Major Bingham erected a huge gate across the roadway.  Those who took their animals out of the town for the Belmullet Fair had to pay a toll as they passed through the gate.  It was here the name An Gheata Mhór (The Big Gate) originated for Binghamstown.  By the end of the 19th century, Binghamstown fell into disuse and the main use for Saleen Harbour was in carrying Irish emigrants on boats bound for America.

Further Information:

If you would like to research further informtion for example tourist attractions or activities within this area, find some useful links below:

Belmullet events, news and amenities (For up to date weather forecast)

Elly Bay Beach Legend Map (Document)

Elly Bay Beach Legend Map
Formats Available:

Mayo Beaches

Environment Section
Second Floor
Mayo County Council
The Mall
Co Mayo
Phone: (094) 9024444
Open: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

  More Mayo County Council and Local Government Websites