Guide to Westport
Legendary female pirates and mystical mountains, seafood restaurants and friendly traditional pubs are just some of the impressions that make Westport such a special place to visit. Westport‘s reputation as a popular tourist destination has skyrocketed since the early 2000’s. The town has managed to hold onto its West of Ireland country charm while developing an impressive range of attractions and activities for all age groups to enjoy.
Much of Westport’s success is down to some careful town planning….starting back over 200 years ago. Westport itself is an 18th century planned town, one of just a few in all of Ireland. Westports surviving Georgian buildings, monuments and tree-mined river mall are a living testament to this bygone er to see from this era and have helped earn the town heritage status. Many businesses have also retained their traditional shop fronts alongside cosmopolitan style coffee shops, bistros and restaurants. Wesport is also a shopping town for a large rural hinterland. Spend an afternoon strolling the streets and listen out for the local sing-song Mayo accents and friendly banter at every turn.
Then there’s the unforgettable experience of driving into Westport and catching your first glimpse of Ireland’s famous pilgrimage mountain, Croagh Patrick, rising like a tall cone-shaped extinct volcano. The mountain, in fact, comprises mainly of quartz with large veins of gold that Mayo politicians voted against mining, such is Croagh Patrick’s sacred significance.
Mayo people are renowned for their hospitality and one of the best ways to experience this for yourself is to stay in a B&B guesthouse. The good news is there are a number of excellent B&B providers in Westport offering a high standard of accommodation and authentic welcome. There is also an impressive range of restaurants in Westport catering for a wide variety of tastes; many within easy walking distance of the town centre.
If you have come seeking your ancestry then the Clew Bay Heritage Centre offers an excellent genealogical centre and museum. Westport House is a must visit attraction on any trip to Westport which has attracted over 4 Million visitors in recent years. The 18th century period house is lavishly furnished with over 30 rooms open to the public and is set in beautiful parklands. The Browne family who built and still own Westport House are direct descendants of the famous 16th century pirate queen and Gaelic chieftain, Grainne Ni Mhaille, whose ancestors ruled the seas around Mayo.
The Pirate Adventure Park (opened June-Aug) offers loads of fun activities and facilities for toddlers, kids and teens, including pirate ship rides, water slides and giant swan pedal boats! There is also tennis, fishing and pitch n putt facilities for adults.
The wild elemental beauty of Clew Bay and the surrounding mountains and boglands offers a striking contrast to the ordered Georgian feel of Westport itself. Westport has come to appreciate its natural assets and actively facilitates the growing popularity of outdoor activity breaks including walking, cycling, horse riding and water sports.
The Great Western Greenway is a 42 km long cycle track that follows the route of the former Midland Great Western Railway to Achill Island, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the West of Ireland. Bike hire is available in Westport and your B&B hosts will be happy to help you organise this. For those up for a fitness challenge, walk and scramble up the pilgrim’s trail to Croagh Patrick and visit the chapel built on the summit in 1905. Views looking out over Clew Bay on a fine day are simply unforgettable. Less rigorous activity options include calling into Matt Molloy’s (The Chieftains) famous pub in the heart of Westport for a pint or two of Guinness and the chance to experience a lively traditional music session. Go West and check out Westport for yourself.