Keem Bay, Achill. Pic: Dominic Sayers/Creative Commons

Places to visit

 

There are many fadcinating places to visit in Westport. The mountains, beaches and woodlands are just part of the stunning natural beauty that greets the visitor to Westport. Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, is only a few kilometres from Westport. Several of Clew Bay’s islands are a short ferry ride or drive from Westport, making them perfect for a day or afternoon out with the whole family. Many of the towns and villages nearby have fascinating histories, both ancient and more recent, as well as walks and other opportunities for amusement. An informative and engaging collection of exhibits regarding rural life awaits the visitor to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, just half an hour’s drive east of Westport. This is the only part of the National Museum of Ireland located outside the Dublin area.

 

Cycling on the Greenway at Burrishoole

A family cycling on the Great Western Greenway at Burrishoole.

Great Western Greenway

Escape the bustle of urban life on the multi-award-winning Westport to Achill Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. The first 14km stage of the Greenway from Newport to Mulranny opened in 2010 and a year later extensions were finished lengthening the route to 42km, almost entirely off-road. Walkers and cyclists can drink in the views of the spectacular Nephin Beg mountain rangeClew Bay, Clare IslandCroagh Patrick and Achill. You could even stop off for a hike on the Lettermaghera Loop walk or take a break on Mulranny’s Blue Flag Beach.

 

Beaches

Westport and the surrounding area have award-winning Blue Flag and Green Coast beaches to suit all tastes, from wild rocky shores to sandy coves. Near the foot of Croagh Patrick, 12 km (7 miles) west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road (R335), Bertra Blue Flag beach is one of the best beaches in Ireland for walking and bird-watching, as well as kite-surfing and windsurfing. Overlooked by a woodland to the west and Croagh Patrick to the south and east, Old Head Blue Flag beach has beautiful rock-pools that are exposed when the tide is out. The beach is sheltered from the south and west and is therefore well-suited for swimming. More information on the many award-winning beaches in the region is available here.

 

Croagh Patrick seen from the shoulder

The dome of Croagh Patrick seen from the shoulder. Pic: JJB0506/Creative Commons

Hills and mountains

In the breathtaking landscape of west Mayo, nothing is more prominent that her hills and mountains. Iconic Croagh Patrick, pilgrimage site since ancient times and just outside Westport, is the best known. A climb to the summit rewards pilgrim or casual climber with stunning views of the surrounding area, looking north over Clew Bay and her many islands and south towards the Sheeffry Hills and Mweelrea.

 

Clew Bay and the islands

Probably the most beautiful bay in Ireland, Clew Bay has long been said to have 365 islands, one for each day of the year. The largest, Clare Island, stands like a sentinel at the mouth of the bay, with its population of 130 year-round residents, though the numbers swell substantially in the holiday season. Clare Island’s historical association with Granuaile, the Pirate Queen, and its other historical and archaeological sites make it a must-see among the islands. Most of the other islands in the bay are uninhabited, save for a few hardy souls who cling to the age-old tradition of living on a small island the whole year ’round.

 

Woods and forests

A fascinating, but perhaps more serene experience of natural beauty awaits the visitor to the woods and forests near Westport. Brackloon Wood is notable as one of the largest remnants of the native oak-dominated woodlands that existed in ancient times.  A short drive from Westport, it offers a gentle 4km signposted walk, delightful for walkers of all ages. Other forest to visit near Westport are  Letterkeen Woods and Tawnyard Wood.

 

Towns and villages

The towns and villages that ring Clew Bay and extend further inland offer many varied delights to the visitor. Closest to Westport is Murrisk, only 9.5 km west and best known as the starting point for the most popular route up Croagh Patrick, which looms majestically over the village. The ruins of Murrisk Abbey, dating from the 15th century, offers a glimpse into the times of the O’Malley chieftains, including Granuaile, who were patrons of the abbey. Information on the other towns and villages near Westport is available here.

Pics: JJB0506/Creative Commons; Dominic Sayers/Creative Commons

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