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8 reasons why you will fall in love with the picturesque Westport, Ireland

My morning walk was serene. The only sounds were the songs of birds and the Carrowbeg River as it passed through the center of the village, flying over stone walls covered with plants and rushing into revelations on the way to Clew Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Later, I relaxed with tea and a scone at a teahouse in the village. The conversations were warm and friendly. They all made eye contact and said, “Hello,” or “How are you?” It was easy to see why Westport won the title The best place to live in Ireland.

Westport, a village in Mayo County, is on Clew Bay. Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain of Ireland, is a constantly changing background. The first village was established in the 1700’s. Located at a crossroads, Westport has become a thriving market town today.

Westport is a popular tourist destination on the Wild Atlantic Way. It has nature, history, art, music, folklore, traditional food and wonderful libations. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the local way of life.

Here are the reasons why I fell in love with this charming village.

Westport House - Westport Ireland
Westport House
(Photo credit: Kevin Scanlon)

1. Westport House

In 1780, Westport House was the center of Westport Village. But an enterprising lord moved the city to a dry area, away from the wetlands and ocean tides. As a result, Westport became the first planned community in Ireland, with Westport House as its crown jewel.

The history of Westport House is captivating. From a 16th-century pirate castle, through 292 years of deeds, titles, additions and restorations, Westport House is the most charming building in Westport. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, life in the “Great House” (local nickname) was very similar to the great English costume dramas. With art, music and extravagant food, the nobles of the time spent and played in the great house and 400 acres of forest, gardens and waterfront. An invitation to Westport House was a star on the social calendar, which instantly lifted your status.

A tour of the house will set the stage for your visit to Westport, illuminating the fascinating people who called it home. Guided tours are led by an experienced teacher. After the guided tour of the group, you will have time to walk through the dungeons and investigate the kitchen and pantry on the ground floor. Book tickets to Westport House on their website.

Swan boats, picnic areas, golf courses, food concessions, a pirate playground and many other activities can also be enjoyed on site. Plan to spend most of the day at the property. The beauty is unmatched, and the activities are all family friendly.

The Lavender Shop - Westport Ireland
Lavender shop
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

2. Walk in the village

The small village of less than 7,000 people is ideal for walking. I suggest a walk starting with the Octagon in the city center. From there, head northeast on James Street. Cross the river and walk the tree-lined north and south malls back to James Street and your starting point.

Along the way, you’ll find plenty to explore. Captivating shops, cafes, restaurants, traditional pubs, stone bridges, historic buildings, monuments, churches, parks, horse-drawn carriage rides, bicycle rentals and more are available. You can easily spend the day meandering through the village and having a leisurely long lunch. Use this map (PDF) to plan your walk.

In the village you can take weekly walks in summer. Walks can also be arranged by appointment. Use Heritage Center’s historic walking page for programs and itineraries.

3. Visit a pub or two

As in all Irish villages, the pub is the center of community life. Welcoming to all, pubs are where you can enjoy a pint of beer, a quick bite to eat, some trad (traditional Irish music) or a chance to chat with the locals and listen to the latest craic (crack), or fun, entertainment, gossip.

With over 50 pubs in the area, you’ll be spoiled for choice. I recommend a pub crawl from Octagon on Shop Street, turning left on Bridge Street, left on South Mall, left on James Street, and back to Octagon. Here’s a list of local pubs. Many trade every night, and some offer early Sunday sessions.

Mountaineering Croagh Patrick - Westport Ireland
Climbing Croagh Patrick
(Photo credit: Kevin Scanlon)

4. Climb Mighty Croagh Patrick

The Holy Mountain of Ireland is why many people come to Westport. With a peak of 2,507 feet, the “smell” is not the highest mountain in Ireland. However, it is the highest. Many climbers are on a spiritual journey; others are looking for a physical challenge. I admit I didn’t board Croagh Patrick, but my companion and fellow travel photographer, Kevin Scanlon, made it to the top.

At the top of the mountain is a small chapel dedicated to St. Patrick, who is said to have fasted on the top of the mountain for 40 days.

Reaching the top is not essential, just being there is a wonderful experience. Climbers are friendly and supportive of each other. There is a visitor center at the base of the mountain. Across the road, in the village of Murrisk, you will find a restaurant and shops. Views and photos from Croagh Patrick are second to none.

Clew Bay Heritage Center and Bell
Westport fire station bell
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

5. Heritage Center and Archaeological Route

The most surprising thing I learned about Westport was the Archaeological Trail. I discovered it when I went to the Clew Bay Heritage Center in Westport Quay. The heritage center is located in pier (port / port). The small stone building is full of artifacts showing the way of life in Westport from the 16th century to the present. It’s fascinating, especially the layout of the city.

If you are looking for Mayo descent, fill out a form in the center. A local genealogist will look for you and suggest places where you can find information.

Starting at the Heritage Center is the Clew Bay Archaeological Trail in Mayo County. Man has lived in the area for over 6,000 years. Along the way, you can see thousands of years of heritage in one day. From Neolithic rock art to the planned town of Westport, the route is delightful. In addition to the historical artifacts, you will see some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Ireland.

Early morning swimmer in Clew Bay.
“Swim in the cold Clew Bay at any time of the year. It is protected from boat traffic and has stairs and railings to help you get into the water. ”
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

6. Pedaling, rowing, hiking and swimming

Cycling in Westport

Westport and Clew Bay received the first “Cycling Friendly Destinations” in Ireland from the European Cycling Federation. Cycling is one of the best ways to see the area. Bicycle lanes and bike racks are everywhere.

The Great Western Greenway attracts cyclists from all over the world on the 47-mile asphalt road for wheels and feet. You will pass through the countryside and the waterfront, always without cars. Find other cycling routes with Westport Tourism guide.

Kayaking in Westport

Kayaking in Clew Bay or offshore is very popular. There is a location for all your golfing skills in search of wildlife. Equipment can be found in Westport Quay. One of the most popular is the Adventure Islands Center.

Hiking in Westport

Walking for all skills and schedule is everywhere in the Westport area. Short and long walks in the countryside or in the village can be found in this Westport Walking Guide.

Swimming in Clew Bay, Westport

Swim in the cold Clew Bay at any time of the year. It is protected from boat traffic and has stairs and railings to help you get into the water. Take Westport Quay to Heritage Center. Go through the center and follow the road that ends in a parking lot. Continue parking around the football field to find stairs, picnic tables and lots of swimmers.

Squid and chips at Westport Quay Ireland.
“I tried the special fried squid one night. It was cooked perfectly and accompanied by chips and an arugula salad. ”
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

7. Seafood in the gorges

Clew Bay is famous for its rich seafood. Scales or mussels can probably be found seasonally in restaurants, fishmongers and grocery stores. In addition to transport from the Atlantic, aquaculture is a big business in the region. Lobsters, oysters, mussels and salmon are grown sustainably in the nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf.

The quay has many restaurants, shops, boat trips, a museum, nature trails and a children’s playground. You will find seafood served in every restaurant throughout the year. Two places where we thoroughly enjoyed the fish and the atmosphere are:

Helm seafood

The Helm Bar and Restaurant on Westport Quay is a modern pub with a strong focus on local food. The atmosphere is familiar, warm and welcoming. I tried the special fried squid one night. It was cooked perfectly and accompanied by chips and an arugula salad. Those crisp gold rings with fragrant and creamy squid were in my dreams.

The Towers seafood

My second suggestion is The Towers. The restaurant and bar are popular with locals and visitors alike. The menu changes daily and includes seasonal fish. The portions are generous and perfectly prepared. There are indoor and outdoor seats. Outside, there is a playground next to The Towers Brewery. You can keep an eye on the children while enjoying a pint.

Westport Hotel Outdoor Dining Garden.  Westport Ireland
Westport Hotel Outdoor Dining Garden
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

8. Westport Hotel

Hotel Westport is a smart choice for travelers to Westport, offering a relaxed and hassle-free stay every time. Located on the 400-acre Westport House, it is ideally located within walking distance of the village or the quays. You can relax by the indoor pool, take a stroll on the grounds or pamper yourself at the spa. The four-star accommodation, suitable for families, has a traditional atmosphere, with all modern facilities. Rooms are available for solo travelers, families and those looking for a luxury getaway. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Libates are available in the bar and lounge.

Gara Ballyhaunis Ireland
Gara Ballyhaunis Ireland
(Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

We get there

Our trip to Westport was from Donegal Town, just over 100 miles away. I went to Ballyhaunis by bus, then to Westport by train. There is a train service from Galway and Dublin. From Shannon, you’ll take the bus.

A car can be helpful if you plan to leave Westport Town. If not, it is a small area, very accessible on foot, and public transport is reliable and cheap.

Tip: I’d rather not drive to Ireland. The cars and roads on the left make me nervous. I like to let someone else lead. It is the best way to see the countryside and relax.

For more information on Westport, visit the Westport Destination.

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