Westport City Guide
Westport scores highly on just about every imaginable scale for a holiday destination. Within easy reach from the town are safe, sandy beaches and dramatic Atlantic coastlines, first-rate heritage centres and historical hotspots, child-friendly visitor attractions and activity opportunities in astonishing scenic surroundings.
Westport Town Centre
Originally built for the workers on Lord Sligo’s grand Westport House estate, Westport still benefits from the planning vision of architect James Wyatt, whose tree-lined central Mall contains the tinkling river, criss-crossed with arched stone bridges.
Wyatt’s river crossings, his boulevards and their bordering network of narrow, inviting streets are all bedecked with flowers. Independent shops, foodie options from every corner of the planet, terrific bars and pubs abound. Also unmissable is the old Quay area, where galleries, boutiques and brasseries cluster around the old coastguard station.
Overlooking Westport benignly from the southern side of Clew Bay is Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain, where the country’s patron saint fasted for 40 days back in 441AD. A chapel to the saint stands atop the ‘The Reek’, which is visited by over 1 million pilgrims every year – along with ramblers, history buffs and lovers of a magnificent view.
Westport House & Country Park
Situated on the edge of town, Westport House is a hugely popular and impressive 18th century pile, drenched in Irish history which is readily available to be soaked up on a guided tour. The mansion is privately owned by the Browne family, descendants of Grace O’ Malley, the 16th-century ‘Pirate Queen of Connaught’, whose castle once stood on the site (you can still visit her basement ‘dungeons’). The extensive grounds contain the Pirate Adventure Park: thrilling news for all junior pirates.
The many Blue Star beaches of Clew Bay are safe, spectacular and easily accessible. The area is a natural centre for water sports, such as windsurfing and kayaking, while Atlantic-facing beaches a little further afield – on Achill Island and north around Carrowniskey – are recognised surfing centres. Westport is also one of Ireland’s top sea angling destinations.
The Great Western Greenway cycle route is Ireland’s longest off-road trail for walking and cycling, stretching for more than 30 miles north from Westport, then west along the coast to Achill, offering incredible views of the unusual, island-strewn Clew Bay. But you don’t have to stop at the edge of the cliff: other adventure options include the thrill of jumping right off into the Atlantic!
While you’re making your mind up which live music bar to visit, or whether to eat tapas or Italian, Japanese or fresh Irish seafood, pop into the Clew Bay Heritage Centre in the Quay area for a fascinating overview of the history of Westport and its environs – from a centre of pagan pilgrimages in 3000BC to one of Ireland’s liveliest and most cosmopolitan towns today.