Westport, County Mayo
and Clew Bay
Westport is one of the nicest tourist towns on the west coast of Ireland. Three main streets lined with a pubs, cafés and restaurants form a U-shape through the middle of the town. Along Bridge Street and James Street and in the Octogon town square (octogon, whatever) it's really not difficult to find a cosy pub or an excellent meal. The almost guaranteed live music of the famous Matt Molloy's Pub or the delicious but simple cuisine of The Pantry and Corkscrew are just two awesome options for an evening in Westport.
A little away from the hustle and bustle of Westport town is Clew Bay. Just a 20 minute walk to the south of the town centre there's this little enclave of pubs, restaurants and hotels with spectacular views with which to while away the clear summer evenings. No better place for a pint with a view is the lively beer garden of the Tower Pub and Restaurant. A string of tiny islands process out from the mainland, and Croagh Patrick - the mountain with a sexy conical summit - looms large in the distance. Naturally, seafood is offered up at The Towers and also The Helm Restaurants or there's the dirty delights of the Diner at Quay Cottage. In this quieter area is the Westport Coast Hotel as well as bed and breakfasts and apartments.
To make the most of this area, you really should take a ninety minute cruise out into Clew Bay. These excellent ninety minute cruises snake around the islands and a view seal colony. They only go once or twice a day and sometimes at irregular times so check well in advance to get it into your itinerary. If inclined, a run or cycle down the Wild Atlantic Way from Clew Bay will quite inconveniently take your breath away. The one real tourist attraction of Westport is also situated in this area: Westport House. This 18th century house offers a decent enough house tour as well as grounds with an extensive adventure park for the kiddywinkles.
Westport acts as the start (or the end) of the Great Western Way. This fairly new project is a 42 kilometre path from Westport, through the other lovely towns of Newport and Mulranny, to the spectacular Achill Islands. This route is perfect for cyclists to see a good portion of the best this area has to offer in a day of cycling. This is really simple to do as there are a number of places to hire a bike for the day, such as Westport Bike Hire. For walkers, we recommend Croagh Patrick or hillwalking on Achill Island to get more bang for your buck unless planning a few days on your feet.
For those with a car, a daytrip to Achill Island is a must. Connected to the mainland by a bridge this island is an easy drive from Westport and the western tip can be reached in less than ninety minutes. The island is an otherworldly mix of beautiful coastal and mountainous scenery where the blues and greens seem to be magnified, especially when pinpricked by a smattering of white houses. On the western coast is Keem Bay - a worthy apex to any journey. Regularly named in the top beaches in Ireland, this secluded bay is enclosed by a pincer of precipitous green hills and the ever-present Croagh Patrick can be can be spotted away in the distance. A short, almost vertical slog to a viewing point earns spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding coastline.
To the south, Galway and Westport bookend the beautiful Connemara region. This multi-coloured tapestry of bogs, lakes and marble flecked mountains is another of Ireland's most scenic regions and possible even out musts the Achill Islands. One of the highlights - or at least one of the focal points to aim for - is Kylemore Abbey. The Benedictine abbey and surrounding wooded hillside reflecting perfectly off the lake below is one of the most iconic views on the west coast.
If travelling without a car (what's wrong with you?) Westport is, by a three and a half hour direct train journey, surprisingly accessible from Dublin. There are lots of accommodation options ranging from guesthouses to the super central 3-star Wyatt Hotel and a number of quality 4-star hotels, like the Westport Coast Hotel, Castlecourt Hotel and Westport Hotel.
Accessibility from Dublin and Galway, good accommodation options, easy access to two of Ireland's most attractive areas and a nightlife that will keep you busy for at least a few nights, Westport is an ideal weekend destination.