Explore from Westport, County Mayo
Introducing Westport… one of the liveliest small towns in Ireland. Sitting proudly on County Mayo's west coast, this is the kind of place that draws you in the moment you set foot here.
It's not just the picturesque town with its quintessentially Irish welcome and Instagrammable streets; it's all the incredible attractions and beautiful views just a stone's throw away that will leave Westport written on your heart.
There's simply no better place to set yourself up for a tour out west than Westport.Explore Day 1
Waking up in Westport
Westport has a whole lot more to offer than award-winning food and handmade souvenirs. This is the kind of place where you can go horse riding along golden sands in the morning and explore 18th century manor houses in the afternoon.
The streets here bustle with artisan food producers and soulful buskers. To get yourself ready for the day, treat yourself to breakfast at This Must Be The Place, which serves tasty traditional fare and sweet treats. If you feel like sleeping in on your first day, a great place for brunch is The Creel, which serves fluffy American pancakes alongside potato hash and avocado toast.
If you happen to be here on a Thursday, get a true taste of the west at the Westport Country Market, where fresh mussels and clams from local waters are sold each week.
A little over an hour's drive from Westport is Keem Bay on Achill Island – just about as far west as you can go in Ireland, and it shows. You really feel removed from the weight of the world as you stand on the white sands of Keem Beach, staring at the glittering Atlantic waters and breathing in the fresh, salty air. No wonder this spot played a starring role in the hit film, The Banshees of Inisherin.
The best way to appreciate this beautifully remote location – apart from diving right in, of course – is from the water. Sea kayaking here is an unforgettable experience, and between the Blue Flag beaches, secluded caves, sweeping cliff faces and friendly dolphins (or even basking sharks!), you'll soon see why. If you're feeling even more adventurous, the team at Achill Surf run abseiling courses, too.
If you have more time, take a detour a little further north to Céide Fields, the cliffside remnants of a Stone Age field system that dates back 6,000 years.
Just because a grand country house looks genteel, don’t think for a second it lacks tales of intrigue. Head back into Westport after your island escape and head straight to Westport House. This 400-acre estate was once privately owned by the direct descendants of the infamous pirate queen Grace O’Malley, who cut a scandalous swathe through 16th century Ireland.
Often called the most beautiful house in Ireland, Westport House was built in the 1730s by Grace's great-granddaughter and has been drawing admirers ever since. The grounds are a nirvana for every type of visitor, with extensive gardens, an adventure centre and even swan-shaped boats that allow you to glide across the lake.
A night on the town
For dinner, head to Sage Restaurant for hearty yet delicious fare such as Killary Fjord mussels and Irish pork belly. Or go for dinner and drinks in Covey's Gastrobar, a cool New York Italian-inspired joint. Your accommodation for tonight has to be boutique bed and breakfast, The Pink Door Westport, which has fantastic views overlooking Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay.
Ireland's wild west coast is best appreciated out in the thick of it, getting windswept among the wonders of Mother Nature.Explore Day 2
Forty shades of Greenway
Stretching 42km from Westport town out across the land bridge to Achill Island, the Great Western Greenway is a cycling and walking trail for all levels. Didn't bring your bike? Don't worry, you have plenty of bike hire choices here.
This is no mountain biking or hiking challenge. The best way to enjoy the route is at an easy pace, drinking in the views and savouring the gentle rhythm of the journey as you pass through the bustling towns of Mulranny and Newport, as well as the deserted village at Slievemore.
Although it follows the path of the now-defunct Achill to Westport railway line, the Greenway is traffic free, apart from your fellow walkers and cyclists. There's plenty of lunch options along the way if you need to refuel. You can stop at cute café Kelly's Kitchen in Newport, Nevin's Newfield Inn in Mulranny for great pub grub, or McLoughlin's Bar at the end of your journey on Achill Island for a well-earned pint!
If you have more time, visit Rockfleet Castle (also known as Carraigahowley Castle), a 16th century fortified tower house where Grace O'Malley lived and reputedly died.
Trace the steps of St Patrick
If cycling's not your thing, then just 9km outside Westport town is the place that is, for many, the pinnacle of Irish pilgrimage sites. The holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, named after Ireland's most famous patron saint, is said to be the spot where the man himself climbed to a height of 764m to fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights, way back in the 5th century.
Every year, thousands of people climb to the little chapel at the peak – many barefoot – in memory of St Patrick's legendary journey. From the summit on a clear day, the views over Westport, Clew Bay and far across the Atlantic will set your heart racing – if the climb hasn't done so already!
If you have more time, take a boat trip out to Clare Island, the largest of Clew Bay's many islands, where you can enjoy everything from hiking and cycling to yoga retreats and angling.
Tradition brought to life
It's always a risk when you head out west that you may, at some point, get caught in a sheep traffic jam! And if you make your way to Glen Keen Farm – just a 20-minute drive from Croagh Patrick – it's practically a certainty. Set in a designated Special Area of Conservation and home to many cattle, donkeys, chickens and pheasants, Glen Keen is also one of Ireland's largest sheep farms.
You'll be struck on your visit by the commitment to tradition on this working farm. You can try your hand at turf cutting, sheep herding and even wool spinning; while the Pre-Irish Famine Walking Tour explores traditional Irish dwellings, Bronze Age ruins and ancient burial grounds located on the farmland.
If you have more time, follow the winding road through Doolough Valley as it hugs the edges of Doo Lough and gaze at the stark beauty of the Sheeffry Hills and Mweelrea Mountain looming on either side.
Dinner and drinks out west
For dinner, head back to Westport. Tonight, why not try The Gallery Wine and Tapas Bar which has amazing grazing boards of traditional Irish fare, as well as a fantastic selection of tapas style dishes to enjoy with friends. For drinks, head to McGing's or Matt Molloy’s, where you'll find great craic (fun), great Guinness and great trad music.
Venture to the edges of County Mayo and beyond, where a breathtaking fjord and a picture-perfect castle await…Explore Day 3
A natural paradise
Extending 16km from the Atlantic Ocean to the foot of Aasleagh Falls, Killary Harbour is that rare thing in Ireland – a true fjord! Countless rare and indigenous species call this place home, from ringed plover, mute swan, tufted duck and barnacle goose, to otters, salmon and even dolphins.
Cruises of the harbour are a popular and relaxing way to see some friendly fauna. If you prefer to stay on dry land, walk up past the north-eastern edge of the harbour to Uggool. Known as the lost valley, visitors can see the ghostly ruined famine village that has stood here, undisturbed, for over 150 years.
Fancy a bit of rest and relaxation instead? Soak your cares away as you refresh your skin in a seaweed bath at the Leenane Hotel.
Just a half hour’s drive further on – and into County Galway – one of the greatest ever testaments to love stands in stately elegance by Pollacapall Lough, as perfect today as it was when it was first erected in 1871.
Kylemore Abbey was built by Mitchell Henry for his wife, Margaret after they spent their honeymoon in the area in the 1840s. Sadly, just three years after the castle was completed, Margaret died.
A heartbroken Mitchell had her laid to rest in a mausoleum on the grounds here. Kylemore Abbey later became a Benedictine convent, then a school – but Margaret was never forgotten, and this gorgeous landmark has long been considered Ireland's most spectacular love letter.
A picture paints a thousand words
Only five minutes down the road, you have Connemara National Park – 2,000 hectares of bog, forest and heath merge in a perfect symphony of nature, which can be traversed along any of the park's four walking trails. Although the landscape looks undisturbed, people have actually lived here for many thousands of years, with megalithic court tombs dating back four millennia – proving that today's visitors are not the first to have been enthralled by Connemara's beauty.
Ireland's very heartbeat echoes throughout Connemara. As well as the unspoiled landscape, this is one of the island's few Irish-speaking areas – or 'Gaeltachtaí' – where the native language is proudly preserved by the locals.