Trip idea: explore from Westport

Clew Bay, County Mayo

Introducing Westport: one of the jolliest little towns in Ireland

Sitting proudly on County Mayo's west coast, Westport is one of those places 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.

Explore from Westport

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Westport

Westport

There's simply no better place to set yourself up for a tour out west than the town of Westport itself.

A driving 7 mins
Westport
Westport Quay

Thrill seeker or chill seeker? Come this way...

When a town looks this sweet, you can trust it does afternoon tea and gift shops like nowhere else. But 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 handle birds of prey on a hawk walk after lunch. Its streets bustle with artisan food producers and buskers who sing from the soul. It has the kind of pubs that are loved by locals and newcomers alike – like McGing's, where you'll find "great craic, great Guinness and great trad music". And best of all? It has the kind of people you'll miss when you leave.

If you have more time

Get a true taste of the west at the Westport Country Market on Thursday mornings, where mussels and clams from local waters are sold each week.

B driving 1 hr 11 mins
Westport House

Living history

Just because a grand country house looks genteel, don’t think for a second it lacks tales of intrigue. Take Westport House, for example: 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, it was built in 1650 by Grace's great-granddaughter and has been drawing admirers west ever since. The grounds are nirvana for every type of visitor, with extensive gardens, an adventure centre, and even boats shaped like swans that allow you to glide across the lake.

If you have more time

Go on a Hawk Walk through the glorious woodland trails at Westport House with the hawk periodically flying down to land on your gloved hand.

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Keem Bay
Keem Bay

Island life: what a delight

A little over an hour's drive from Westport is Keem Bay – just about as far west as you can go in Ireland, and it shows. You really feel removed from the weight of the world when you stand on the white sands of Keem Beach, staring at the glittering Atlantic waters before you and breathing in the cool, fresh air. The best way to appreciate it – apart from diving right in, of course – is from the water. The Irish Independent hailed sea kayaking here as "unforgettable": between the Blue Flag beaches, secretive caves, sweeping cliff faces and friendly dolphins (or even basking sharks!), you'll soon see why. If you're feeling adventurous, the team at Achill Surf run abseiling courses, too. Just don't look down...

If you have more time

Take a detour a little further north to the Céide Fields: the cliffside remnants of a Stone Age farming community that lived here some 3,500 years ago.

Great Western Greenway

Great Western Greenway

Ireland's wild west coast is best appreciated out in the thick of it: getting windswept among the wonders of Mother Nature.

D driving 51 mins
Great Western Greenway
Great Western Greenway

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. 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 busting towns of Mulranny and Newport, and 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 the footfall and pedalling of fellow travellers. The route is dotted with many a friendly B&B and hotel, but you can make your trip a bit more special by camping overnight.

If you have more time

Stop off at Rockfleet Castle (also known as Carraigahowley Castle), a 16th century fortified tower house where Grace O'Malley lived and reputedly died.

E driving 23 mins
Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick

Trace the steps of St Patrick

Just 8km outside Westport town is the place that was, for over a millennium, the pinnacle of Irish pilgrimage. Croagh Patrick, named after Ireland's 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, way back in the 5th century. Today, thousands of people climb to the little chapel at the peak each July – 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!

Take a boat trip out to Clare Island, the largest of Clew Bay's 365 islands, where you can enjoy everything from hiking and cycling to yoga retreats and angling.

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Glen Keen Farm
Glen Keen Farm

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, 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 Famine Walk follows the trail of the many thousands of families devastated by the Great Hunger of the 19th century.

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 of you.

Killary Harbour

Killary Harbour

Ireland's only fjord makes Killary stand out – even in the stunning surrounds of Connemara.

G driving 36 mins
Killary Harbour
Killary Harbour

A natural paradise

Extending 16km from the Atlantic Ocean to the foot of Aasleagh Falls, Killary Harbour is a wildlife wonderland and Ireland's only 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 keep an eye out for some friendly fauna; but a walk up past the north-eastern edge will bring you to Uggool. Known as the lost valley, visitors can see the ghostly ruined famine village that has stood here, undisturbed, for over 150 years.

If you have more time

Soak your cares away as you refresh your skin in Atlantic saltwater and fresh, local seaweed, in a seaweed bath at the Leenane Hotel.

H driving 8 mins
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey

True romance

On the shores of Lough Pollacopall, one of the greatest ever testaments to love stands in stately elegance, 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 the 1840s; sadly, just three years after the castle was completed, Margaret died. Her heartbroken husband had her laid to rest in a mausoleum on the grounds of her beloved home; Kylemore later became a Benedictine convent, then a school – but Margaret was never forgotten, and Kylemore Abbey has long been considered Ireland's most spectacular love letter.

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Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park

A picture paints a thousand words

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. In the 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 Diamond Hill 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.

If you have more time

Stop off for dinner in Veldon's Seafarer – TripAdvisor fans hail the food as "superb"!

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