westport octagon

The Octagon, the centre-piece town square and monument from James Wyatt's 18th century plan. Pic: Bert Kaufman/Creative Commons

A rich history and important heritage

 

The story of Westport is a rich, colourful tapestry of historical significance.

Westport Ireland originates and gets its name in Irish Gaelic from a 16th Century castle – Cathair na Mart – meaning The Stone Fort of the Beeves – owned by the powerful sea-faring O’Malley family, who controlled the Clew Bay area. This castle forms the foundations of Westport House, and a portion of it is still visible in the Dungeons area there.  The most famous of the O’Malleys was Granuaile, chieftain of the clan and 16th-century pirate queen of Connacht, and ancestor of the Brownes of Westport House.

As one of Ireland’s few planned towns, designed by well-known architect of the Georgian period, James Wyatt – Westport Mayo has earned its place among Ireland’s designated Heritage Towns.

Developing from a vision laid down in the 1700s, Wyatt’s carefully considered plans have seamlessly guided Westport Ireland from the past to the present – mesmerising generations of locals and visitors alike in the process.

westport john mc bride bust

A bust of one of Westport's most famous sons, John McBride, hero of the War of Independence. Pic: Matt J Newman/Creative Commons

Today, the legacy of Wyatt is evident in the elegant tree-lined bank of the Carrowbeg River, known as The Mall – just one of the many features which have stood the test of time.

The Clew Bay Heritage Centre at the Quay pieces together the picture of Westport past and present, drawing fascinating connections with the Browne family of Westport House – depicting the story of Westport come to life through historical record.

Outside the town, ancient history is epitomised by Ireland’s most celebrated peak, Croagh Patrick, named after Ireland’s patron saint, while the Clew Bay Archaeological Trail links 6,000 years of history with the present day.

 

Pic: Bert Kaufman/Creative Commons; Matt J Newman/Creative Commons

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