Many visitors to Westport head straight for Old Head or Bertra Beach when they fancy a walk by the sea. And why wouldn’t they? They are spectacular. However, there are lots more beautiful strands nearby for you to discover, with less footprints in the sand. Here are just five to whet your appetite.
Just eight miles outside Westport, tucked away down a backroad just past Lecanvey village (watch out for the sign!) lies lovely Lecanvey Pier and Beach. A gorgeous little sheltered cove at the foot of Croagh Patrick, it’s great for families looking for a quiet spot for a swim. The sandy, horseshoe-shaped beach is perfect for a scenic picnic, and at high tide, dare devils can jump from the pier into the clear, blue water. (Be aware that there is no lifeguard here though, so do take care.) There are a few parking spaces on the other side of a stone archway at the start of the pier, or you can park on the pier itself.
On the far side of Louisburgh village, you’ll find Carrowmore (or Carramore) Beach. A little piece of heaven overlooked by dunes and cliffs, the golden strand offers views out over Clew Bay that take in Clare and Achill Islands.
Serviced by lifeguards during the summer months, this Blue Flag beach is located in a special protection and conservation area. It is one of the rarest wildlife habitats in Ireland and indeed Europe, with machair grassland that forms part of a larger ecosystem containing both wet and dry grasslands. This creates a rich habitat that supports an abundance of rare flora and fauna. Birdwatchers, look out for snipe, lapwing and oystercatcher, and all manner of tern and gull. A wonderful place for nature lovers to take a beach stroll.
If it’s remote you’re after, look no further than the magnificent Silver Strand. This vast, unspoiled beach with crystal-clear waters lies off the beaten track – around 15 kilometres south of Louisburgh village and about an hour’s drive from Westport. Stay on the the R378 until you can go no further – you literally run out of road and there it is!
Sheltered by Mayo’s highest mountain, Mweelrea, the beach is flanked on either end by rocky headlands. This ecologically important area has been awarded a Green Coast Award, thanks to its wide range of habitats and its populations of rare plants. With views out out to Inishboffin, Clare Island and Inishturk, Silver Strand truly is a beach walker’s paradise.
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Another well-kept secret, Rosturk boasts a fabulous sandy beach complete with a romantic castle perched on a rocky headland. You’ll find this hidden gem north of Westport – watch for the turn off the N59 before Mulranny, which takes you through a woodland drive to the magical beach.
The wide, long strand offers wonderful views of Croagh Patrick across the bay, as well as rock pools and countless islands that can be reached on foot at low tide. Best of all, you’ll probably have the whole of the place to yourself, which means no one will see you pretending to be a king or queen surveying the shoreline. (If you really want to live like a royal, the privately owned castle is available to rent….)
Speaking of Castles, those with sea legs can take the short boat trip out to Clare Island, where they’ll be greeted by a picturesque Blue Flag beach and a castle once owned by Grace O’Malley, Mayo’s famous 16th-century pirate queen.
Right at the island’s main harbour, the beach is an ideal spot for swimming and exploring the shoreline of this beautiful island, which lies at the entrance to Clew Bay. There is a picnic area, and if the mood takes you, there’s a volleyball net too. Volleyball by the sea? Venice Beach, eat your heart out!