Clew Bay Loop
Clew Bay Loop
Western Greenway ➤ Achill Island ➤ Clare Island ➤ Louisburgh ➤ Westport
Setting out from Westport via the Greenway, this route winds along the countryside as it passes the town of Newport, and onwards towards the pretty village of Mulranny, which boasts wonderful views of Clew Bay. The only real climbing for the first 30 kilometres of this routes come right before Mulranny, where a steady 3 kilometre climb makes way for a pleasant descent into the village.
Leaving Mulranny after a coffee stop as many will do, its time to head Westwards again into An Corrán. This part of the Greenway is spectacular as it meanders through bogland and dives in and out of bridges beneath the main road. You’ll enjoy spectacular views that are unrivalled anywhere else in the country, and as the path begins to wind on towards Achill Island, the scenery continues to impress.
By the time you reach Achill, there’s only 8 short kilometres to tackle before reaching Cloughmore Pier, where the ferries to Clare Island can be boarded. (It’s important to note that these ferries are currently only running on Wednesdays and Sundays and must be booked in advance, so check out www.clareislandferry.com for times and fares. Alternatively, you can get in touch via the following phone numbers:
On arrival to the rugged Clare Island, you’ll likely be enthralled by the 16th Century castle that sits imposingly at the mouth of the harbour. This castle was built by Grainne Mhaol as a lookout to keep an eye on merchant ship activity passing along Ireland’s West Coast. Grainne used Clare Island as a base for many years during the height of her piracy, and she is purportedly buried on the island in the Cistercian Abbey.
The harbour itself is a charming area with lovely sandy beaches, and there are several spots to choose from if you fancy some lunch before the short cycle around the island. Sailor’s Bar & Restaurant has an impressive menu to quell any hunger built up from the sea crossing from Achill, while The Anchor Bar & Bistro and the Clare Island Oven are equally as appetising.
There’s a lot to enjoy cycling-wise for such a small island, a few steep climbs are matched by gentle rolling hills that cut through the mountainous landscape and offer up magnificent views of the surrounding ocean. A steep descent towards the south of the island culminates at the Cistercian Abbey where Grainne Mhaol’s tomb is said to lie. This 12th Century Abbey is an archeological gem, it is covered in medieval wall paintings depicting how life was hundreds of years ago for the inhabitants of the island. The paintings depict mythical, human & animal figures including dragons, a cockerel, stags, men on foot and on horseback, a cattle raid scene, a harper, birds & trees. The paintings originate from two painting phases, therefore must have been commissioned by two separate O’Malley Chiefs who wanted to leave their mark in the abbey.
Leaving the Abbey and cycling back towards the harbour, you’ll no doubt have been impressed by this tiny yet culturally rich island. We’d advise you to fill up on a coffee and a snack before the boat journey back to the mainland, so that you’re ready to go for the final 30 kilometre stretch back to Westport from Roonagh Pier. This leg of the journey will see you passing through Louisburgh towards Lecanvey and through Murrisk, with the ever-imposing Croagh Patrick looming large to your right. It is a relatively flat stretch, so there’s ample opportunity to enjoy the views of Clew Bay to your left. The final 10 kilometres are where you’ll once again rejoin the Greenway, before rolling back into Westport town for a well-deserved rest!