Eight must-dos while in Westport
1. Binge on Boxty
Head to Christy’s Harvest on Shop Street and discover the tasty Mayo speciality that is boxty. (County Leitrim tries to claim ownership of these traditional potato pancakes, but we in Mayo know the real story….)
Christy serves his better-than-the-rest boxty with or without bacon, and his snug little café is an institution in its own right. A favourite haunt for locals and visitors alike, Christy’s Harvest offers a limited but delicious menu, great tea and coffee, and a genuine taste of laid-back local life.
2. Marvel at Maser’s mural
Renowned international artist Maser’s huge multi-coloured mural brightens facades of the three-storey old schoolhouse building at the Convent of Mercy site on Westport’s Altamont Street.
Commissioned as part of the Westport Arts Festival 2017, the bold design initially divided the town. Visual marmite it might be, but its ability to cut through and brighten up the ‘occasional’ grey day we get here in the west is undeniable.
3. Friday-night sambos
Run by Claire and Anthony Finnegan, McGing’s is popular with visitors, blow-ins and blood-in-the-ground Covies. The welcoming yellow and blue façade is a prelude to the interior’s welcoming atmosphere. And, if you’re there on a Friday evening, you’ll get to sample one of the pub’s institutions (and town’s best-kept secrets) – the trays of free sandwiches. Melt-in-your-mouth ham or exemplary egg salad, they appear around 7 pm, and they’re gone by 7.02. Okay, not quite, but almost. Be there, and be quick.
4. Amble along the Mall
The twin tree-lined banks of the Carrowbeg River are known locally as the North and South Mall. The beautiful arches of the river’s historical bridges are festooned with bright flowers in spring and summer, while at Christmas-time, white fairy lights twinkle through the Malls’ trees, reflecting on the water. The river’s resident ducks will welcome a snack of uncooked grains or cut-up grapes (no bread please). You might even meet an ever-hopeful heron staring at the river’s surface, waiting for signs of life beneath.
5. Heaven and hell
Turn your body into a temple and go for a healthy hike to top of Mayo’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick … then enjoy corrupting it with a sinful pint and creamy chowder afterwards in Campbell’s at the foothills of the Reek. Heavenly views of Clew Bay and devilishly good food, all in one day – good as gold, bold as brass.
6. Hup, tap, slap
No visit to Westport is complete without sitting in on a good old trad session. There’s a host to choose from year-round in the pubs around the town, including regular traditional-music sessions in Matt Molloy’s on Bridge Street, Cobbler’s Bar on the Octagon, and McCarthy’s Bar on Quay Street. Expect fiddles, bodhráns, mandolins, flutes and more. You’ll be hup-huppin’, toe tappin’ and thigh slappin’ along before you know it.
7. Hitch a ride on a swan
No, we don’t mean a real one. The eight-foot-high swan-shaped pedalo boats at Westport House are a fun way to enjoy stunning views of the house and gardens. Pedal away to your heart’s content, alone or with up to four people – but remember, more feet make less work. You might even fool some of the real-life swan residents on the lake (though let’s face it, this is highly doubtful).
8. Catch a show
The new Westport Town Hall Theatre boasts a jam-packed schedule of music, theatre, exhibitions, comedy and talks. Check out their website to find out what’s on when you’re in town. Don’t forget to have a pre-show glass of wine while watching the world go by from the impressive building’s balcony, overlooking the Octagon.