Five of the best picnic spots around Westport
Now, while you’re in Westport, you could take the easy option, and just head straight to one of our many fabulous beaches for your picnic adventure. Nothing wrong with that – but think of all the sand in your sandwiches! To save you from that crunchy fate, we’ve come up with some amazing non-beach picnic spots, all within driving distance of Westport, and all mouthwateringly beautiful. Just don’t forget the salt and pepper, and to bring any waste home with you.
1. Westport Town
Fancy a bit of people watching while you picnic? Lay down your rug at the tiered green area at The Fairgreen, and enjoy watching the townsfolk going about their day while you catch a few rays on the grass. This spot boasts one of the town’s best views the Mall, where the gentle, tree-lined Carrowbeg River is crossed by flower-festooned bridges. After you’ve fed yourselves, feed the ducks (they go wild for uncooked grains or cut-up grapes – no bread please!) – and keep an eye out for the resident Mall heron... he’s a bit of a local celebrity. Of course, dining outdoors doesn’t have to mean getting grass on a good blanket. It’s all about al fresco these days, and parklets and dining pods have sprung up outside cafés and restaurants in the town and at the quay. Savour some local artisan fare in the fresh air, and let someone else deal with the washing up!
2. Old Head Cliffs
Head out to Old Head Beach, off the R335, near Louisburgh. Instead of heading to the big beach beside the car park, head left, to the other side of the pier. Walk over the smaller beach you’ll find there, and on the other side you’ll find an almost-hidden gateway that leads through an oak forest – the only Atlantic Oak woodland in Ireland that grows directly adjacent to the coast.
The short forest walk will lead you up onto grassy cliffs that look out across the bay to Achill, with Clare Island to the left. Enjoy your sand-free sandwiches at the cliff edge (not too close!) as cormorants, kittiwakes and seabirds of all kinds wheel about below your feet and above your head.
3. Ashleigh Falls
The picturesque Ashleigh Falls is located a short distance from Leenane village, on the Mayo side of Galway/Mayo border, just before the River Erriff meets Killary Harbour. Parking is available at a lay-by close to the falls on the R335 regional road. Take the short walk along the little pathway to the waterfall, and let the sound of the water lull you as you laze about on your picnic rug. You might even be lucky enough to spot a salmon leaping the falls.
4. Letterkeen Woods
North of Newport, up into the mountains past Lough Furnace and Lough Feeagh, you’ll find a solitary old cottage, Brogan Carroll Bothy, which marks the trailhead for the dramatic Letterkeen Loop. This 12k walk boasts wild and rugged landscape with deep valleys, mountain tracks, sandy paths, trees stretching up to the sky, gushing waterfalls and the Altaconey River gurgling through. No wonder the area’s been called ‘Ireland’s answer to the Yukon’. Work up a hunger by walking the whole loop, or amble along a part of it. For lunch, pic a spot – any spot. They’re all lovely.
5. Tourmakeady Waterfall
In the village of Partry turn off the N84 at the signpost for Tourmakeady. Follow the signs through a series of minor roads for around 10km, and you’ll be greeted by the entrance to enchanting Tourmakeady Forest.
As you walk the short 2.5k nature trail along the Glensaul River, keep an eye out for bluebell, foxglove, wild garlic, honeysuckle and wood anemone – and, in mid to late autumn, hidden crops of delicious chanterelle mushrooms. At the end of the trail, among the oak, birch, ash, hazel and holly lies the magical waterfall. The trail is dotted with several seated picnic areas, ideal for a forest feast.
6. Moorehall & Lough Carra
Take a spin down to Moorehall on the shores of peaceful Lough Carra, and be enchanted nature and history. Rising out of the forest, on the lake’s north shore, is the stark, stately skeleton of the once-glorious country house, Moorehall. Built on Muckloon Hill in the 1790s by the Moore family, it was sadly destroyed by fire in 1923 during the Civil War – though plans to restore the estate are now afoot.
The network of woodland trails surrounding the house feels like the stuff of fairy tales. Find church ruins and an old family tomb before passing through a beautiful beech wood to the lake itself, a strange and beautiful green as its lime lakebed reflects the sunshine. The perfect setting for a cucumber sandwich and ginger beer.