Not everyone’s dream holiday involves working up a sweat while cycling, kayaking or hiking. Perhaps you’d rather turn pages than pedals. For you, time out means the chance for a quiet few hours on the couch, cuppa and book in hand. Maybe the odd visit to a bookshop or a library, or an evening spent at an author’s reading or a poetry recital. Well read on, because Westport has a wealth of delights for book lovers.
Six bookish delights in Westport
1. West Coast Rare Books
This shop is pure paradise for bibliophiles. Browsers are bewitched by books of all kinds here, each of which has been collected by the owner of West Coast Rare Books, book dealer Steffen Kowalsky.
Shelves groan with tomes on every topic imaginable, fiction and nonfiction from private collections, beautifully illustrated books, hand-printed rarities, first editions and more.
There’s also a wonderful vinyl section, where rare jazz records snuggle up to disco discs and classical classics.
2. The Greenway Antiques & Bookstore
Take a spin up the road to Mulranny village, and while away a few hours in the gorgeous Greenway Antiques & Bookstore, which looks straight out of a chocolate-box scene. Housed in an 18th-century thatched cottage and run by Vanessa Parker and Roger Grimes, this lovely shop’s three rooms contain an impressive array of old, out-of-print and rare books. This fabulous book collection is complemented by a treasure trove of old posters, antique brick a brack, unusual ephemera and fine art. So, after a visit to Greenway Antiques & Bookstore, you could find yourself getting lost in a new-to-you book while sipping a nice claret poured from an antique decanter shaped like a cockatoo (we kid you not).
3. Modern bookstores
The centre of Westport town also boasts not one but two independent, family-run bookstores. Seamus Duffy’s Bookshop on Bridge Street and McLoughlin’s Bookshop on Shop Street both stock all the lastest releases, as well as comprehensive selections of bestsellers by genre – fiction, nonfiction, and all the usuals. Both have great art-supply shops on the premises too.
Westport is very proud to have these bookshops right at the heart of the town, with locals happy to support these small, independent booksellers rather than the faceless online behemoths. Long may they last!
4. Tertulia – a Bookshop Like No Other
We are voracious readers here in Westport. Proof? Well, while independent bookshops all over the country are struggling and closing, a brand-new bookshop opened at Westport Quay in July 2019 – and it’s been going a bomb.
As its name suggests, this is not your average bookshop though. For a start, it’s not just new titles that are sold here; secondhand ‘pre-loved’ books are stocked too. There’s also lots of treats for film buffs. Co-owner Neil Paul spent many years working in the film industry, and the spoils of his silver-screen journey are everywhere. While nicknacks from James Bond, Event Horizon and Aliens are impressive, it’s the cool artefacts from one film in particular that draw the most gasps: Harry Potter.
5. Rolling Sun Book Festival
Westport’s Rolling Sun Book Festival is a firm favourite among bibliophiles, language lovers, scribes, book worms and boffins of every ilk. This boutique festival returns every year with a literary line-up capable of lighting up even the darkest November eve. Its winning mix of interviews, readings, talks, workshops, dinners, book launches draw big crowds, and is definitely worth planning a trip around.
Big names in the past have included Robert Fisk, Brian Keenan, Nell McCafferty, Kevin Barry, Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry, Donal Ryan, Diarmaid Ferriter, Judi Curtin, Mark Little, Áine Kerr, Sinéad Crowley and Lise Hand – and RTÉ’s Sunday Miscellany has broadcast from the festival too.
6. Books set locally
There’s nothing better than reading a book set in the place you’re visiting while you’re on holidays. The west Mayo landscape – enchanting, dramatic, and full of twists and turns – has inspired many an author, and it features as a beautiful backdrop to all sorts of tales. Here’s a few to whet your appetite:
‘Solar Bones’, by Mike McCormack – absorbing, groundbreaking, multi-award-winning fiction set in Louisburgh.
‘The Boy in the Gap’, by Paul Soye – a gripping, beautifully told story of family, murder and loss, set in Aughagower, a village lying just outside Westport.
‘Pomegranate soup’, by Marsha Mehran – a tale of emigration, family, food, prejudice and love, set in the sleepy fictional village of Ballinacroagh, at the foothills of Croagh Patrick.
‘Beatlebone’, by celebrated author Kevin Barry – a fictional yarn in which John Lennon seeks tranquility on Dornish, the Clew Bay island (which he famously really did buy in 1969).
‘Granuaile: Grace O’Malley—Ireland’s Pirate Queen’, by Anne Chambers – the definitive biography of Mayo’s most famous historical figure.