Well, it's highly unlikely that most of us will be able to travel outside of Ireland again this summer. Fear not, loads of the most amazing sights around the globe can be swapped for what’s right here on our doorstep in Westport. Let’s face it, long-distance relationships are a drag anyway, so take a spin into the west, where you can travel the world in one holiday. You might never bother going abroad again!
Westport vs The World
Who needs foreign holidays when so many of the world’s wonders are already right here?
The Koh Samui Archipelago is famous for its 60 islands, including party island Koh Pha Ngan and divers’ paradise Koa Tao. But that’s nothing compared to Clew Bay, where 365 islands are scattered like emeralds on a sea of sapphire blue. Go island hopping, discover the islands’ beaches, dive with the dolphins, wave to the seals… If you’re lucky, you might even catch a full-moon party on Clare Island (though the locals call them sessions...).
Cairo, its curtains!
Sure, you’d love to see the silhouette of the Great Pyramid of Giza against a blue sky, but why suffer burning heat and stinging mosquitoes to gawp at something you can’t even climb. Here in Mayo, the pyramidal peak of Croagh Patrick is every bit as awe-inspiring, and you won’t get arrested for climbing to the top for the glorious views. Plus, we reckon mighty St Patrick could take a pharaoh any day.
See ya later, Spain!
Spain’s Camino de Santiago is a world-famous pilgrimage route undertaken by hundreds of thousands every year. But who wants to be tripping over other pilgrims when you’re contemplating the divine? The ancient Tochar Phádraig is a heavenly pilgrimage route that runs from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick – 35k of pure, serene pleasure. Think rolling hills, meadows, bogland, quiet roads, soft cross-country pathways, historic abbeys, ancient relics and rural villages…
And we also have the world-class Great Western Greenway, for those who fancy a more secular pilgrimage. Starting in Westport and running 42km along the coastline all the way to Achill Island, this scenic pathway is for cyclists and walkers only. Hallelujah!
Nice try, Norway!
Norway never stops banging on about its fjords (in fairness, they are awesome), but do we have to travel to see such natural wonders? Nope. Just half-an-hour-or-so’s drive from Westport, Killary Harbour overlooks Killary Fjord, Ireland’s only true fjord. And it is spectacular. After a boat tour (often escorted by playful dolphins), follow the fjord inland to the lovely little village of Leenane, where you can drop into Gaynor’s Bar – the pub that features in the iconic film adaptation of John B Keane’s classic ‘The Field’.
Move over, Maldives!
Sure, the Maldives have incredible beaches, but the coastline hugging Westport is sprinkled with more beautiful beaches than you can shake a sandy towel at. Whether it’s surfing, swimming or sunsets you’ll find the perfect one for you. Pristine turquoise waters, sheltered sun-trap bays, fine white sands – we’ve got it all!
South of Westport, there’s windswept Bertra, laid-back Lecanvey beach, sheltered Old Head, surfer beach Carrowniskey, wildlife haven Carrowmore and the magnificently remote Silver Strand, while the vast Mulranny Beach, magical Rosturk strand, and world-renowned Keem Bay lie along the coast north of the town. Oh, and then there are all the beaches on Clew Bay’s islands. Honestly, we’ve so many it’s almost embarrassing.
Not a chance, New Zealand!
Known as an adventure playground, New Zealand trades on extreme sports. But sorry Kiwis, we have it all already – mountaineering, coasteering, zip-lining, surfing, horse trekking, paintballing, kayaking, paddleboarding, diving. We also have the world-famous Pirate Adventure Park at Westport House, where little adrenaline junkies can burn off all that energy on hair-raising rides, stomach spinning slides and more. New Zealand is also famous for its green fields and sheep. Pffft. It’s just too easy.
I’m washing my hair, Italy!
Dream of sipping a macchiato or licking a gelato on the banks of a Venice canal? Well grab yourself a macchiato made with locally-roasted Bean West coffee beans and gelato from Krēm Gelateria (or one of McGreevys’ award-winning 99s), and pull up a pew alongside Westport’s beautiful Mall. Here, the Carrowbeg River slips gently through the town and on into Clew Bay, its water sparkling through the sunlit leaves of overhanging trees. And who needs a gondolier when there are giant swan pedaloes to float around in at Westport House?
Get outta here, Grand Canyon!
Yearning for the soaring heights of The Grand Canyon? Just south of Westport, the Doolough Valley will have your jaw hitting the floor as your eyes gaze upward. The stunning Doolough Pass is flanked steeply by the Sheeffry Mountains and Mayo’s highest mountain, Mweelrea, creating a real canyon-like feel. This massive U-shaped valley was carved by advancing glacier ice some 12,000 ago. And with hanging valleys, amphitheatre corries, a majestic lake on the valley floor, towering mountainsides, glacial striations, and botany to die for, it leaves the Grand Canyon in the dust.
Forget it, France!
Foodies might flock to France for its cuisine, but they also adore the restaurants, boutique cafés, markets and artisan produce of Westport – and with good reason. Renowned local produce, from award-winning Kelly’s black pudding to ever-popular Mescan craft beer, appears on menus, while local chefs yearly vie for national industry titles. Satisfy your belly while having the craic with local producers at Westport Country Market, try Cornrue Bakery’s famous sourdough, sample the best boxty in Connacht at Christy’s Harvest, savour the charcuterie and cheeses of bistro Savoir Fare. Okay, so we might not have a winery, but we do have a brewery for you to tour! We even have our own snail farm. Escargot anyone?
London, you’re just too big and noisy. The crowds! And those fumes! Ugh! You have Buckingham Palace, but we have the castles of a Pirate Queen. You have London Bridge, but we have the flower-festooned Doris Brothers’ Bridge in Westport town. You have the Westend, we have Westport Town Hall Theatre. You have the Tate Modern, we have the Custom House Studios Gallery. You have pubs every few metres… well now, don’t even get us started. You know you can’t beat the Irish pub. And of course, we have our very own Big Ben, more accurately named, The Clock.
So over you, Stonehenge!
A bit of a diva, Stonehenge grabs the headlines, but a trip to Westport lands you in the middle of an archaeologist’s nirvana. Sure Stonehenge was aligned with the sun, but our ancients aligned a whole mountain (Croagh Patrick) with the setting sun so that the celestial body rolls down its mountainside of twice a year. The 3,800 BC carved Boheh stone marks the viewing point, while standing stones in Killadangan are also aligned to the holy mountain and the sun.
Other gems close by include the Nymphsfield Stone Circles, the Srahwee Wedge Tomb, the Aillemore court tomb, and the Achill Portal Tomb. Take the short drive from Westport up to and discover the Ceide Fields, the oldest known Stone Age field system in the world. Yep, the world!
Ready to explore the world of Westport?
Author: Ciara Moynihan