No matter how you choose to look at it – or from where – Clew Bay just keeps on giving.
The vast, undulating Clew Bay area takes in rugged and romantic Clare Island to the west and bustling Westport to the east. To the north, there’s the Wild Nephin national park and mountain range, while stately and spiritual Croagh Patrick stands on the bay’s south.
Nestled in between, towards the bay’s eastern side, are hundreds of enchanting islands. Made up of ancient sunken drumlins, this stunning sea- and landscape was carved out during the Ice Age by melting glaciers. A dramatic snapshot of natural history that set the hearts of geography buffs and photographers aflutter.
Take your time to ramble the region by foot, take to the roads for a scenic spin or to take to the sea for a taste of island life. Whatever way you decide to explore, you’ll find what you’re looking for – whether it’s breathtaking vistas, cultural hotspots, adrenaline rushes, wildlife experiences or delicious seafood plucked straight out of the bay’s crystal waters.
1. By foot
A walker’s paradise, Clew Bay is crisscrossed by National Way Marked trails, ancient routes, long sandy beaches, woodland walks and spectacular hikes. Your reward along the way could be anything from spotting rare orchids or a herd of wild Old Irish Goats to viewing the famous phenomenon of the rolling sun from the neolithic Bohea Stone, also known as St Patrick’s Seat.
2. By bike
What better way to jump in the slow lane than to swap four wheels for two? Take a spin on the Great Western Greenway, or cycle its entire 42k, taking in farmland, rolling hills, picturesque villages, dramatic mountains and wonderful views of the bay – or go off the beaten track to explore the hidden boreens, bogland byways and mountain routes.
3. By boat
Fancy seeing those Clew Bay islands close up? Sail around the bay, and drift through an ancient waterworld, once a battleground for a pirate queen, more recently Nirvana to the Beetle John Lennon, but always home to a rich diversity of sea life. Alternatively, you could take a ferry to Clare Island or Inishturk – while those with weaker sea legs could spend a fun afternoon in an eight-foot-high swan-shaped pedal boat at Westport House at the edge of the bay….
4. By car
Sometimes you just want to go that bit further or see the sights from the comfort (or shelter) of your own car. Take a day spin along the bay’s coast road and enjoy the bay from all angles. From the seaside hamlet of Louisburgh, travel alongside Croagh Patrick’s steep slope, sample the galleries and restaurants of Westport, head on to Newport and its world-renowned Harry Clarke stained-glass window, and on along to Mulranny and its salt marshes, golf course and endless beaches. Or spend the day meandering down coastal backroads and discovering tidal islands.
5. By… something a little different
Why be conventional? Rent a kayak or paddleboard and strike out to sea under your own steam. No engine noise, just the sound of your paddle hitting the water and your own breath. Pure peace.
More of an adrenaline junkie? Get up close and personal with the cliffs, caves and waves by jumping right in and trying your hand at coasteering. Then you could really say you have explored Clew Bay’s nooks and crannies.
Where to stay?
Westport is the perfect place to base yourself while exploring Clew Bay. Check out some of our favourite hotels and guesthouses here.