Westport is famous for its love of music, with festivals and musical hoolies aplenty. If you do manage to find yourself in town on the rare occasion that no major music event is happening, don’t panic! Many of the town’s bars host live music week-in, week out. Here’s a guide to a few, each with its own signature sound. You’re guaranteed to find something you like, and all for free.
1. Cobbler’s Bar & Courtyard
Cobbler’s Bar on The Octogan runs a regular trad session with top-class local musicians on Thursday nights from 10 pm and Sunday nights, from 9 pm.
These walls have reverberated with rhythmic sounds for many a year – but before the bodhrán beat, it was the cobbler’s hammer.
Before its current incarnation as a bar, the beautifully restored building was a traditional shoe-repair shop operated by local man Joe Cameron for 50 years. Joe had picked up a love for the trade as a youth when he worked in the old clog factory in Westport. He finally retired in 2008, after half a century of hammering and stitching.
If you needed an excuse to tap your shoe-clad toes to some trad, now you have it!
A firm favourite on the music scene, McGing’s on High Street has been binging the best of live folk, alt-rock, American and bluegrass to the people of Westport for many years now. Friday and Saturday nights’ amped offerings often have locals up and dancing, while the gentle Thursday-night America session with the inimitable, unplugged Clew Bay Critters is a lovely way to ease into the weekend.
Jazz is also on the cards, especially on a Sunday evening – or if you happen to be in town on the last Saturday of the month, you’ll be lucky enough to catch the much-loved local institution that is the Octagon Quartet. It’s all jazz standards and charm.
3. Janey Macs
Fancy something mellow? And a nice glass of red? While listening to some good tunes while allowing your eyes to wander around one of Westports most luxurious watering holes? Head to Janey Macs, a stylish and contemporary neighbourhood bar, where proprietors Grainne & Manus spend time researching the best jazz acts to go with your gin! Intimate gigs for the discerning musos happen every Sunday during the summer.
4. Matt Molloy’s
As the name suggests, owned by Matt Molloy, flautist with one of Ireland’s most famous trad bands, The Chieftains. Hailed by many as one of the most special places in the world, it is definitely Westport’s most famous pub. Regular trad sessions take place in the ‘back bar’, with appreciative patrons hupping along, beside a crackling fire – often with Matt himself supplying the airs.
Further on ‘out the back’, you’ll find Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar, a venue in its own right, where many night-time gigs take place. The Clew Bay Folk Club, an open music group where musicians are welcome to play in front of supportive audiences, meets here monthly on the last Saturday of the month at 4 pm. This welcoming club now boasts a great mix of performers, aged 4 to 84, as well as a wide range of music genres, from folk, bluegrass and Irish, blues to traditional, country and rock.
5. The Clock Tavern
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, head to The Clock Tavern on High Street, a popular haunt with a younger clientele. This cavernous pub hosts live rock, alt-rock and alt-pop acts most Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights, as well as the occasional stand-up comic. Watch out too for special concerts in its upstairs venue, a gorgeous wood-panelled room with its own bar.
Where to Stay?
Let’s face it, if you are going out on ‘the sesh’ as the locals call it, you are going to want the perfect place to crash out and wake up to a traditional Irish fry. Check out some award-winning hotels and guesthouses we recommend here.