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Located in County Mayo on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, to the south-east of Clew Bay lies the town of Westport. The city sits on the Carrowbeg River, which pours into the scenic Clew Bay – where legend has it, there are 365 lakes, one for every day of the year!
Known in the Gaelic tongue as Cathair na Mart (stone fort of the cattle), Westport is a planned Georgian style town, with the town centre designed by James Wyatt in 1780. The town was originally commissioned for labourers and general workers who were building the nearby Westport House, which is a stately home. This planning of the town allowed for careful consideration of amenities and attractiveness of the town, which can be seen by the low stone walls and promenades along the river, and the many stone bridges which criss-cross the river at various points. This along with the many tree lined streets adds to a distinctive feel for the town - one which you are not likely to forget in a hurry!
The surrounding area is some of the most scenic on the West coast, from the mountain Croagh Patrick (known affectionately by locals as ‘The Reek’) down to the many sunken drumlins, or islands of Clew Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, the locality of the town is in a very rural area – a few minutes out of the town and you will find yourself in the majestic wilds of Ireland.
Indeed, the area that Westport now inhabits is well-known as the home of the historically famous Grace O’Malley (Granuaile) in the 16th Century, known in Irish history as a Queen but who also was a legendary female pirate who was a thorn in the side of the British monarchy at the time. It is this part of old historic Ireland that you can find when you visit Westport and further along the west coast of Ireland.
Travelling to Westport can be quite tricky, due to its slightly out of the way location on the west coast, but that is all part of the charm of this town and its rural surrounds. Flying into Ireland is easiest into Knock, Dublin, Cork or Shannon from where connections can be made to Westport by train or bus from Dublin and Cork, and by train from Limerick - which is a short journey from Shannon airport. Bus connections run regularly from Knock. Travelling by car is another good, albeit slightly slower option, but it does mean you can travel around the area surrounding the town, catching all the sights and sounds.
The town itself is quite small, with a local population of between five and six thousand, however the town caters very well for seasonal visitors. The town holds many festivals throughout the year to satisfy all tastes so you will definitely find something for you. The Westport Festival of Music and Performing Acts has been held regularly at Westport House in June. Both well-known and more underground acts from both Ireland and International perform at the event so go along to see one of your favourites and leave with a few more after checking out some of the lesser known lights.
When here in June, you might also catch the Sea Angling festival and the Westport Horse & Pony show which draws in big crowds from all over. Later in the summer the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is held. It is a hike up the mountain held on the last Sunday in July, or Reek Sunday. You can join the locals and other visitors as you make your way up. Up to 30,000 people participate every year so when not get involved. The pilgrimage has been held for over 1,500 years, dating back to when St. Patrick scaled the mountain and spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting there. It is said that if you climb barefoot then you can reduce purgatorial sentences, but nowadays hiking boots are recommended. The pilgrimage is led by the Archbishop of Tuam and he leads the congregation up to the small chapel on top, which was opened in 1905.
In September the Festival of Chamber Music is held and in October the season starts to finish up with the Wesport Arts Festival and the Westport Seafood Festival. These two festivals held close together brings the best in what Westport has to offer – the tradition of Irish and International Arts, along with the best of the regional seafood from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
The area owes a lot of its local environment and the Seafood festival shows this best. You do not necessarily need to be here for the Festival itself to see the benefits of this however. There are many local establishments that serve you the best of Irish food in authentic surroundings that owe its produce to the bountiful surrounding area. The town has many highly regarded restaurants where you will find most things to care for your tastes. Indeed you will not be stuck for choice if you visit, as European, Asian and American cuisine is all catered for here.
What better way to round off an amazing meal in a great location that to take a tour of some of the locals pubs, where you can raise a glass of Guinness with locals and hope to catch some traditional Irish music is a lovely dark traditional Irish pub. There are many different types of establishments here, depending on your mood; from the classy, urbane bars to the traditional Irish pubs where you can sit with locals and get some of the gossip about what is happening around town.
When you are ready to get out and about you will have much to try and cram into your visit. As mentioned previously, the town sits near Clew Bay so why not take a boat tour of the bay. You can travel to see Achill Island, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge. County Galway is also a short drive away so a short car journey and you will find yourself in the stunning scenery of Connemara National Park. The west coast has many treats to offer so you can also blaze your own trail and find those rarely visited locations where you can fully appreciate the beauty of the scenery.
If you are looking for more relaxing things to do, why not shop around the many local shops where you might find something more unique you’re looking for, which might not be found in larger chain stores. You can also avail of the stunning golf courses in the area, which take in the beautiful scenery and meld this together with the courses to create a wonderful sporting experience.
If you are intending to stay in Westport for a long break or if you are passing through on to one of the many other beautiful town and cities around Ireland, Westport town centre and the surrounding area have many options and choices of where to stay when visiting for you and your family. Check out local deals and special offers on hostels, hotels and self catering accommodation. The Wyatt Hotel and Hotel Westport are great choices for central locations in the town. For those looking for that little bit more, leave nothing to chance on the more sophisticated hotels with spa and pools such as the award winning 4 star Knockranny House Hotel & Spa, which also boasts a renowned restaurant. The Westport Lodge has great deals and can also offer unparalleled views of Croagh Patrick from your hotel window. The Westport Hotel Group comprises three 4 star hotels in the town; The Castlecourt Hotel, The Westport Plaza and the Westport Coast Hotel so they will sure to have something to offer you. For planning in advance, or if your visit is last minute, you will be sure to get the right hotel accommodation you require in Westport.