The town of Westport, Ireland wasn’t even on our radar when we took our first trip to Ireland back in 2015. Lucky for us, we made a second visit to the Emerald Isle and had the pleasure of getting to know this gem of a town located along the famed Wild Atlantic Way.
Simply put, the heritage town of Westport is absolutely worth visiting!
This is the beauty of joining itineraries that visit lesser-known places. You get to discover places that might not have made your list. More often than not, this leads to us visiting places that become our new favorites.
We found ourselves in Westport while visiting Ireland with Globus Journeys, on their new Green with Envy: Ireland by Design itinerary that showcases a nice balance of the best places and lesser-known sides of the country.
As part of their Choice Touring line, we had the option to customize each stop with activities that interested us. Paired with ample downtime, this was a fabulous way to see the charming town of Westport.
Are you planning to spend more time in Ireland? Take a look at our comprehensive Ireland Travel Guide!
An Overview of Westport, Ireland
Some Interesting Facts & History About Westport
Westport has been named one of Bord Failte’s heritage towns and is one of Ireland’s few planned towns. The foundation and development of the town can be attributed to the Browne family and their elegant home, the Westport House.
The Browne Family owned this mansion for almost 300 years, up until as recently as 2017. It was built on the foundations of the former castle of Grace O’Malley, the 16th-century pirate queen.
John Browne, the patriarch of the Brown family, decided to extend the house in 1730 and soon found that the extensions would soon touch the small village of Cathair na Mart. This was not acceptable to John Browne and it was decided that the village would have to be moved.
What followed was the founding of Westport as we see it today. The village was designed by James Wyatt in 1780 and moved about 1.5 kilometers inland. When designing the town, Wyatt incorporated a Georgian architectural style that followed the medieval principles of the 13th century.
The design was planned to showcase the Carrowbeg River, tree-lined promenades, and colorful streets around the center of Westport town.
Where is Westport Located in Ireland?
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you’ll find a map of our highlights in Westport, Ireland. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places we mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version.
Westport is located on the western side of Ireland, on the edge of County Mayo. It touches the Atlantic coastline at the mouth of Clew Bay.
The journey to Westport is quite comfortable, on straightforward routes and good quality roads. However, if you’re coming from Kilkenny, via Thomastown, then the drive can be quite demanding.
How To Get There?
You can reach Westport from major cities and towns, like Dublin or Galway City, with ease, regardless of whether you’re using your own car or public transport. The challenge comes when you’re arriving from the other side and need to use smaller regional roads.
Also, while public transport to Westport from major cities is convenient, if you’re coming in from smaller towns and villages you’ll face some issues. It’s not like you can’t make it, but you’ll need to change buses or sit through some long journeys.
The train from Dublin takes about 3.5 hours, and your destination train station is located out of town on Galway Road. You can find timetables for Irish Rail online and luckily the train ride has no changes so it’s a convenient ride.
If you’re coming from Galway, the drive will take you about 1.5 hours and you’ll need to take non-motorway roads, although the roads are quite decently maintained. There’s also a bus service, Bus Eireann, that runs from Galway to Westport and the journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
If you’re arriving by Sligo, you have a similar drive to what you would if coming from Galway. If you’re using the bus, be prepared for a long arduous journey of having to switch buses and making many stops along the way.
What To Expect From Westport?
Westport is perfect for people wanting to stray a bit off the beaten path. Located under the shadow of the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, you have a town filled with rich history, friendly people, traditional pubs, and easy access to the natural beauty that Ireland is so well known for.
How to Get Around And Where To Stay
Westport itself is a small enough town for visitors to manage on foot, but you’re not going to be confined just to the town on your visit. The city is used by tourists as a base for sights in the surrounding areas and getting a car or joining a tour makes the entire trip a lot more convenient.
Several operators will rent you a car at reasonable rates. However, do be careful as the drive inside Westport can be quite trying. The tight roads and number of drivers result in packed roads and tiring drives.
You could also rent a bike instead to avoid the rush on the roads and have a more immersive experience in the city. For visiting sights, you could hire a taxi on an hourly or daily basis and visit all the attractions in comfort.
Westport has no shortage of hotels and you’ll easily find a place to suit your taste and budget. We stayed at the Westport Plaza Hotel, located right in the heart of the city, during our tour with Globus.
Tips To Help Make Your Visit to Westport Smoother
Ireland as a whole has very unpredictable weather. It can be sunny and calm one minute, and rainy, cold, and windy the next.
So always be prepared with layered clothing and well-fitted shoes that are comfortable to walk around in. Some sneakers, a hoodie, and a rain jacket or umbrella are some basics you should always have on you.
To save time and money, book as many bus rides, tours, and tickets in advance as possible. Most transport services have websites online and you can also buy tickets to different attractions from websites as well.
Learn more about the Best Time to Visit Ireland in our month by month breakdown
Best Things To Do In Westport, Ireland
Wander the Town Centre
The town of Westport is a charming place, so do yourself a favor and lace up the sneakers for a nice long self-guided tour around town.
You’ll be met with colorful houses, narrow streets, many a stone bridge, and lush vegetation everywhere you wander. Some of our favorite houses were covered in ivy and various other plants.
Be sure to check our Bridge Street, which offers the best eateries, pubs, and shops in town. It’s a great street for window shopping and offers a great Irish vibe.
You also don’t want to miss the Clock Tower, which was built in 1947 and is the only art deco municipal clock in Ireland. Another iconic monument is the Statue of St. Patrick which sits in the center of The Octagon square.
A solid 2 hours will get you to most corners of the town, including the Westport House grounds. If you want to visit inside, be sure to check the hours and give yourself an additional hour.
See the Westport House
Between Westport’s town center and waterfront sits Westport House, a grand country estate filled with a sprawling manor, large lush green fields of grass, and even lakes.
The grand setting of the manor and the photo opportunities it provides aside, Westport House is a huge symbol of the local history and has been a cornerstone in the development of Westport as a town.
While you can stroll along the front lawn of Westport House, and see the beautiful gardens and lakes without a fee, there is a charge to enter the house and the area around it. The whole experience is definitely worth the money and is one of the most popular activities you can experience while in town.
Also located on the Westport House’s 400-acre estate is the popular Pirate Adventure Park. Think of this as a mini theme park, as it features a few rides and plenty of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy their time in the heart of Westport.
Learn About the Pirate Queen
The town of Westport is also home to Grace O’Malley, known colloquially as Granuaile, the Pirate Queen. As chieftain of the O’Malley clan and ruling the local area as a feared seafarer, Grace has made her place in history, even having met and negotiated with Queen Elizabeth directly.
There are different attractions in the area dedicated to the Pirate Queen, with the truth and folklore being combined to offer a truly immersive experience. You should definitely take the time to learn more about her and the area’s history if you can.
Enjoy a Meal at JJ O’Malleys
While the downstairs of this building is the JJ O’Malley’s Pub, head to the left and up the stairs to enjoy a very tasty meal at their onsite restaurant.
Choose your meal from an eclectic menu that offers seafood fusions and an Irish spin on staple favorites. This is much more than pub food and we highly recommend you give one of the seafood dishes a try!
All of the seafood on the menu comes straight from Clew Bay, located just off the coast and only 30 minutes from downtown Westport! The mussels are delicious and can recommend any of the pasta dishes that include them. You also cannot go wrong with oysters in Ireland.
Spend a Night Out at Matt Molloy’s Pub
One of the highlights of our second visit to Ireland was our night out in Westport at Matt Molloy’s pub. This special little place offers live traditional Irish music, seven nights a week and it’s the traditional pub experience you dream of having in Ireland.
The mix of people was both locals and travelers, which offered a nice atmosphere for conversation and enjoyment. The live music is local, and the night we visited we had the pleasure of listening to two older gentlemen play some of our favorites including Galway Girl and Long Way to Clare.
They don’t serve food, only bar snacks, like chips, so we’d recommend going out for a nice dinner before heading to Matt Molloy’s for a night of music and Guinness.
Visit Achill Island
Achill Island has a lot to offer! A rugged island, filled with bogs and hills, with scenic views and small traditional Irish villages.
With the view the island has to offer, you’ll find enough photo ops to fill your Instagram feed for weeks. You can also check out Achill Henge, an illegally built monument representing the “Celtic Tiger”, which is a symbol of the economic boom Ireland experienced.
While Achill Henge may not have the same grandiosity and weight found in actual ancient monuments like Stonehenge, you’ll still have a fun time taking pictures and checking out the views.
We enjoyed a full-day trip to Achill Island as part of the Globus Choice Touring option in Westport. This meant we had time to stop at many scenic viewpoints, enjoy an Irish Coffee stop, have lunch in a pub, visit a stunning beach and do a small amount of hiking.
Cycle the Great Western Greenway Trail
The Great Western Greenway trail is a cyclist’s dream. This is a cycle path that was converted over from a 42km disused train line that used to run from Westport to Achill Island.
You can cycle through the ruggedly beautiful countryside, seeing mountains, bogs, villages, and rivers all along the coastline. The entire path is well-planned, with a mix of fully developed roads and off-road paths.
The way is pretty flat and you won’t have to make any strenuous uphill climbs on a bike. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the ride, even if you’re not a cyclist, and you’ll capture some great pictures on the way.
Hike up Croagh Patrick
Ireland’s Holiest Mountain also happens to be found in Westport. Sitting on the south side of Clew Bay, the distinctive 765m high cone of Croagh Patrick is hard to miss.
Legend has it that Saint Patrick spent 40 days of fasting and penance on the mountain. Many people carry out the pilgrimage to the mountain in remembrance of St Patrick. Some pilgrims even climb the mountain barefoot.
Climbing to the top of Croagh Patrick is one of the best outdoor activities in Ireland. The hike to the summit of the mountain is challenging though and takes about 2 hours to reach the top. The way down is a bit easier and will take you about 1.5 hours.
If you are going to hike the mountain, be sure to prepare with layered clothing, water, snacks, and appropriate footwear with ankle support. The views at the top are definitely worth the hike, so make sure you get to the top in a state to properly enjoy yourself.
Horseback Riding with Carrowholly Stables
One of the best things to do in Ireland is to go horseback riding in the Irish countryside and the best Westport horse experience is with Carrowholly Stables. The farm is located 3 miles from Westport town offering guided rides with magnificent views of Clew Bay.
Each ride is tailored to the group’s skill level and offers both inland and beach rides. If the sea is calm, you may even have the chance to enter the water!
Try Deep Sea Fishing
Westport is known for its deep-sea fishing and has many operators offering boat trips for anyone wanting to head out for a spot of fishing in the Clew Bay area. You’ll also find boats that are fully equipped with fishing gear and crew to make the trip a lot more convenient.
Venture Out to Clare Island
From Westport, you’ll make the short drive south to Roonah Point. From here, there is a daily ferry service that will take you from the shores of Clew Bay on the mainland to the island of Clare. This journey is best done as a day trip from Westport and is most convenient if you have a rental car.
Once you arrive on the island you’ll find a place that offers peaceful hiking trails such as Knocknaveen, empty beaches that overlook the Atlantic Ocean, a medieval abbey, the Achillbeg Lighthouse, and the Spanish Armada viewpoint.
Additionally, make sure you leave enough time to stop in at the Sailor’s Bar for a pint of Guinness before heading back to the mainland.
Take a Day Trip to Newport
Just a short drive north from Westport is the small town of Newport. This little town could be a great place to stop for some food and drink while exploring more of the west coast of Ireland. You’ll find a lot of decent eatery options in the town, a notable example being The Grainne Uaile.
If you’re wanting to soak up some local history, you could also check out Newport House, a historical county house, which also offers dinner and overnight stays to guests. While not on the same level as Westport House, Newport House still has a lot of history and you’ll definitely find it interesting.
A Few Other Things to Do
Along with the major things listed above, you might also want to check out these popular things to do in Westport during your visit.
- Westport Quay and Westport Harbour
- Westport Golf Club
- Clew Bay Heritage Centre
- Westport Festival of Music
Our Green with Envy Ireland itinerary was part of a paid partnership with Globus Journeys. However, all opinions, stories, advice, and insane love for the Emerald Isle are 100% ours, as always.
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