Westport: Ireland's Tidiest Little Town

There’s a lot to like about Westport Ireland: scoffing the best club sandwich in Mayo county (at the Clew Bay Hotel); the magnificent Clew Bay coast; the 99 cent ice-cream at McGreevy’s; a pint with the regulars at Matt Malloy’s; the live music at McGings; and the pizza at the Woodfire.

Westport, Ireland

But my favorite things about this town are its bridges and river.

I LOVE the bridges.

Not only in Westport, but in Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Cork (which has a whopping 20 bridges). They were all established at gorgeous green river mouths, and many’s the time I’ve stood on an Irish bridge, marveling at how the rivers shape their looks. 

In the case of Westport, that look is gorgeous.

The Westport Mall

On a nice day in Westport, all I need is my tea and a crossword, and a spot at one of the cafes on the Mall… which is quite special. It comprises two tree-lined promenades on either bank of the Carrowbeg river. The retaining walls are decked in flowers, and the shop-fronts down the length of the promenade are like paintings on a wall.

The Town Center

… is called the Octagon, because, well, it is octagonal. Dominated by its central statue, and decorated in flowers, it is the site of many a music festival and much gaiety. Being an Irish town, the sounds of strings and pipes are never far away. 

In Westport they say that when God made time He made plenty of it. This is not a town in a hurry—Not that it is slothful. Westport is active, busy and immaculately kept, and has, in fact, been voted the tidiest town in Ireland.

Westport Hospitality

The 4-star Westport Coast Hotel is my pick of a bunch of places to stay, for the elegant decor, the flair of the chef, the lakeside setting, and the view of Clew Bay. Wi-Fi and Sat-TV are a given, the service is great, and the spa is, in a word, sumptuous.

More central, but as chic, is the Westport Plaza Hotel, that also delivers the full spa treatment, fully appointed rooms, and bathrooms done in Italian marble. 

For a B&B option, our go-to spot is the Helm. Frequented by locals, the pub ambiance is festive, the Guinness cold, the Irish stew hot, and the rooms just fine. A great place, run by friendly folks.

The Westport Food Trail

The coast-hugging counties out west are all gifted with wild beaches and rugged country, so the locals all tout their town/city as THE adventure capital. The same goes for food. From Donegal to Cork, the farms grow the tastiest organic produce one could wish for, with each town claiming supremacy of Ireland’s burgeoning food scene – all in a competitive spirit that continually raises the bar. 

Westport makes its case at venues like the Quayside Cottage, An Port Mor, and the Murrisk Tavern near Croagh Patrick. All part of the Irish ‘Food Trail': a concept that promotes the restuarants and their locations. 

For me, the front runner is the crab meat linguine at An Port Mor, had with a bottle of Cotes du Rone Blanc – a delightful French accompaniment to an Italian/Irish dish.

Westport House

Westport’s prime location is Wesport House: the town’s stately manor and the reason Westport came about. This prettiest of towns was designed around the Manor and built to house its estate workers. Today it remains one of two iconic Westport landmarks. It’s open to the public and the tour is well worth taking.

The Greenway

Between Westport and Achill Island is a 26-mile stretch of heaven for hikers and cyclists. The Greenway is a dedicated trail, free of motor traffic, making it safe, exhilarating and oh-so-pretty. Bikes can be hired from Clew Bay Bike hire (clewbaybikehire.ie.).

I suggest doing the 9 mile stretch from Mulranny to Achill Island. Athleticism not required. As with the Slea Head Loop in Dingle the route is on the coast, so it’s flat. Just be sure to check the wind forecast. 

The Holy Mountain

Westport’s other iconic landmark – although often obscured by mist – is Croagh Patrick: a mecca for pilgrims in times past and present. The trek to the top is part of the tourist ritual (only if you’re fit). Otherwise hole-up in Campbell’s Pub at the foot of the mountain, and treat yourself to a few of their craft beers.

Westport's Beach

Westport has its 2 Blue Flag beaches: Betra, and Old Head, both on the Louisburg road. Old Head is the pick for me: a little beach with a lot going on: white sand, rock pools, an ice-cream shop, and great views of Croagh Patrick. Or, go west to the magnificent strands on Achill Island

Getting Here

By car, take the N5 and N59. Westport is 50 miles from Galway, 65 Miles from Sligo and 40 miles from Knock Airport; and is also served by Irish Rail and Bus Eireann.

Road Trips and Car Rental Advice

You might like these

  • The 5 Most Spectacular Coastal Drives in the World

    Each one of these 5 spectacular coastal drives should be on your bucket list. Add at least one to your plans for the next year... you'll be so glad you did.

  • Ireland West Coast Essentials & Secrets - From Cork to Donegal

    Starting in Donegal County and finishing down south in County Cork - the real heart and soul of Ireland's west coast awaits - click to discover it.

  • Dingle, Ireland: it's not the wind that will blow you away

    Years back, I struck up a chat with an Irish chap, and asked where might I go. He thought for a second and said, Dingle, Ireland's best kept secret . A woman at the table over perked up, said, Dingle? What about Dingle?

  • The 5 Best Beaches in Ireland

    The criteria for these 5 best beaches in Ireland is based on scenery, surroundings and the beaches themselves. One or two are adventure hotspots… so pack your boards, kayaks and wetsuits, and prepare to revel in the best waves Europe has to offer.

  • Connemara, Ireland : soft beds, hard country

    When we came to the Connemara, Ireland decided we'd done something right and, finally, bathed us in warm sunshine. Cruising into the harbor I turned to one of the locals on the boat with us that day, and I said to him… you live in a paradise.

  • Discover the Real Ireland. Come to Cork

    Discover Cork and you discover Ireland. So many Irish left from Cork and those with Irish ancestry tell me that it is here they cried. It was here that they felt the connection to the old country.

  • Around the Beara Peninsula

    We assume the best: that when you visit the Ring of Kerry, you won’t be swamped by crowds. But that CAN happen… which is why you might want to hop one over, to the Beara peninsula. Not as mainstream. Just as pretty.

  • The 4 Most Beautiful Coastal Cities in the World

    Phew, this was a hard list to create. We started with 15 cities. With much heated debate we got that down to six... then to 4.

  • Achill Island: Paradise at the Edge

    When you picture paradise, what do you see? It’s fair to say that pristine blue water skirted by a golden crescent beach, beneath a towering cliff of verdant green… makes for a decent description of paradise. So it is on Achill Island in county Mayo.

  • Killarney: the jewel in the Ring of Kerry

    We tend to steer you a little differently. Often, that just means giving some common-sense advice about possibly THE hotspot on Ireland’s tourist itinerary…

  • 5 Top Quality Hotels in Ireland

    5 Quality Hotels in Ireland - here's what awaits at the first on on our list: your balcony doors open onto impeccable grounds. You are surrounded by old, other-worldly opulence, yet are next to one of Ireland’s most modern, quirky and cosmopolitan cities

  • The 8 Best Beaches in the World

    The 8 best beaches in the world. Why is our list different to all others? Simple, we actually travel the world visiting hundred and hundreds of beaches. These are the results...

  • 4 Bucket List Islands

    Scattered across the oceans and seas are 4 bucket list islands. All of them are missing only one thing... you!

  • Before The Quest 4 The Perfect Beach Begins

    There is nothing like a little beach therapy and perfect beach therapy needs peace of mind. Lock that in well before you step out upon the beach of your dreams with travel insurance tailored towards beach holidays

  • Galway City - The Warm Heart & Soul of the Wild Atlantic Way

    Galway City sits in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, and is itself a balancing act. It manages to combine cosmopolitan chic, traditional Gaelic culture, and college life… which all mix rather well.

  • Sampling the South: a 3-stop Tour of County Cork

    First stop is Cobh: Ireland's famous port from where so many (America-bound) Irish fled the potato famine in the mid 19-century. After that we head for...

  • Along the Cook Highway and Beyond

    It is said that this 75km Captain Cook Highway is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. One side is the rugged coast, and the other side the tropical, lush rainforest. (Tip: you definitely want to...

  • Sligo Ireland - The Land of Heart’s Desire.

    Sligo is a festival city, a party city, a music city, a drinking city, and very much a coastal city. One walks in sea air along narrow streets, over bridges, past colorful Georgian facades.