Into the West... Part 2
Westport Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
We made our way back to Westport for some late lunch. Westport is one of Irelandâ€™s most popular holiday destinations, be it for a weekend end or longer stay. It overlooks Clew Bay and is situated near the base of Croagh Patrick. One of the few planned towns in the Country, Westport was designed in the 18th Century by James Wyatt. The town contains many fine restaurants, specialising particularly in seafood and many fine traditional pubs, all providing a friendly ambience. It got some nice features like the Octagon and the beautiful and unique boulevard tree lined known as The Mall, running parallel to the Carrowbeg River. There are plenty of shops, pubs and places to eat to keep you busy. In July and August Westport holds a street festival so there is plenty of entertainment for free.
Westport is kinda like two towns in one. There is a whole town centre around main street, the Octagon etc. Then a little further toward the bay is the whole Quay area. In recent times it's been transformed into a little social hub with a character of it's own. All the old run down warehouses have been converted into apartments, restaurants, bars and hotels.
After being suitablely refreshed we continued our journey westward along the south side of Clew Bay until we reached Croagh Patrick. Known locally as the Reek, Croagh Patrick is the mountain where St Patrick reputedly spent 40 days and nights fasting in 441AD. It's a place of pilgrimage where thousands of people year year follow in the footsteps of St Patrick.
From there we made our way along the coast, out past Old Head onto Louisburgh where we headed cross country into Leenane. This drive is along a narrow road but is so worth it. You drive right through the heart of the bog and the mountains. Through valleys and lakes and the way the sun shines and highlights the landscape is amazing. People just stop in the middle of the road to take pictures.
From here the next stop is Leenane. The road into Leenane takes you along the north side of Killary Harbour. Killary is Ireland's only fjord. It runs for 16km and is 45m deep in places. The depth is deep enough to hid a submarine and during the last war it's reputed that tow subs shelter in the harbour during storms. The harbour is a natural border between Mayo and Galway.
The Village of Leenane is quaint.
The Abbey (a gothic castle) was initially built as a private residence by a wealthy English businessman in 1865. In 1920 it was sold to the Benedictine nuns who turned it into a school for girls. In the early days to make some extra income when the school season finished the nuns turned the abbey into a guest house for the summer. The school will close in 2010. Because of the school you cannot get inside the abbey but the grounds are worth a visit.
Then it was on into Clifden. Clifden is a booming tourist town. Clifden, is the largest town in Connemara and is regarded as its capital. The scenery around Clifden is extraordinary. Clifden's striking skyline is dominated by the spires of the Neo-Gothic Catholic Church and nearby Protestant church.
We decided to have dinner here. It offers a range of stylish restaurants and coffee shops - many of them award winners. For drinking, the town provides many fine watering holes for the weary and thirsty visitor - you will also find many of them provide traditional music sessions throughout the year. Each August sees the largest National and International show for Connemara ponies take place with up to 500 ponies being exhibited. This well established festival attracts thousands of people from around the world each year.
The daylight was fading after dinner so we headed for home. Next day we'd finish the trip a little closer to home.