Into the West... Part 2

Westport Travel Blog

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Clew Bay, from Croagh Patrick

We made our way back to Westport for some late lunch. Westport is one of Ireland’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.

The lake at Kylemore

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.

Kylemore Abby
You can climb any time of year but the last Sunday in July is known as reek Sunday. On that day along anywhere up to 20,000 people can be on the mountain, some climbing it barefoot. It's totally worth the climb especially on a clear day as the views are amazing. There is also a little church at the top. On this day we didn't climb all the way to the top. It's about a 3 hours round trip hike.

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.

Croagh Patrick
You'll find sheep wandering the hills and sometimes on the road. Eventually you'll come upon Ashleigh Falls. In the latter part of the summer you may see salmon jumping up the falls. A great sight is you are lucky enough to catch it. The fisheries board have a little hatchery here so you can walk into the falls for a closer look.

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.

Statue of St Patrick at base of Croagh Patrick
It sits right at the head of Killary. Leenane was the setting of the movie The Field starring Richard Harris. It's living a bit of this reputation. We didn't stop on the day was going fast. We headed west along the south of the harbour. You get better views of Killary from the Galway side and head towards Clifden. Along the route to Clifden you will come upon Kylemore Abbey.

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.

Ashleigh Falls
There is a statue overlooking the abbey about two thirds of the way up the mountain to the rear. You can hike up to the statue and look down on the lake and the abbey. After leaving the abbey we ended up in Letterfrack. It's as small village but it is home to the Connemara National Park. The Park is open form May to September and offers loads of trails to walk, Pony trekking etc.

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.

Landscape from bridge at Ashleigh Falls
The Twelve Bens provide a wonderful backdrop to the town. Clifden is the crash landing site of the first transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown (1919) and the monument to this historic achievement. Also nearby is the site of the first radio transmitter station from which Marconi exchanged the first transatlantic radio messages with a station in Nova Scotia in 1907.

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.

 

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Clew Bay, from Croagh Patrick
Clew Bay, from Croagh Patrick
The lake at Kylemore
The lake at Kylemore
Kylemore Abby
Kylemore Abby
Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick
Statue of St Patrick at base of Cr…
Statue of St Patrick at base of C…
Ashleigh Falls
Ashleigh Falls
Landscape from bridge at Ashleigh …
Landscape from bridge at Ashleigh…
Ashleigh Falls
Ashleigh Falls
Close up of Ashleigh Falls
Close up of Ashleigh Falls
The river leading to Ashleigh Falls
The river leading to Ashleigh Falls
Killary Harbour
Killary Harbour
Sunset over Killary
Sunset over Killary
60 km (37 miles) traveled
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photo by: maithanfear