(IRISH INDEPENDENT, March 4th, 2016)
Is there anything quite like the breathtaking view on a clear day from the top of Croagh Patrick on the Murrisk peninsula in Co Mayo? It must have made St Patrick himself pause in wonder before he set about banishing those pesky snakes from his green shamrock shores.
Looking out over Clew Bay, its 365 island jewels sparkling in the deep blue Atlantic swirl, and with the panorama of the Mayo and Connemara mountains all around, would make anyone, saint or sinner, pause.
In the foothills of Croagh Patrick, or The Reek, as it is known locally, is where you will find our featured property over in Kilsallagh.
Fitting snugly in the wild western landscape, clever design is a defining feature of this three to four bedroom property. It’s attractive outside, but it is also quirky, and cosy inside.
Most unusually, the two upstairs bedrooms each have their own private stairwell. This is a house that works on many levels, literally. For example, you step up from the front part of the living room, to the snug area around the corner.
There is also a raised office/living room space off the kitchen area.
The main body of the property is open plan. The kitchen/dining/living room area has an open fireplace – which has a back boiler – and there is also a sun room, two bathrooms and two mezzanines. One of these has been used as an office, the other as a reading area.
There is also an original stone shed to the side of the house; it is accessible from the snug/TV room, which gives the option of expanding into that space.
Connemara and Galway are all within an hour’s drive.Westport is a most attractive spot with its lime tree-lined riverside Mall and pretty stone bridges, colourful streets, pubs and restaurants, iconic Clock and the Octagon monuments.
What to do
Well, there is the 765m Croagh Patrick to climb. Or maybe you will wait for the annual National Pilgrimage on the last Sunday in July each year, known locally as “Reek Sunday”.
The Great Western Greenway, Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail, meanders along the old Westport to Achill railway line and takes in stunning views of Clew Bay along its 42 kilometres.
Murrisk village is surrounded by wonderful cycling terrain. There is a designated cycle track along the coast into Westport using the National Coastal Path and there are lots of small back roads over the mountains in the area.
Mayo is a wonderland for hikers, with stunning trails among the Sheeffry Hills, Mweelrea, and that little-visited sweep of mountains from Nephin, through the Nephin Begs out to spectacular Croaghaun at the western end of Achill Island.
Ireland’s largest island, Achill, reached by bridge from the Corraun peninsula, has five Blue Flag beaches.
A sea kayak would allow you to experience Clew Bay from a different perspective – outdoor adventure company, Adventure Islands, operates from Westport House and also from Rosmoney Pier and Collanmore island in Clew Bay, and runs all sorts of activities including dinghy sailing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, water skiing and stand-up paddle boarding.
Every summer Louisburg hosts the Féile Chois Cuain, a traditional music festival, while the Westport Food Festival takes place in June.
If you can’t wait until then, artisan growers have their fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, cheeses and meats on sale every Saturday from March at the Westport Food & Craft Market.
If you want to land your own seafood, the Westport Sea Angling Festival will take place in June, while Murrisk will host its annual Lobster Festival on the May Bank Holiday Weekend.
Food and drink
Westport is a culinary mecca and, according to foodie gurus John and Sally McKenna, the menus written by chef Seamus Commons at Knockranny House, for instance, “read almost like novellas: roast turbot comes with baby broad beans, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus tips, a duck and foie gras cigar, and a caper and herb velour. Phew”. The McKennas wax lyrical too about the fare at The Idle Wall on Westport Quay.
An Port Mor, on Bridge Street, offers signature dishes such as Achill sea trout with Clew Bay mussels.
The Tavern Bar and Restaurant in Murrisk, draws foodies to its fine bar and restaurant, with local seafood a speciality.
There are many pubs in Westport and beyond of course, but if you have to pick one, it would have to be Matt Molloy’s Bar on Bridge Street. Owned by the celebrated Chieftains flautist, this intimate venue has no TV or kids after 9pm, when the music really gets going.
Not as feted or busy as Kerry or west Cork, Mayo still brings in discerning tourists for its good food, beaches, trekking trails and beauty spots. It also attracts the younger kayaking and surfing set.
What’s not to like
The traffic in Westport can be annoying, especially when delivery trucks block lanes.
Westport, Co Mayo
Dearbhla Friel Properties, Breaffy Road, Castlebar. Tel: 1890 876 196