Ireland has countless cute towns, so the fact that Westport in County Mayo was voted the best place to live in the entire country in 2012 holds major clout. Besides being deliciously livable, Westport is also an excellent place to visit, given its wide variety of historic, natural, and doggone charming attractions.
To begin to understand why people adore Westport, one must first look at the geography. Westport is nestled between mountains and an ocean inlet, providing fabulous scenery. The town itself is delightful, and a 42-kilometer bike path called the Great Western Greenway snakes through the town and over the rolling green hills.
One of the most surprising yet fulfilling tourist attractions in Westport is Westport House: a historic mansion plus… wait for it… a pirate-themed amusement park. As we were touring the grounds, I had to ask our guide: “WHY this combination?”
The answer, which our guide kindly explained, is ingenious. Historic mansions are expensive to keep up, and it’s difficult to attract enough visitors to cover costs. For this reason, the owners of Westport House decided to save it by building the Pirate Adventure park on its grounds, thus turning it into an exciting family destination!
Why the pirate theme? I love this answer. Westport House was built in 1730 by the Browne family, who are direct descendants of the 16th century pirate queen, Grainne O’Malley! I had never heard of the dread Ms. O’Malley, but I’m now eager to learn more.
I’m also now highly eager to come back to Westport House and go on the Pirates’ Plunge Flume Ride! (Sorry I couldn’t get photos of the amusement part — it was closed for winter since we visited in February.)
As you may know, I’m a huge fan of beautiful architecture, so let us pause the words for a moment to savor more photos of Westport House.
So what about the best place to stay in Westport? (We were guests of the following hotel, and this is an affiliate link, but all opinions are our own.) We LOVED our time at Knockranny House Hotel (click for availability and rates), which perches on a serene hill above the town. Doesn’t it look magical in this photo?
Knockranny House Hotel is known for its incredible food, impeccable service, and luxurious amenities. I wish I could show you a photo of the grand indoor swimming pool and spa, but I couldn’t bring my camera in there for fear of getting it splashed. Instead, I will attempt to convey how much we enjoyed our time at the hotel with Devi’s smile during our multi-part, scrumptious breakfast.
The energy Knockranny House exudes is like a strong, warm embrace. The hotel is large, with plush, soft carpets, dark wood, and jewel-toned decor. It feels both luxurious and welcoming. We could have happily stayed there for weeks!
What really blew us away, however, was our hotel room. There is no picture of the bedroom of our suite, because it was literally too big to fit in my camera frame, boasting two large beds, comfortable chairs, a flat-screen TV, and on and on. I will, however, show you the bathroom for our hotel room in the photo below. Can you believe the size??? The toilet is on the left out of the frame, and the shower is right in front of it. Zowie!
Sure, Knockranny House Hotel has won oodles of awards — from Best Four Star Hotel in Ireland, to AA Hotel of the Year, to Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland — but there is one more award I would like to bestow: Best Dainty Toast Holder. Look at this photo below and tell me: who would not be enraptured by this silvery piece of brilliance? 100% of our toasts remained crisp during breakfast.
Here’s another must-do attraction of Westport, Ireland: the 42-kilometer Great Western Greenway bike path goes right through town! Colin, Devi, and I rented a bike with a cute baby trailer from the kind folks at Clew Bay Bike Hire, and took to the hills on our new wheels. Let it be noted that bicycling in Ireland in winter (February, in our case) is a lot more comfortable with gloves and a jacket, so if Colin looks a little icy in the photo below, you’ll realize what we forgot to bring.
Let us return to the title of this article: Why Westport is a great addition to and Ireland road trip like ours. It’s not just that Westport is livable and has fabulous things to do — it’s also in an ideal geographic position near the middle of the island.
The Cliffs of Moher are 2.5 hours away, Dublin is 3 hours, the Burren is 2 hours, and Kylemore Abbey and the Dan O’Hara Homestead in Connemara are about an hour drive each. The coolest thing, however, is that Westport is right on the rainbow-filled Wild Atlantic Way — the stunning sea-side highway that stretches over 1,500 up the west coast of Ireland.
Four years ago I made a list of the best places around the world to move to and live, and Westport will certainly make the new edition of this list, given all it has to offer! I’m sorry I didn’t snap more photos of the adorable town itself, which features charming architecture and yummy cafes, but I suppose you’ll just have to go explore Westport for yourself to see it all!
So what about you? Have you been to Westport before? Does it seem like a place you would like to visit? Which of these activities or sights most entice you? Do share!
We were hosted by Tourism Ireland, but all opinions and dreams of dainty toast holders are my own.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!