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like a pro

How to do Westport like a pro: Shark views, parking tips and the pub from the classic Guinness ad

Plus the “best whipped ice cream in Ireland”.

WESTPORT IS ONE of the most popular holiday destinations in Mayo, with a busy town, beautiful beaches, and Ireland’s ‘holiest mountain’.

But what are the best things to do if you’re visiting this coastal gem? We asked Stephen Clarke of Westport Walking Tours, who guides visitors around the area every weekday.

When’s the best time to visit?

With lots of outdoor activities in the area, from walks and beach trips to boat tours and watersports, Westport gets very popular in the summer months. But Clarke says that there’s still plenty for visitors to do throughout the year.

“There’s always something on – the Grainne Uaile Festival, the Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Westport Food Festival. And the Town Hall has shows on all year round, everything from comedy, music, theatre, drama.”

Pro tip: Consider going later in the year when the town will be a bit quieter. “A lot of people visit Westport in the off-season because all the hotels do great rates in the winter. And at Christmas the Mall area in the town is all lit up so it’s just as nice in the winter as in the summer,” Clarke adds.

Where can I park the car?

Clarke says that it’s usually easy to find a parking spot around Westport. There’s plenty of on-street parking in the town and along the Mall, as well as three car parks in the town centre and a large car park down by the quays.

Pro tip: Note that Westport introduced paid parking in the town earlier this year. “We don’t have any parking meters on the street because we want to keep the town tidy, so you have to go into one of the shops or the Town Hall to get a parking disc. But the first hour is free,” Clarke adds.

Westport House Shutterstock / Gabriela Insuratelu Shutterstock / Gabriela Insuratelu / Gabriela Insuratelu

What are the top things to do around the town?

There’s plenty of shops and eateries to check out on Westport’s colourful streets and tree-lined Mall, but if you’re looking for something more active you don’t have to go very far.

“There’s Westport Adventure Park, there’s boats around Clew Bay, and we’ve any amount of Blue Flag beaches close by, such as Bertra and Carrowmore,” Clarke says.

“Westport House is probably one of the biggest attractions in Mayo – you can go camping there or just visit the old house and the dungeons. They’ve done up the gardens so there’s a lovely trail through the estate now, and outside there’s the Pirate Adventure Park. You can get food down there too in the tea room or Gracy’s Pizza.”

Pro tip: Pay a visit to Westport’s Mescan brewery, which is in the foothills of Croagh Patrick. “Mescan Blond has really taken off in all the local pubs, and they now do tours as well,” Clarke adds.

Shutterstock / Vincent MacNamara Shutterstock / Vincent MacNamara / Vincent MacNamara

Where are the best spots for food and drink?

Whether you’re looking for lunch, dinner or a sweet treat, there are plenty of options around Westport.

“We have Cian’s on Bridge Street, An Port Mór and Sage restaurant. Sol Rio won an award for the best chocolate cake in Mayo and McGreevy’s has the best whipped ice cream in Ireland,” Clarke says.

“And then if you want to go out to the quay and dine with a view over Clew Bay, you can go to the Towers or the Helm. They’re both good places for seafood out at the harbour.”

Pro tip: Don’t miss a visit to one of Westport’s famous pubs, such as the Porterhouse, Johnny Moran’s or Matt Molloy’s, which is owned by the Chieftains musician and has live traditional music every night. “We’ve also got Blouser’s pub, which featured in the Guinness ad in 2004 where the guy took the telly down off the wall and brought it outside so people could chat in the bar,” Clarke adds.

Idle Wall / YouTube

How can I avoid the crowds?

If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town for a few hours, grab your bike and head for the Great Western Greenway.

The 42km off-road cycling and walking trail runs from Westport to Achill, going through Newport and Mulranny, with scenic views of the countryside, the mountains and the bay.

Pro tip: There are a number of shops in Westport where you can hire a bike for the day. “The bicycle shops also offer a shuttle bus so you don’t have to cycle both ways. You can just get a bus down to Achill and cycle back or vice versa,” Clarke adds.

Shutterstock / Maria_Janus Shutterstock / Maria_Janus / Maria_Janus

Are there any hidden gems in the area?

When you’ve finished exploring Westport, spend a bit of time on Achill Island. While the 42km bike journey may take you a few hours, it’s less than an hour away by car, driving along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Shutterstock / Iuliia Laitinen Shutterstock / Iuliia Laitinen / Iuliia Laitinen

“Achill Island is what I’d recommend, it’s a place that isn’t advertised enough. On Achill you have Keem beach and you have the basking sharks swimming around, and it’s as nice as anywhere in the world,” Clarke says.

Pro tip: If you have any energy left, hike up Achill’s Croaghaun mountain. “It’s one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and it has beautiful views. Everyone knows about the Cliffs of Moher but Croaghaun is more than twice the height,” Clarke adds.

More: How to do the Cliffs Of Moher like a pro: Cheap parking, great coffee, and hot tubs in whiskey barrels>

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