Grace O’Malley'S TRAIL
With a good part of Mayo situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, it is not surprising to find the most epic scenery when travelling through this part of Ireland. There are several historic highlights to soak up when visiting the county, as well as outdoor activities and many culinary delights. To this day, Grace O’Malley is a much-celebrated character in the area and as you make your way through Mayo, it will be hard not to experience a trace of her in the depths of Mayo’s countryside and along its coastline.
Start your Mayo adventure with a stop in the vibrant town of Westport, with its magnificent setting below Croagh Patrick mountain and with views looking out over Clew Bay. Many pilgrims travel from near and far to make it to the top of Croagh Patrick but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. For those seeking a less strenuous activity then a stroll through Westport town and along the banks of the Carrowbeg River might be better suited.
After a morning of exploring Westport, grab lunch at one of the town’s many great restaurants or gastro pubs, where locally produced food and brewed pints come highly recommended. Before you leave Westport, consider a short trip inland to the town of Castlebar, and the village of Knock. The National Museum of Ireland, Country Life in Castlebar, is well worth a visit when you visit Mayo, while Knock Shrine is also worth adding to your Mayo itinerary.
Once you have had your fill of Westport, take the coastal road towards Newport and enjoy breathtaking scenery along the way. For those feeling up to the challenge, an alternative way to reach Newport is by cycling the Great Western Greenway, a cycle path and walking trail that starts in Westport and follows the route of an old railway line. As you cycle or walk along the Greenway takes in views over Clew Bay and out to Clare Island, two of Grace O’Malley’s famous strongholds.
Once in Newport, take some time to enjoy the town’s endless heritage, including St. Patrick’s Church, the Railway Viaduct and Newport House. The town has plenty of great restaurants, cafes and pubs to take a rest at, including one a pub that is named after Grace O’Malley.
Travellers can choose to drive or rejoin the Greenway as they make their way from Newport to Achill. Whatever way you travel, make sure to stop and enjoy the picturesque views and different highlights along the way. This route takes in the northern shores of Clew Bay, Mulranny and Achill Island.
Stop at Mulranny village to enjoy Trawoughter Bay,, built in 1889 to give access to the beautiful beach. An award-winning village, Mulranny has been voted Best Destination for Responsible Tourism Award 2016, Ireland’s Best Small Tourism Town and European Destination of Excellence. These awards are not hard to believe once you come across the pretty village, its surrounding landscape and the variety of activities and outdoor adventures on offer.
Take a break in one of the village’s quaint tea rooms before making your way to Achill.
From Mulranny either take the driving route along the Wild Atlantic Way or continue cycling along the Greenway towards Achill Island. Prepare to be captivated by the jutting cliff tops, stunning bays and views out to Clare Island as you journey further northwards.
Achill Island can be accessed by a bridge from the mainland. The island is Ireland’s largest island at 24 km x 19 km and boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and clifftops ever seen. On the island are also the villages of Dooagh and Dooega to discover, as well as the deserted village of Slievemore.
Achill also has a host of adventure activities to get involved in, including sailing, windsurfing and diving.
If you’re to visit any of the beaches then make sure to stop at Keem Bay, a stunning Blue Flag beach that is surrounded by Benmore cliffs and Croaghaun Mountain.
Finish your trip with a meal overlooking the bay and, should you be lucky enough, you might even spot one of the dolphins that come to swim along this part of the coast.