Great Western Greenway
Head into the west and experience the raw beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way, with an adventure along Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail
Beginning in Westport and finishing on Achill Island, the Great Western Greenway takes in breathtaking bays, quaint towns and villages and magnificent mountain backdrops. At a length of 44km, you could easily do it in a day, but slow down, take your time and you’ll find this is a rewarding region packed with some of the island’s best scenery.
A town teeming with heritage, breathtaking bays and island adventures fit for a (pirate) queen: experience it all in the scenic 250-year-old town of Westport.Explore Day 1
Antiquity and adventure at Westport House
Cycle straight to Westport House in the heart of town and swap your bikes for train carriages with the Westport Train Tour. Enjoy a guided jaunt through the gorgeous grounds of Westport House, Westport Quay and the stories and sites of Westport town. Upon your return, set off on a guided tour of Westport House with its marble marvels, engrossing exhibitions and the history of Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connacht, who once ruled land and sea throughout the area and beyond. If you have more time, check out the Westport House Pirate Adventure Park. Filled with fun rides such as the Cannonball Run slide, and the Pirate Queen Swinging Ship, it’s a sure-fire hit for family fun!
Queenly culture on Clare Island
Board a bus in Westport to Roonagh Pier and be whisked away on the Clare Island Ferry to Grace O’Malley’s ancient homeland, Clare Island. Wander the island on foot exploring the Pirate Queen’s stone clad fortress, Granuaile Castle; peruse medieval masterpieces in The Abbey church; and explore Ireland’s only two-towered lighthouse, which guards the entrance to Clew Bay. Return to the harbour and enjoy your last look at the island as you journey back to Roonagh Pier by ferry, and on to Westport. If you have more time, enjoy live music sessions most weekends at Clare Island Community Centre or tuck into tasty food at Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant.
From regal roots to country house charm, the picturesque town of Newport is a treasure trove of historic sites.Explore Day 2
Beautiful bridges and historic houses in Newport
The Great Western Greenway largely follows the line of the old Westport Achill Railway, so you can expect gently gradiants most of the way. The first section, from Westport to Newport is a distance of about 12km through some idyllic scenery. Once you arrive in the heritage town of Newport, take the time to admire the seven-arch railway viaduct, spanning the Black Oak river. Refuel in the Georgian gem of Newport House, a luxury country house, for home-smoked salmon and seasonal local foods. It’s also a good spot for an overnight stay.
Humble home of Hollywood royalty
Newport has a rather impressive claim to fame: Princess Grace of Monaco’s ancestral homestead can be found on the edge of the town in Drumilra. Today, a park in her name lies behind the humble cottage ruins where her paternal grandfather, John Kelly, once lived.
Into the wild at Ballycroy National Park
Throughout July and August, hop aboard the free bus service from Newport to Ballycroy National Park to nature trails, habitat exhibitions and diverse flora and fauna on this blanket bog landscape. The park is also the home of Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park. When night falls and if you’re lucky enough to get a clear sky, you’ll be treated to a wonder of twinkling stars and maybe even a meteor shower.
Nature has blessed the seaside village of Mulranny with an abundance of flora, fauna and natural beauty that’s sure to inspire all who visit.Explore Day 3
Root for rarities
The Newport to Mulranny section of the Greenway is regarded as one of the best in terms of scenery. Take your time along this 18km stretch, and enjoy the trip through rugged scenery dotted with sheep. Mulranny itself is such a treat, you’ll want to stick around – the villages has been designated a European Destination of Excellence. Treat yourself to a night or two at the Mulranny Park Hotel to enjoy the best of the village’s amazing seascapes, mountains and outdoor adventures.
Walk among wild wonders
You never know what treasures you may find at The Greenway Antiques & Book Store. Situated in Mulranny town, this quaint thatched cottage stocks a sweet selection of rare books and ornate antiques, offering an array of unique keepsakes of your cycling journey. After that, why not try the Lookout Hill Loop, one of three scenic walking trails traversing Trawoughter Bay along the village’s unique causeway. Expect woodland, beaches, dunes and a sea lavender-strewn salt marsh, along with stunning views of Clew Bay against the backdrop of Croagh Patrick mountain.
Head for a bite to eat at The Dánlann Yawl Art Gallery, Painting School & Coffee Shop in Owenduff, just outside Mulranny. Should inspiration strike amidst these mountain views and seascapes, weekly painting workshops are held in The Old Stable Studio with trips to Achill Island on occasion.
Achill Island has attracted artists, writers and adventurers for centuries - and it’s no wonder, with its abundant beaches, rugged sea cliffs and untouched wilderness.Explore Day 4
Stone strongholds and medieval marvels
Back on the bike (or on foot, whatever you fancy), the trip from Mulranny to Achill Sound is about 14km and will take you onto one of Ireland’s most enchanting islands via a land bridge. Once you reach Achill it’s definitely worth sticking around. The Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, who we heard about earlier, marked these lands as her own with The Tower at Kildavnet guarding the passage between Clew Bay and Blacksod Bay. A stone's throw away, you will find the remains of a 12th century chapel, thought to be built upon the original site of St Dympna's church from the 7th century.
Wild Atlantic watersports
At the foot of Achill Head, you’ll find Keel Beach – a magnificent, sandy haven that’s perfect for a swim, surf, or just a relaxing walk. If you cast your eyes south from the beach, you’ll spot the Bills, three rock stacks that – if the legends are to be believed – are the ruins of Atlantis! If you have more time, venture inland to a nearby lake that’s perfect for canoeing or windsurfing!
Dive into Achill’s wildlife and history
The Achill Experience and Aquarium is stocked to the brim with creatures of the deep, insightful details about the island’s history and artistic inspiration discovered here by famous painters and writers.
The vacant village
While the coastal scenery of Achill is one of the most appealing aspects of the island, it’s worth heading inland also to the remains of The Deserted Village at Slievemore. Walking through here is an eerie experience, with over 80 stone cottages standing in ruin as the wind whistles through the tumbledown stones. Some of these buildings were summer homes (booleys) abandoned not so long ago ¬– but look out for the megalithic tombs that date back over 5,000 years. There are ancient secrets to be found here…