At the beginning of June I headed off on a road trip of almost 3,000 kilometers mostly along the now world-famous Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way is a touring route that runs along the north, west and south coasts of Ireland from Muff in Inishowen in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork. It has been a long-held dream to travel these coastal routes ages before it was branded the Wild Atlantic Way. I had two aims for this trip – to seek out the Wild Atlantic Way and to trace some family history.
My adventure began in Westport Co. Mayo, situated on Clew Bay on the west coast. I think I may well have been the only person in Ireland who had not visited Westport, one of our premier tourist towns that has recently been voted the best place to live in Ireland. Crammed with shops, restaurants, wonderful views and riverside walks, it truly is a wonderful place to visit. This was my first port of call as it was here that our grandfather was born, when his father-our great grandfather worked at the local railway station. My visit was long overdue!
The town has several busy streets that converge at the octagon, where there is a statue of St Patrick high up on a plinth. I particularly like this statue of St Patrick as he is not in the usual 18th Century church regalia – and why should he be, given that he was about the place in the mid 5th Century! Patrick was not always there however as the monument was originally raised in honour of a local man, George Clendenning (1770-1843). During the Irish civil war, the Irish Free State troops used the statue for target practice and the head was shot off. In 1990 Clendenning was replaced by St Patrick and this is a very handsome focal point in the town.
Westport is the gateway to Croagh Patrick, a pilgrim mountain associated with St Patrick that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
I love this shot with the old-fashioned telephone box and the well populated sign post, while just across the road is this very colourful shop selling everything you might need for a really happy holiday!
The Carrowbeg River flows gently through the town, with lovely malls on either bank.
This is the very beautiful Church of Ireland church of the Holy Trinity which dates from about 1868. The intricate stone carving is the work of Charles Harrison and inside is a magnificent pulpit.
Just down the road is the mighty Reek, or Croagh (pronounced Croke) Patrick, rising 764 metres. Pilgrims of all ages make their way up the steep slope, often barefoot and not put off by weather. The annual pilgrimage takes place on Reek Sunday, which is on the last Sunday in July.
Here too is Ireland’s National Famine memorial, entitled ‘Coffin Ship’, a haunting bronze sculpture of a ship with skeletons as the rigging.
The Monument is at the base of Croagh Patrick and on the edge of Clew Bay
Further along the road is the very popular Old Head, a favourite bathing spot.
I enjoyed an evening walk along the shore at the ruins of the Murrisk Friary founded in 1457.
And later watched the sun set into the west on what was a fabulous first day along the Wild Atlantic Way!