Tag: wild atlantic way

Beautiful Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way

Westport – the town that stole my heart

Mayo stole my heart.  This beautiful county was my home for three years.  I was welcomed by the wonderful warm people and enchanted by the magnificent surroundings.  I return to Mayo as often as I can.

The Wild Atlantic Way conjures up images of crashing surf over jagged rocks, rugged mountains and landscapes with changing hues. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about the culture of local music and literary festivals, museums and historical sites. And don’t forget those beautiful white sandy beaches in hidden away coves and the hospitality that comes with a good old fashioned Irish pub. You’ll find all these things anywhere along the Way, but none more so than in the western and north western counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.  I really need to extend my exploring up the coast.

Mayo is often described as being ‘hauntingly beautiful’. Perhaps it’s because you often have the windswept landscape all to yourself. Or maybe it’s that stories of the famine seem to resonate more loudly here. Either way, much like the rest of the west coast, the scenery is breath-taking and dotted with spectacular vistas.

As you travel from Letterfrack in Connemara on your way into Mayo you’ll pass along the southern shore of Ireland’s only true fjord, Killary Harbour. The fjord stretches 16km from the Atlantic to Aasleagh falls where Galway and Mayo meet. Along the way, stop off and take a boat cruise where the spectacular nature of the fjord can be truly appreciated.

Aashleagh Falls on the Wild Atlantic Way

After Aasleagh falls your destination is Mayo’s jewel in the crown, Clew Bay and the Georgian town of Westport. Most would take the N59 straight up to Westport. Instead, take the scenic route and while there’s no coast road to follow for quite some distance, the R335 will take you through the absolutely stunning DooLough pass. This valley is home to a famine memorial that is definitely worth the visit.

A worthwhile detour is to divert from the Louisburgh road and head to Silver Strand and the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley is a sheep farm run by 6 generations of the Bourke family. It also serves as a famine memorial where it’s possible to visit deserted communities not inhabited since the famine. The beach at Silver Strand adjacent to the farm is unspoilt, but, beware of bathing as the waters have been described as treacherous. Overlooking the farm and the beach is the magnificent Mweelrea mountain. It’s Connacht’s tallest peak at 814 metres.

Around Clew Bay

The road gets closer to the coast when you get to Clew Bay where there are rumoured to be 365 islands. One for every day of the year. There really aren’t that many, but why let facts get in the way of a traditional story. Why not stop along the way at the foot of Croagh Patrick. There’s no need to climb right up to the top, but a short walk up it’s base will give you spectacular views of the bay.

The most welcome respite on your road trip is the beautiful Georgian town of Westport, my home for a while, just a short distance from Croagh Patrick. The pubs and cafes provide excellent food and drink and there’s plenty of accommodation to suit all pockets.

Westport is strategically located so that it’s easy to base oneself there while exploring the south and northern coastlines of Mayo over a few days.

A short drive along the north shore of Clew Bay lies the delightful town of Newport. The town is a renowned angling centre and stands at the entrance to the Bangor Trail, which is now part of the Great Western Greenway, a 43.5km cycling and walking route from Westport to Achill Island.

Achill Island and North Mayo

You really should include a visit to Achill Island a place that epitomises the Wild Atlantic Way with its rugged landscape, steep cliffs, rolling mountains, sheltered beaches and deserted villages. There are loads of adventure activities like surfing, horse riding and hiking as the well as the famous hospitality of its pubs and restaurants. It’s no wonder that there are plenty of families who make Achill their annual holiday destination. To the North West of Achill sits the 11,000 hectares of the unspoilt and uninhabited Ballycroy National Park. It’s a massive area of bog and peat dominated by the Nephin Beg mountains and is also part of Mayo’s Dark Sky park, where on a clear night you can see over 4,500 stars in the sky.

A short distance from the park is Mayo’s Gaeltacht of the Mullet Peninsula and the Barony of Erris. Belmullet is an ideal town from which to explore the peninsula’s cliffs and wild landscape. There is a plethora of water and adventure sports available.

As you drive away from the Belmullet along Mayo’s north coast, you can see the coast and beaches of Donegal miles in the distance. Stop in the picturesque seaside village of Killala famous for it’s role in the 1798 rebellion. Killala is packed full of tourist amenities and its skyline is dominated by a 12th Century Round Tower.

Ballina is Mayo’s largest town and is more or less the last stop before you enter County Sligo. Sitting on the River Moy, Ballina is considered an excellent Salmon fishery and its famous Ridge Pool in the heart of the town is a ‘salmon angers paradise’. In July, the population swells as the town hosts the annual Ballina Salmon festival with a week-long feast of free entertainment.

Travelling to Mayo is enchanting.  Pack the car and head out and I promise you might fall in love with the beautiful county and it’s people.  However as I have learned it is best to be prepared.

Before you hit the road make sure you are covered with Liberty Insurance Ireland. All our our car insurance policies come with 24/7 breakdown assistance with Home Start as standard and it won’t affect your no claims bonus. Get your car insurance quote online now.

This is a sponsored post, however as you know I never post about anything I don’t believe in.  It is a pleasure to feature the beauty of Mayo on my blog, and to remind people how important it is to be prepared.

Thanks for reading

 

Kerry xx

Thank you to Connemara Wild Escapes for the wonderful photos.

 

 

 

 

Escaping to the Wild Atlantic Way

When I think about travel, I tend to think about aeroplanes and the need for a passport.  Sometimes we forget that we have some glorious opportunities on our own doorstep.  Why not consider a little staycation closer to home?

A reason to celebrate

It isn’t that I need a reason to go on an adventure, but when the Merriman Hotel in Kinvara invited me to try a midweek break, I thought it would be an excellent way to celebrate our June birthdays.

So, we packed a little bag and headed off to Kinvara which is a beautiful fishing village on the Wild Atlantic Way.  A little over an hour from home Kinvara is also the gateway to the beautiful Burren in County Clare.

There are pros and cons about the Irish Summer.  The pros are that the landscape is truly picturesque, and the expression ‘50 shades of green’ is truly in bloom.  The con is that for this lush landscape to bloom we have  a lot of rain!  I am used to rain by now, and a good coat with a hood means that I am ready to go – regardless of the weather.

The Merriman Hotel in beautiful Kinvara

The Merriman Hotel, the largest thatch roof structure in Ireland and has a cosy traditional feel, inviting you in and encouraging you to stay.  As we were on a mini break I wanted to pack as much as I could into the day.

After checking in, we headed off for a walk through the town, stopping to browse in some interesting and quirky shops.  We landed up at Sair a coffee shop gallery for a delicious cappuccino and a naughty slice of pecan nut pie.  Despite being June, the weather was crisp and after the walk I had built up an appetite for dinner.  We returned to our comfy room, and then to settle in before thinking about an evening meal.

More Delicious Food

We decided to stay at the Merriman that evening and dine at the Thatch Bar.  One of the great things about a mini break is that you can relax, enjoy a drink and know that you only have to wander upstairs to bed and that nobody has to drive home.

I cannot recommend the food at the Thatch Bar at the Merriman enough.  It was lip smackingly delicious.  I chose traditional fish, chips and mushy peas.  The batter was crisp and delicious and the fish so fresh!  The portion was huge, but that was ok because himself landed up having both his sticky spare ribs and some of my fish.  As it was a birthday celebration we indulged in dessert.   Apple crumble for him and a delicious Eton Mess for me!

Day Two in Kinvara

After a great night’s sleep and a few cups of tea in bed we came down to breakfast, which was served buffet style with a large choice of fruits, cereals and pastries plus of course a traditional full Irish breakfast.  Once again excellent food, of course washed down with a few more cups of tea.

I am not used to a full breakfast, so we decided to go for a walk before heading off.  The grey skies were threatening, but we donned our coats and took a refreshing walk down to the harbour where the views across the water were simply stunning.

Visit Kinvara on a Thursday night – there is a good reason …

If you are booking a mid-week mini break at The Merriman Hotel, I would advise booking a Thursday.  The reason is that on a Friday there is really the most fabulous Farmers Market which takes place on a Friday morning from 10 am.  You will find a huge range of delicious food items (to eat there or to take home), local crafts and a great choice of fresh fruit and vegetables.

As we were rather full of our delicious breakfast I did a little shopping for home.  I bought a sharp local cheese with a hint of chilli, some very indulgent cinnamon and spice buns, and a ciabatta, which is was yummy toasted.

Onwards on the Wild Atlantic Way

Kinvara is a great stopping off place for visiting the Burren and County Clare.  It is only another short drive to amazing beaches such as Flaggy Shore, and Fanore Beach (my personal favourite), and the iconic Cliffs of Moher.

I am really blessed to live so close to this area, and I will definitely be back on a sunny day.  Stopping first at the Merriman Hotel for their famous Sunday carvery lunch and then making my way down the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

Thank you for reading about my adventures.

Kerry xx

 

p.s  Thank you to The Merriman Hotel for having us to stay.

 

 

 

 

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