Westport, and a visit to Westport House

I had passed through Westport as a junction to the final highway to Newport, on my way, and saved an afternoon to return and explore. It has a street named “Shop Street,” full of restaurants, pubs, clothing and shoe shops, and shops of many other small merchants. Coming into a place so busy and full of traffic was a challenge for this novice left side driver, but it was the parallel parking that I found nearly impossible. There were plenty of spaces that I passed, but with no confidence that I could get my car parked successfully and heavy traffic through the shopping zone. Finally, I circled outside the prime shopping areas and found streets with plenty of space to get myself parked (that left side driving issue, again, and a strange car), and then I walked the extra distance into central Westport.

Banner noting Westport’s 250th birthday

The clock tower near Shop Street, a glorified roundabout

I found a tourist information shop immediately, and got directions and suggestions. I passed the shops—full of Aran knitted Irish sweaters, many wool scarves and caps and capes, and Westport tourist items—and then found “The Octagon,” with a high obelisk topped by St. Patrick, and a nearby pub for some lunch. I’d been ordering seafood chowder in pubs everywhere—and this was no exception. I sat outside in the sun with my tea, wholemeal Irish soda bread and Irish butter, and a big bowl of chowder—all for less that €8.

On a beautiful day, everyone has their tea or lunch outside

My lunch–seafood chowder, strong tea, and wholemeal Irish soda bread with lots of Irish butter

St. Patrick overlooks The Octagon, a highway junction and roundabout in central Westport

I wasn’t interested in the shopping, but the tourist office had suggested that I take a walk to Westport House, a public park that was once a huge private home very near the center of the city. It was a commitment of about 3-4 hours of walking—but I’m glad I chose to do that walk and skip the commercial parts of Westport.

The entry path to Westport House, 15 minutes from the central city

Sheep are pastured in the meadows surrounding the house

Many spring lambs graze with their mothers

I get the attention of some of the sheep as I pass

Westport House was built on the old foundation of the castle ruins of Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connacht, who ruled the seas and land around Westport in the 15th century. The current house was built in 1650, by a man whose wife was Grace O’Malley’s great-great-granddaughter. A tour of the home includes 30 lavishly furnished rooms—but I chose to stay in the park setting outside, instead. Along with pasture land for the sheep herd, there are natural woods and several small waterfalls, as well as the ruins of several other small castles and a church from the era of Grace O’Malley. The pathway through the Westport House park leads to the small inlet opening to Clew Bay, and then to the Atlantic Ocean.

Pirate Queen Grace O’Mally, the ruler of Westport in the 1500s

Westport House, built in 1650 on a pirate queen’s castle foundation

The front steps to the entry–with wisteria climbing up the railings.

Eagles protect the corners of the home, multiple fireplace chimneys in the background

Ruins of an old church on the site, from the 1600s

Oddly, Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall of a small stone bridge

Swan paddle boats for hire–summer only

The woods had blankets of hyacinths in bloom everywhere

Exiting the back of the Westport House park, to the inlet leading to Clew Bay and the Atlantic Ocean

It was a relaxing diversion to walk through the pastures and watch the new spring lambs at play, to walk by the huge Westport House and formal gardens, and then spend an hour reaching the inlet that leads to the sea. With another hour of walking back to town on rural lanes, I was back to the city center to retrieve my car, and return to Newport for my final evening there.

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