Hello I’m Grainne McGarvey and welcome to my column which spots local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I will have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or at www.pulseprni.com
G Spots! Wonderful Westport
Nothing beats the excitement of going on holiday and I was like a new spring lamb heading off recently. Despite only having time for a weekend away, I was determined to pack in as much as possible. I love being a tourist in Belfast and regularly visit various locations across the north, but this time I decided to branch out and go further afield. Not too far that I didn’t fancy the drive, but far enough to feel like I was on a proper break.
The perfect location that fitted the bill was Westport in County Mayo. If you haven’t been to Westport, head to Enniskillen, then Sligo, and then follow signs for Galway with a slight deviation. My family are from Enniskillen, so I could do this drive with my eyes closed, but once I got past the main towns it did feel like we were driving into the abyss – partly because of the drizzly rain and fog (yes even in July).
Once we got there all was right with the world. We had booked to stay in Hotel Westport (@HotelWesport) and definitely got a welcome us Irish are famous for. Friendly staff, lovely room and just the right amount of buzz. The hotel’s location is just on the outskirts of the thoroughfare but it’s a short walk especially if you take the picturesque river route.
I must be getting old, but eating out is one of my favourite things to do on holiday, well actually even when I’m not on holiday. I can honestly say we had one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever had in the hotel restaurant. Maybe I’m a food snob and don’t expect fine dining in a hotel, but this idea was blown out of the water. Goat’s cheese, red snapper, beautifully presented pork, homemade peanut butter and marshmallow petit fours, the list of yummyness went on. I can see why it got an AA Rosette of Culinary Excellence.
We could have sat on nibbling all night, but it was time to head into town to shake what my mamma gave me, well in my head anyway. Westport is a top location for hen do’s so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Matt Malloy’s pub (yes, that is the guy from the Chieftain’s) as there was a lovely mix of all ages and nationalities settling town to hear a live céilidh band.
Up early on day two and despite the weather not improving, we headed out on the Atlantic Drive and off to Achill Island. I’d heard it’s a lovely drive and it might just be if I could see anything between the clouds. Lots of twists and turns up country roads and we did stumble across sheep and lots of them. Sheep running about seemed to be as normal as cats and dogs running about in the city. After finally getting away from them we arrived in Newport and found The Gráinne Uaile pub. According to legend she was a pirate queen from Clew Bay, so with a heritage like that, it was just the right place for lunch. A quick stop in Westport House on the way home and we were back in the cosy surroundings of the hotel.
More eating and drinking in the town on the Saturday night and we slept like babies. Sunday was our last day and no trip to Westport is complete without a jaunt up Croagh Patrick, well to the first statue anyway – sure that’s enough to get a few nice snaps of the beautiful scenery. Back to the hotel for food, well it would be rude not to. We tried the afternoon tea which Hotel Westport has been serving for a few months now and it was just the right amount to set us up for the journey home.
Thankfully the drive back was a lot quicker, sure it always is. All in all the weekend was great. My only observation was the hotel and surrounding areas seem to be geared towards families and not so much if you want a romantic break away, but I guess it was the time of year we went and out of season it will undoubtedly be different. I’ll definitely be back to Westport, it’s an interesting enough spot and thanks to the number of northern cars in the area, sure it felt like my home from home anyway!