For the first week of our trip to Ireland, we stayed in Westport, a town in County Mayo on Clew Bay on the west coast. It’s a charming town winning the Best Place to Live in Ireland in 2012.
The layout of the town follows medieval principles of urban design introduced by the Norman in the 13th century, but the design was commissioned in the 1780s by John Browne, who owned a stately home nearly, called Westport House. More on that later. The river Carrow Beg was diverted to allow the incorporation of the river into the design and many of the shops and buildings date from that time, giving the town its charm.
The Browns also built the cathedral in Westport, which despite the fact it is Protestant, is very decorative.
Croagh Patrick (pronounced Cro Patrick), a famous pilgrimage mountain, is the backdrop for the town, which lies at the edge of the beautiful Clew Bay – a huge expanse that is said to contain 352 islands, one for each day of the year, including one bought by John Lennon and Yoko Ono back in what the locals call the ‘hippy days.’ We took a tour of the bay on our last afternoon. It is a gorgeous place, great for fishing and lobstering (the lobsters are sent to France but I ate fish everyday we were there), and I was highly entertained by a half hour conversation with the boat owner, who also happens to be a sixth grade teacher.
We think Ireland is the nicest place we’ve ever visited – the people are so kind and cheerful!