Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Great Western Greenway - Ireland's secret hidden gem

Now I say secret because as far as I was aware it was.

But like anything, once you know about something you start hearing more and more about it. And everything I heard about the Greenway was good. So last weekend we took the plunge and headed West.

The Great Western Greenway is in Mayo on the West of Ireland. It runs the 42k from Achill Sound to Westport on what used to be an old Victorian railway line. It is now a perfect cycle \ walking path taking in some unbelievable views along the way. Sweeping bays give way to patchwork fields with old stone walls and lazy rivers.

It was, in parts, indescribably beautiful, but there are only so many times you can stop to take out your camera, and anyway, it never does quite do justice to the vast views and echoing silence.

The route takes you past Newport and Mulranny and offers a number of pitstops along the way. And it's not just for the fit and healthy either. With bike shops offering you transport to the starting point of your choice, and pick ups if you happen to succumb to the pints of ice cold Bulmers in the blistering sunshine - it seems even Hen parties have been tempted along (with varying degrees of success so our driver informed us).

The Greenway is broken down into stages and you can go in either direction, or even there and back if you're feeling particularly energetic.

We bused it out to Achill, were given our bikes and then headed off to Mulranny 13k away. From there it's 18k to Newport, and then 11k back to Westport - leaving just time to shower, change and head out to dine with the locals and sit in on a session in Matt Molloys.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather, but I can definitely see why all the tourists flock to the West. There are almost too many pubs to choose from, world class food and the warmest of welcomes. All in all the most perfect weekend break you could hope for.

And best of all? After cycling 42k the booze and food are guilt free. Now you can't really argue with that.

Useful links:
Accomodation: Woodside Lodge B&B - perfect location, fabulous hosts, gorgeous house
Bike Rental: Clew Bay Bikes - bus from Westport to Achill and bike hire just €25
Restaurant: Sage - widely regarded as the best in town. The seafood is a must. 
Bars: Matt Molloys - regular sessions with local musicians, and barmen that remember your order from the night before.

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