The Great Western Greenway in County Mayo is the longest off-road cycling trail in Ireland. The Greenway follows the old railway line that used to join the town of Westport and Achill Sound.
The 42-km line had been opened in the 1890s, as part of a wider plan to connect rural regions across Ireland by train and promote their development. While the Westport to Achill train brought some renewed energy to the local communities, attracting travellers and tourism, unfortunately the line closed in 1937. Along the way you can still find the remains of the old train stations, railway towers, etc…
The Greenway today joins Westport with Newport, Mulranny and Achill Sound (short of a couple kms before reaching the bridge to Achill Island) and is a perfect trail for cyclists of all skills from beginners to families and also those experienced on two wheels. There is a project to extend the Greenway to Keel but for the moment, Achill Sound marks the end of the Great Western Greenway. However, this doesn’t mean your cycle adventure has to come to an end: you can easily tour Achill Island by bike following the Wild Atlantic Way and other well marked cycling trails, taking small coastal roads that will bring you to some of the most spectacular regions in Ireland and the most magnificent ocean views.
No matter where you find yourself in Westport town, you will feel Croagh Patrick looking over you. Croagh Patrick, only a few kilometres outside Westport, is Ireland’s Holy Mountain and the most important and spectacular pilgrimage site in the country. If you get a chance, climbing Croagh Patrick will be well worth the effort as the panoramic views of Clew Bay from the summit are simply superb. Lively Westport has a reputation for dishing some of the best food in the country so make sure you sample the local seafood in one of the many great restaurants in town! but also for being a great spot for ‘fun and music’ (craic agus ceol in Irish!). Irish music aficionados shouldn’t miss a music session at Matt Molloy’s pub, owned by one of the members of world-famous music band The Chieftains.
Following the 6-km Greenway around town you can easily explore Westport by bike before setting off on the Great Western Greenway on your way to Achill.
Along the Greenway, Newport will be instantly recognisable for its seven arched bridge over the Black Oak River and St Patrick’s Church standing tall on top of the hill. It is definitely worth stopping at the church to admire ‘The Last Judgement’ stained glass window by Ireland’s stained glass master: Harry Clarke.
From Newport to Mulranny, the views over Clew Bay are just fantastic and a walk across the causeway and quick swim at Mulranny Beach will make you feel refreshed and ready to continue. After Mulranny, the Greenway continues off-road to Achill Sound but you can also take an alternative route: following The Atlantic Drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, a stunning coastal road on the southern part of the Currane Peninsula.
Achill has been and still is the source of inspiration for many artists. Artists such as Paul Henry and Robert Henri spent time and painted here, inspired by the island’s wild, raw and pure beauty. Once in Achill Island and following the Wild Atlantic Way you will encounter some of the most breath taking coastal landscapes in Ireland:
The Atlantic Drive from Achill Sound to Keel, taking you between wind-swept bogland and the Atlantic Ocean, is a memorable road. Intrepid sheep, defying gravity at the edge of cliffs and rocks, will calmly watch you cycle past.
On your way to Keel, you will find the 15th century Granuaile Tower or Kildavnet Tower, believed to have belonged to the O’Malley Clan, the family of Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley.
The summit at Minaun Mountain will give you exhilarating views of the Atlantic and on a sunny day, the cliffside road to Keem Bay and blue-flagged Keem Beach will make you feel like you have just reached paradise.