I am often asked, “Where is my favourite or the best holiday destinations in Ireland for families?”. Without hesitation, I say it has to be Westport town. Why is that? Well, for many years now it has been voted best place to live and is a regular tidy town winner. But more importantly, it just offers so much for families.
In fact, I am sure that the businesses of Westport must have come together at one time and decided that families were their priority. Then, they worked hard as a business community to become the best holiday destinations in Ireland for families from the point of view of activities, restaurants and most importantly accommodation. They just cater for families so well in Westport.
So, I was really pleased to make a return visit this summer to this picturesque town and experience again all that it has to offer.
On this occasion we choose to leave the car at home and make the journey by bus instead. From Cork to Galway we used Citylink which brought us directly to the main bus and rail station in Galway. This took 2.5 hours . After spending a few hours strolling around Galway city we then took a CIE bus to Westport town and this leg of the journey took us just over an hour and a half. Citylink is ver y convenient as there are toilets and WIFI on board so it was very relaxing for both the kids and me of course! The journey would take you approx. 3.5 hours from Dublin and the same from Cork by car.
Family Accommodation in Westport
There is certainly no shortage of places to stay for families in Westport whatever your budget or holiday needs. Choices range from Glamping in magical hobbit houses (Mayo Glamping- Click Here) to family-friendly hotels in the heart of Westport town.
We stayed with The Castlecourt Hotel in Westport town. Here, the family rooms are not only luxurious and so comfortable, but the rooms are an excellent size for families, this means plenty of space!
Things to Do in The Castlecourt Hotel
The hotel runs a kid’s club called the Buzz Club. Although we didn’t take advantage of the club during this visit, it did look really great. It is available during Mid Term Breaks, July & August excluding Christmas & New Year, (I gather an unsupervised play room is available then). The Club is for boys and girls aged 5-13 years. The club places a big emphasis on sport. But they also facilitate Hip Hop Dance Classes, Bike Trails, Beach Trips, Treasure Hunts and loads more. In addition, they have an unsupervised playroom for children aged 2-4. If you are a resident this is all free of charge.
We did have a splash-around in the hotel swimming pool. The times we went were always nice and quiet giving us free rein over the kiddies’ pool and main pool.
We had the option to dine in The Castlecourt Hotel and its sister hotel in The Westport Plaza across the courtyard. The food was simple Irish cuisine with plenty of your family favourites. They were extremely accommodating in particular for gluten free and even offered us some options outside the menu.
For more information on The Castlecourt Hotel Click Here!
Family Fun Things to do in Westport
The Great Western Greenway is always on top of our list when we holiday in Westport. And, no surprise that it was named the 2011 Irish winner of the European Destinations of Excellence award. The greenway is 42 kilometres (26 miles) long, beginning in Westport and goes all the way to Achill. It passes through the towns of Newport and Mulranny as it runs along the coast of Clew Bay. It is an off-road trail used by cyclists and walkers. It follows the route of the former Achill extension of the Westport railway line which closed in 1937.
One piece of advice for you! Head out early in the morning so you can explore the island a little before you head back towards Westport. We hired bikes from Clew Bay Bike Hire and took their shuttle bus out to Achill. If your children are seasoned cyclists they may make the whole journey to Westport but you can also book a bus pick-up at Mulranny or Newport and cut out some of the 42km journey. We met some families who cycled to Achill and back again in one day! But honestly, that would be waaaaay too much for us.
The cycle is incredibly scenic and takes you through bog fields, magically woodlands as well as open fields with sheep and goats often blocking your path. It is not surprising that the farm animals are completely used to the Greenway visitors as an estimated 300 people cycle and walk the trail each day. From what we experienced, the four-legged users of the Greenway expected us to get out of their way rather than the other way round. This caused much hilarity and enjoyment with our little ones.
Here’s my second piece of advice! Don’t travel all this way without visiting Clew bay as it is probably the most beautiful bay in Ireland. It’s said locally to have 365 islands; one for each day of the year. The largest island which is Clare Island has a population of 130 residents year-round. Its historical association with the Pirate Queen Gráinne amongst other historical and archaeological sites really makes it a must-see among the islands.
Westport House has to be one of the best adventure destinations in Ireland. I know, I hear you thinking. When you imagine a gorgeous country house you do not immediately think ‘kids’, but tucked in behind the house and situated in the vast parklands is a day-out that will excite every child young and old. A ticket for the house and adventure park for two adults and up to four children, costs €75 (€71.50 online). We agreed it was money well spent as it would be hard to find a day out that offered more. As there is so much else to do for free in Westport this could be your one big spend. Walking up the main entrance feels like entering the set of a Jane Austen novel. While the house itself offers a glimpse of a polite time gone by, the dungeons have been converted with kids in mind offering some spooky fun.
In the pirate adventure park there is a pirates playground and indoor soft play area, a bouncing castle, water attractions, a birds of prey show, bumper cars, a train that runs through the forest, a swinging ship attraction, go-karting, mud kitchen, sand pit and a carousel. The swan pedalo boats are very popular and you have a large lake to explore.
Wild West Play Centre is Ireland’s only indoor wild west play village and play centre for kids to have some wild west fun. This is something different to all other indoor play centres and the kids love exploring the village and having some good old-fashioned imaginative play. They have a sensory room offering a quite haven with plenty sensory equipment for any children that may struggle with noise or larger groups and this is in the middle of the centre so the whole family can enjoy the wild west.
The children’s playground in Westport is located beside the Leisure Centre and cinema. This new state-of-the-art skate park and games area is right beside the Great Western Greenway. In addition to the purpose-built skate boarding area this facility has an astro turf pitch.
The Museum of Country Life is another day out, and best of all, admission is free. There is a children’s activity area with puzzles, books and games, dress up station, traditional game box for outdoor fun as well as the grounds and museum to explore. Click here to see more!
There is so much more to do in the area surrounding Westport but one thing is for sure there is plenty to do outdoors and whatever your age.
Places to Eat in Westport
When it comes to eating out in Westport you are spoiled for choice. Cian’s Restaurant, Bridge Street recently won “Best Restaurant in Connaught” with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. So, this was where we choose to eat on our first night. It looks quite small downstairs but there was plenty of room for our brood upstairs with lovely views of the town and clock tower. However, it is not the views that will occupy you, as the food was mind-blowingly amazing. We had beetroot and cumin soup which introduced me to a whole new vegetable. The risotto was amazing and the fish was superb. When it came to dessert it was a challenge to eat more as we were so full from over indulgencing on the first two courses. You know that feeling, of being so full but you have to keep eating because it’s so tasty. A main course here ranges from €16.00 to €25.00 per adult. To check out more about Cian’s Restaurant Click Here!
Westport is also home to another award-winning restaurant, Sol Rio Restaurant, which we tried on our second night. This restaurant won “Best Kiddies Menu” over many years with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. When we walked in the front door we were immediately greeted with wall to celling awards on all sides. We knew we were off to a good start and had high expectations as we received a friendly welcome from Sinead, our warm and colourful hostess for the evening. The atmosphere was contagious and the décor was fun and entertaining and the food was one hundred percent gorgeous from start to finish. I even made room for dessert on this occasion as I knew it would be superb.
The kids were also spoiled for choice with the kiddie’s menu which included dishes that could take a place on the main menu they were so good, from Irish steak, vegetarian risotto to bolognaise and homemade sausages to suit our fussier ones. I was delighted to see the banana split taking centre stage for dessert as it is a sneaky bit of fruit disguised in a bowl of yumminess. It is easy to see why they have won the “Kids Size Me Award” as the kiddies menu offers plenty of choices for every palette including some delicious healthy options! The kiddie’s menu would make it to my top ten also. Each award owned a place on their walls and I am certain there will be many more to come.
Third piece of advice! Book a night out here if possible as this is a family hot spot for locals and visitors alike. For more info click here!
We had a most wonderful evening and had to drag ourselves out of there at the end of the night. A main course would set you back on average €15 with a lot of dishes starting at around €13/€14 while a three course kiddies meal costs €10.
On a previous stay we dined in The Milltimes Restaurant which offers a playroom and supervised kids club next door to the restaurant during peak dinner times to keep the little ones entertained while you enjoy a more relaxed meal.
If you can, don’t let the night end at the restaurant as there are so many quaint and unique pubs in Westport town all offering trad sessions to lift your spirits. The town itself has a very friendly and safe atmosphere.
It is worth your while to book a babysitter whatever night of the week you stay and have a few drinks in one or two of the pubs. We visited Matt Malloy’s on a Monday night and it was clear to see that every night of the week is a weekend night in Westport. There was some great music and singing and it is easy to find a little nook or cranny to while away an evening after a busy family day. Click here for more info!
Unless you are living near county Mayo which many of you are not, Westport is a good spin. However, it is certainly worth it and once you are here you can park up the car and jump on your bike! You could get on the citylink to Galway with its free Wi-Fi to occupy the kids and there are plenty of buses taking you to Westport from there in just over an hour. This is how we travelled and I do feel strongly that as a nation we do not use public transport enough like our European neighbours. If we expect an efficient service we need to start supporting it. The Castlecourt Hotel is in the heart of Westport town so the bus is very convenient.
As I said at the start Westport Town itself offers so much to do for families regardless of your budget or interests, therefore for me it is one of the best holiday destinations in Ireland for Families. You can camp in Westport house or in one of the many campsites nearby and purchase a pass to the adventure park. You can ramble around this gorgeous town and while away many hours on the Great Western Greenway. An entertaining afternoon or morning can be spent at the playground, on the basketball courts and football pitches. You could have a fun-packed holiday for very little expense on activities.
Alternatively, you could add a touch of luxury to you break away with very little extra cost as Westport has an abundance of great family hotels at very good prices with kids’ clubs and swimming pools to boot. Click here for more info on hotels!!
What the Kids Said about Westport
The kids have always been Westport fans as Westport House and the pirate adventure park is a firm favourite of theirs. Thomas said “If we went every weekend I would never get bored of it”.
My three adore cycling with us in tow so we would go up and down that Greenway at a moment’s notice.