Is Westport becoming the adventure capital of the Wild Atlantic Way? Join Pól Ó Conghaile and Clare Cullen for a blast of zorbing and zip-lining!
Westport is a town with something for everyone, from the adrenaline junkie to those looking to kick back in the lap of luxury. Picturesque views, lively nightlife and a new sense of adventure are drawing thousands to the coastal hub every year.
Having grown up just up the road, I’ve never considered Westport as a getaway destination- but I was pleasantly surprised to find the range of activities available less than thirty minutes away from my childhood home.
Early Saturday morning we arrived at Westport House to try our hand at zorbing.
Zorbing is basically ‘adventure for beginners’ – willing participants are strapped inside a giant ball and rolled down a hill. The experience is quite literally stomach-turning, but it would be a difficult activity to complete with a straight face – laughter from inside the zorbs rings out around the quiet grounds of Westport House.
Next up was zip-lining. Adventure West (adventurewest.ie), based in Westport House, claim to have the fastest zip-line in Ireland, having recorded it at a whopping 45kmph. Zip-liners fly over a small field of lush green grass before coming to an abrupt yet surprisingly inoffensive stop – thanks to the advanced braking system.
Kicking off was easy – we just had to sit down and when we were ready, the instructor let us go. What was a little bit scary – more exhilarating, really – was the sheer speed. First time down, this coupled with the late brakes was a thrilling experience!
Definitely not one for the faint-hearted.
We began our stay in Westport with a luxurious neck and shoulder massage in the Knockranny House Hotel (knockrannyhousehotel.ie) spa.
The massage was absolute heaven and afterwards, we kicked back in a ‘relaxation suite’ before getting dressed to head out on the town. If you fancy a massage, book at reception and instruct the masseuse on how much pressure you'd like applied – I went for a deep tissue and felt as light as a feather afterwards.
If you're looking for something more relaxed or even a cheaper kick, the grounds of Westport House (westporthouse.ie) provide a stunning backdrop for a walk.
As well as its various adventures, the house itself is filled with history – in all senses of the word. Plaques of facts and figures adorn the walls, next to furniture from long-gone eras, while the gentle smell of a crackling hearth wafts through the large, airy rooms.
Visitors can avail of a ‘group package’ which includes afternoon tea served in the restored Olde Kitchens Tea Room.
As well as having been voted Ireland's best place to live, and its National Tourism Town, Westport was recently named one of the Top 10 finalists of the Restaurant Association's ‘Foodie Towns’.
Dinner in Knockranny House hotel did not disappoint, with a delicious five-course meal drawing a full restaurant on a Saturday evening. We drooled over the range of desserts, eventually settling on a creamy cheesecake.
The nightlife in Westport Town comes into its own on a Saturday night, with stag and hen parties fresh from kayaking, zorbing and coasteering descending on the cosy nooks and crannies of the traditional Irish pubs.
Matt Molloy's is the famous stop, but it's far from the only option.
We finished out our weekend adventures with a spot of kayaking, where we glided around the bay, taking in the sights. The water base of ‘The Adventure Islands’ (theadventureislands.com) is just 12 minutes from Westport town by boat, on a picturesque private island in the famous Clew Bay.
A popular hen party activity, the group is housed in a small island house with their own bar, brought kayaking in the mornings and ferried in and out to Westport town by boat. This is so popular, in fact, that the little house is booked out for the rest of 2015.
Both Adventure West and the Adventure Islands have a range of packages to suit every budget, traveller and group, with prices starting from as little as €7 per activity. For more information, visit destinationwestport.com.