Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Croake Patrick and Westport

A weekend in the west, what could be more relaxing?  the clean air, the rolling green fields, the quiet pubs, the slow pace of life.....
If that was true, my joints wouldn't be aching and my muscles wouldn't be sore, right?  I mean, how high could croake patrick be?  A little reek in the middle of mayo, people climb that thing in their bare feet after all. Ha!  reek my foot, the mountain's an unforgiving monster which challenges the climber to push on through the loose rock, the steep incline and the sudden twists and turns to make it to the top.
Once you do make it to the top, the sense of achievement is awesome as are the views.  Overlooking 365 little islands, one for each day of the year, on a clear, sunny day you could be overlooking the greek islands.  From the top of the reek you can see clew bay, clare island, and 364 other islands.  Its truly georgeous and definitely worth the hard work and aching muscles.

Tips for climbing croake Patrick:

1. Pick a sunny day: Maybe not so easy in the west of Ireland, but necessary for the beautiful views.

2. Wear hiking boots:  The first time i climbed croake patrick, i did it in runners.  Big mistake.  The stones are slippy and the descent are steep.  Wearing hiking boots helps with the traction.

3.  Take your time and enjoy the views:  The views on the way up to the top are stunning, enjoy them.

4. Pack sandwiches, a flask of tea and lots of water.  You'll need them at the top.

5. Try to make it down in one piece, the first third of the way down is seriously scary.  When you do get, down head to the nearest pub for dinner and a well deserved pint.

Westport Town and Nightlife

Westport is a scenic rural town in Mayo which attracts tourists every summer.  I hadn't been in Westport for about 15 years, a praticularly bleak summer holiday with my family where it rained all day every day and myself and my sister were cooped up inside a guest house, wishing we were at home where we could at least watch the den or home and away. 
Thankfully the weather was far more amenable this time round and a lovely weekend was spent in westport where we got to know the local hot spots.

Friday night was spent in Henehan's bar, a funky late bar with cosy seating areas, a generous smoking area and plenty of dancing room.  The music was pretty good as was the talent.  A good place to find a mayo man or even a brazillian! 

Saturday night in Westport belongs to the Hen's and Stag' s, we lost count of the number of parties we spotted around the town, particularly in Matt Malloy's where walking into a room at the back of the pub was like walking into an alternate universe with all the random costumes floating about.  If you're looking for a quiet pint away from the madness, Conway's on the main street is a good choice. 

Moore Hall

A hidden gem near castlebar, Moore hall is the ruins and surrounding of a mansion burned down during the independance war.  look around the remains of the gardens, take a stroll around the walkways and pick wild strawberries in the bushes or rent a row boat on the lake near the house and have a picnic.  A lovely place to spend a sunday afternoon. 

Accommodation options in westport consist mainly of hotels, B&B's and guest houses.  Unfortunately for us we decided to stay in the Old Mill Hostel in Westport town.  A fawlty towers style affair where you book a twin bed and get a double instead, you are promised breakfast and get dry bread, the shower room is located outside of the hostel and you have to share one shower between 6 people and the toilet room beside the room is missing soap.  All of the complaints mentioned above would be acceptable if not for the stingy, money grabbing attitude of the hostel.  Charging guests 20 euro per person is a tad steep when you consider the excellent quality, service and value offered by other hostels around the country.  To add insult to injury, we were charged 6 euro each upon checking out 2 hours after check out time even though we were not told about the penalty when we checked in.  My advice: book a B&B.

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