County Mayo is fast becoming my favourite place to go Galavanting in Ireland. There are so many towns and small villages to visit, coastal walks waiting to be discovered and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. On
Easter Monday myself and Ali were visiting the town of Westport and we were sure to put the beautiful Westport House on our itinerary. The main entrance to Westport House is from the main gate at Westport harbour but you can also enter on foot from the town of Wesport itself.
Westport House and adventure park is a perfect place to spend a day (you will need the entire day) whether you are with family, with a group of friends or even on your own! We drove in through Westport Harbour and marvelled at the stunning view of the house and lake on our drive in. We parked up in the main car park and headed for the ticket office to collect our tickets. The lovely girl at reception gave us a map and times for the train tour, the birds of prey and explained where everything was. I was completely taken aback by the sheer size of this park. I knew we were going to have a fab day.
We decided to walk down to the main house first and on the way we passed the bumper cars, the big wheel and some other amusements. On the left hand side you have the go karts and the canon ball run slide. We passed a beautiful statue of Grace O’Malley (The pirate queen) before coming upon the Pirates plunge log flume ride, the pirate queen swinging ship, Gracy’s bouncy castle, the westport house express train ride as well as the swan pedalo boats. Phew! See what I mean about needing the entire day! I tried my best to get Ali onto the Pedalo boats but she was having none of it. I really need to think of a way to get her over her fear of water 🙂 We made our way across the bridge towards the house and met none other than Humpty Dumpty. The house commands a magnificent position over the lake and surrounding park land and we couldn’t wait to go inside to explore. The house is one of only a few of its age and grandeur to open to the public in Ireland. Nearly all of the rooms are open to the public and showcase its impressive history.
The house dates all the way back to the 1500’s when Grace O’Malley (or Granuaile), the pirate queen who reigned over the sea’s from Scotland to Spain, built one of her castles here. Amazingly the house has remained in this family and her 13th great grand daughters still run the estate. The present house was built in the 18th century and was extended bit by bit to the amazing house it is today. It was open to the public in 1960 by the 11th Marquess of Sligo- Jeremy Cooper and his wife Jennifer.
On entering the house you are greeted by the most amazing lobby area with a marble staircase in front of you. We were met by a lovely lady here who told us where to start our walk around the house. There are over 30 rooms over three floors to explore. Our favourite out of the 30 rooms included the following- the Chinese room with its wallpaper that is nearly 300 years old. The exhibition of Lady Sligo’s letters during the great famine (she was a very generous and sympathetic lady). The waxwork exhibition with incredibly life like figures of W.B yeats and Lady Gregory to name a few. The tearooms where we had our compulsory tea and cake and of course the Grace O’Malley exhibition. You could literally spend the entire afternoon in here. There are plenty of fun exhibitions for the kids too. Outside, the gardens hold their own piece of history also. Here you will find the old soup pots that were used to feed the poor during the great famine and the Spanish Armada cannon.
We took our leave of the house after exploring all the amazing rooms and headed back up to the ticket office to catch our train for the Westport train tour. The train itself is completely enclosed (so perfect on a rainy day) and our train driver for the day was the lovely John- John is apparently the park psychiatrist also :). He allowed me to hop into the drivers carriage of the train to take a picture and he was full of interesting facts about Westport- he obviously love’s his job which was so nice to see. The train tour is an audio tour of almost 50 sites around Westport house, Westport quay and Harbour and the town itself. You hear the story of the great famine in the area and the trip through the town pointed out all the most significant buildings that shaped Westport’s history. John even stopped at the quay to let us take pictures of Croagh Patrick in all its glory. The tour took just under 50 minutes and was incredibly interesting.
We bid farewell to John and headed back up to the farmyard where we had a date with the birds of prey. The Birds of Prey show is at 3pm everyday and is an up close encounter with 6 different birds. I have to say this was a fantastic experience for all the kids and adults that were here on the day. Our two guides involved everyone with the show. There were 6 different birds that we got to meet including Owls and Hawks. The snowy owl was definitely the showstopper for me.
Just outside the farmyard there is Gracy’s cafe and bar where there was an extensive menu on offer. Westport House also has a camping and Caravan park. Its just a 15 minute walk from the town and sounds like the perfect spot to base yourself on a holiday. They have all the facilities you would expect from a camping and caravan park- with the added bonus of being situated in this amazing estate. This would be the perfect spot to bring the kids on a staycation.
We were guests of Westport house on this visit so we have to say a big thanks to Biddy and her team for the invite- we had an amazing day and I will definitely be back in the future. I am so glad we decided to visit. I have attached the link below to Westport house below where you can buy tickets online for all of the attractions. As always- Happy Galavanting! xx