An idyllic route through unspoilt Mayo
All along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500km touring route that runs the length of Ireland’s western coastline, you’ll find cycling routes for every ability. For those seeking a relaxed cycle, Mayo’s Great Western Greenway is perfect. As it’s the longest off-road route in Ireland, you don’t have to be mindful of too much traffic or road rules.
Following an old railway line from the lively town of Westport to the scenic oasis of Achill Island, it’s sheltered from the main road and is just 42km from start to finish – great for cyclists of every ability and age.
For those who want an even shorter cycle, it can be broken down into segments like Westport to Newport, Newport to Mulranny or Mulranny to Achill. The full route could easily be completed in one day, however we have broken it down here into two days for a more gentle jaunt and to allow more time to explore off-trail.
Bike rentals in the area will happily collect you and your bike in Achill. Those bringing their own bike can cycle back (if feeling energetic) or simply bring it on the bus that leaves from Ted Lavelle's Bar, which is on the centre of the island.
• Region: Bay Coast
• Highlights: Westport, Westport House & Gardens, Clew Bay, Mulranny, Achill Island
• Distance: 42km
• Duration: Anywhere between 3 hours and 5 hours 30 minutes, depending on speed. Optional Achill loops of 1, 2 or 3-4 hours)
• Start / finish point: Start at Westport, finish at Achill Island. If you’re feeling energetic, you can return to Westport along the Greenway route.
• Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
• Terrain: Loose tarmac
Day 1: Westport – Newport – Mulranny / 2 hours cycling / 29km
Westport, County Mayo
Beginning at Westport in Mayo, it’s worthwhile making time to explore this buzzing and colourful town. Westport House & Gardens holds over 500 years of history of one family with 30 rooms open to the public displaying original antiques, architecture and art to admire. For energy, be sure to eat at one of town’s many tempting cafés, restaurants and pubs.
Join the trail at the signposted access point on the N59 headed toward Newport, don’t worry, it’s difficult to miss. Meander along the easy trail through farmlands and past wild flowers on this relaxing route, before crossing over a quaint stone bridge into Newport, a picturesque heritage town known for its beautiful harbour and its impressive 19th-century red sandstone viaduct. For a tailored recommendation of what to do while you’re there, head to the Newport Tourist Office to get some ideas.
Mulranny, County Mayo
Leaving Newport on the bike, spectacular views of Clew Bay start to open up amidst some mild hills and dips. It won’t be long until you’ve arrived in beautiful Mulranny which boasts magnificent views across Clew Bay to Croagh Patrick, a 765m mountain frequently climbed by pilgrims and keen walkers, and the Sheefry Hills. Here you’ll find a small strip of shops, hotels, holiday cottages and two cosy pubs. Fine dining fans can head to Nephin Restaurant in Mulranny Park Hotel for the plumpest and juiciest scallops you’ll ever taste, plucked straight from the bay below.
Day 2: Mulranny – Achill Island/ 1 hour 15 minute cycling + / 13km+
Plus optional Achill Loops
Leaving Mulranny (often called the ‘Gateway to Achill’), means traversing along the path through woodland that opens up to expansive lakes, which are sheltered by imposing hills. There aren’t many twists and turns here as you coast through bogland dotted with white-washed houses and mounds of drying turf. The descent into Achill is a joy, particularly if you’d have had the wind against you on the bike. At Achill, you can stop for a rest or a bite to eat before heading back, or stretch your legs on the Dooagh Loop Walk. Or if you feel like a little more cycling, there are three island cycle loops to choose from.
Optional Additional Achill Island Loops
1. The shortest of the three loops is 12km and should take a further hour or hour and a half. This takes in a megalithic tomb and a deserted village at Slievemore, which consists of numerous stone cottages dotted along the hillside. A haunting reminder of times past, it’s a humbling place to explore.
Achill Island, County Mayo
2. A medium length cycle around Achill Island is the 28km loop, which will take over two hours. This loop visits the north-east corner of the island, offering views back to the mainland and lots of opportunities for swimming at Dumha Goirt and Golden Strand, before heading back towards Bunacurry.
Granuaile’s Stronghold at Kildamhnait, Achill Island, County Mayo
3. Finally, the longest loop is 44km, taking approximately four hours. On this route, you’ll journey by some spectacularly high cliffs along the Atlantic Drive and visit Kildownet Church once used by legendary pirate queen, Granuaile.
• Keem Bay, a beautiful sheltered beach that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
• Make a splash with a full-day of water activities on a private island in Clew Bay.
• Eat locally-sourced smoked salmon in The Chalet Seafood Restaurant on Achill Island.
• At Mulranny, Clew Bay Bike Hire invites you aboard a fishing boat to look for dolphins and seals or even try a spot of angling before dropping you back to Westport.
• Let experienced skipper Mary Gavin Hughes take you sea angling around the 365 drumlin islands of Clew Bay.
• Adventurous types will love coasteering with Adventure West for rock scrambling, cliff jumping and exhilarating swims.
• Cruise on Clew Bay by secluded beaches and sheltered islands with breathtaking views of Croagh Patrick, Murrisk Abbey and much more.
• Stop a while at Spanish Armada Viewpoint and take in the views across Clew Bay to Clare Island.
• Hop on the daily ferry from Roonagh Quay or, 50 miles away, avail of the the ferry from Cloughmore Harbour every Wednesday morning and afternoon to Clare Island to bird watch, hill walk or simply relax.
• Swim, surf or picnic at Trá Dhumha Goirt (Dugort Beach) on Achill Island.
• Detour to Murrisk Village at the foot of Croagh Patrick for its abbey, visitor centre and maybe even a climb to the summit for its spectacular views of Clew Bay and its many islands.
• Explore the rock pools of the Blue Flag beach at Old Head, which is sheltered by cliffs and woodland.
• Visit Inishturk, ‘the island of the wild boar’, via Roonagh Quay to traverse along the many walking trails before enjoying a scenic sunset.
Find places to stay along the Great Western Greenway Cycle by searching ‘Mayo’ or each town’s name in our handy directory, or discover bike rentals the length of the Wild Altantic Way here.