Great day to be on a bike in Mayo! Cycling the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill


Achill Tourism's map of the Greenway.
Achill Tourism's map of the Greenway.
April 1st was a bank holiday here in Ireland, and Kev and I decided to take advantage of the day off of work to do something that had been on his own list for a while: cycle the Great Western Greenway, a bike path that runs from Westport (Co. Mayo) to Achill, Ireland’s largest island.

The whole trail is a little under 45 kilometers long, and I haven’t spent much time on a bike since the age of 11, whereas Kev happily spends his weekends cycling up the Wicklow mountains; saying we approached the task with different skill sets is putting it gently. I was determined to have fun though and not be a baby and ruin the trip with complaints – which turned out to be easy because it was so amazing. Usually they recommend cycling this trail the opposite direction because of the prevailing Western winds, but we lucked out having an Easterly wind when we were there pushing us along!

Overexcited by the sunshine and tailwind.
Overexcited by the sunshine and tailwind.
We got an early train from Dublin and picked up our rented bikes from Clew Bay Bike Hire, who I definitely recommend if you’re doing this trip, a little after 11am. Getting from their store in Westport to the beginning of the Greenway was the most complicated part of the day; there were many forks in the road that had bicycle lanes painted in both directions, and no signs. A few wrong turns later, we were on a smooth paved path with Croagh Patrick to our left, grass and hills and old railway bridges and streams galore everywhere we looked.

We stopped in Newport for a break and what was, in hindsight, a very strange snack. (I had a hard-boiled egg, half a croissant and several jammy dodgers as we watched an unexplained mini-parade headed by bagpipes go by.) Back on the Greenway, the trail led us through a bigger, more open landscape farther from the road. The yellow and brown hills made me think of California, and we wobbled along trying to snap pictures on our phones as we pedaled.

Great day to be on a bike in Mayo!
Great day to be on a bike in Mayo!
We stopped again in Mulranny and looked out over a beautiful bay dotted with islands as we finished the jammy dodgers, the rest of the croissant, sandwiches and tea. The last leg of the cycle, between Mulranny and Achill, was the best scenery of the trip (in our opinions anyway). Mountains met ocean, islands simmered in the sun, and fields full of happy sheep stretched to either side. Hopefully Kev remembers all that more than me complaining about my sore bum on the bike seat…

We crossed over onto Achill Island (not separated from mainland Ireland by very much water at all!) and [overshot but eventually] found the Clew Bay Bike return spot. Naturally, we rewarded ourselves with chips and blackcurrant after returning the bikes, and saw the Irish Grand National (horse racing) recaps on TV - a perfect end to the journey.

Can I wake up to this every day?
Can I wake up to this every day?
Rather than ask to be picked up, we opted to walk the remaining 3k to our B&B. Amazingly, I wasn’t dying of exhaustion, but I can promise you that I slept very, very soundly that night. And check out the views we woke up to! (Sadly my photos came out really badly so I stole this one from Achill Tourism...)

The next day we got a free shuttle (thanks again, Clew Bay Bike Hire!) back to Westport. It hadn't been in our original plan, but since it was another clear, sunny day, we decided that we'd be remiss not to take advantage of it and climb Croagh Patrick - a subject for another post!

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