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How to explore the Great Western Greenway car-free
Work up a sweat and enjoy the sights on the Great Western Greenway.
Nicola BradyNicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes regularly for the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and Condé Nast Traveller, and has contributed to books on Dublin and Ireland for DK Eyewitness.
When a bike ride includes epic mountain views, oceanside trails and some excellent pubs for refuelling along the way, you know you’re onto a winner. And that’s just what you get on the Great Western Greenway. This 49km off-road cycle and foot path follows the route of the old trainline from Westport to Achill Island, through some of Mayo’s most picturesque scenery. There’s even a brand-new 5km extension, stretching out over the bogland in Achill, so now is the perfect time for a revisit if you’ve cycled it before. And the best news? You don’t need a car to transport your bike back to the start point – you can make use of the local bus or the shuttles provided by the bike hire companies.

Here’s how to spend a day exploring the greenway.

Pick up a bike

Unless you’re bringing your own bicycle, you’ll want to start at one of Westport's numerous bike hire companies – try Westport Bike Hire, Clew Bay Bike Hire or Paddy and Nelly. You have two choices for cycling the Great Western Greenway – you can start in Westport and make your way out to Acaill (Achill Island), before getting the 450 Bus Eireann bus (six times a day, 55 minutes) back into town or you can rent a bike and use their shuttle service to bring you out to Achill, before cycling back to Westport. There are benefits to both options – the views are better if you begin in Westport, but if you start in Achill the wind will likely be behind you and the hills slightly easier.  

If that’s your plan, be sure to book a shuttle in advance, particularly if you’re biking during peak season. The drive out to Achill is lovely and gives you a sneak peek at some of the scenery you’ll be cycling through, as you go by the bright blue waters of Mulranny towards the Achill mountains.  

A family cycling the Great Western Greenway in County Mayo
Kick start your cycle on Achill Island.

Cycle the Greenway Extension

When you get to Achill, be sure to cycle the new extension to Cashel before heading back towards Westport. It may seem counterintuitive to cycle in the opposite direction, but this 5km stretch is a beautiful cycle, moving over the bogland on a raised tarmac path with fields of heather, gorse and grass to either side. At the end, you’ll cycle on a boardwalk that cuts over the bogland itself, with ridges of inky black bog and slabs of wet turf drying at the side of the path. It’s worth bringing a morning treat with you because there are picnic benches tucked into picturesque corners of the bog, where you can sit with a pastry or a bun before turning back onto the Greenway proper. Bear in mind if you cycle this way, your total distance will be 54km.  

People cycling on the Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo
Keep an eye out for the beautiful natural landscapes around you.

Along the Greenway

When you’re back at Achill Sound, you’re in for a treat, because the 14km section from Achill to Mulranny has some stunning scenery. The path is relatively flat and skirts along the edge of Tonragee, with the calm sea to your left and mountains on either side. It may be a flat, easy cycle but it will likely take you longer than you expect, because you’ll be constantly pulling in to take a photo of the water, especially if the surrounding heather and gorse is in bloom.

Soon after, you’ll cycle over a tall bridge with a great view of the Wild Atlantic Way road below and the Claggan Mountains behind. A few minutes later you’re in Mulranny, where the Greenway passes by what was the train station but is now a shop with public toilets and a water station where you can refill your bottle for free.

Two men in Mulranny village looking out over Clew Bay in Co Mayo
Take a minute to soak up the sights in Mulranny.

Where to eat along the Greenway

It doesn’t matter which direction you’re cycling in, there are plenty of places to stop for a nice lunch along the Greenway. In Mulranny, you can veer slightly off track down to the Mulranny Park Hotel, just behind the former train station. Their Waterfront Bar & Bistro is a great spot for a hearty feed, with fish and chips, Clew Bay chowder and toasted sandwiches on offer.

A little further towards Newport, Nevins Newfield Inn is a couple of minutes’ off the Greenway – turn off at the sign and dismount to follow the scenic (but steep) path, which runs through a field of sheep (but only for around 300m). You’ll find pub grub like burgers, Caesar salads, chicken wings and if you’ve really worked up an appetite you can get a carvery of turkey and ham or roast beef. For something smaller, stop in at the Greenway Lane Art Gallery and Café (follow the pink sign), where you can get a cup of coffee and some lemon meringue pie, or a salad if you’re feeling virtuous.

Fish and chips
Delight in some crispy fish and chips.

Once you reach Newport, the Greenway goes right by the door of the Gráinne Uaile, an excellent pub with outdoor seating on sunny days. They do loads of toasted sandwiches, as well as more filling fare like vegan burgers, chicken curry and the Irish pub trifecta of lasagne, chips and coleslaw.

The final stretch

For about 6km after leaving Mulranny you cycle alongside the white sand beach and the sea, which is a dazzling shade of turquoise when the sun is shining. The views are so good you won’t notice the slight incline as the path heads up and over Murrevagh, where horned sheep graze among the boulders and in the bushes on the edge of the path.

You’ll also start to see the remnants of the old train line – don’t cycle over the bridges too hastily, because they’re well worth a stop to peek over the edge, where you can see the stone towers rising from rivers and streams. The Greenway passes through old tunnels too, with little stalactites and ivy dripping over the edges of the old stone. The water views return when you reach Lough Feeagh, and cycle over the impressive seven arch bridge.

A woman at Lough Feeagh in Co Mayo
Spare a moment to take in the views of Lough Feeagh.

From there, it’s rolling green fields all the way to Newport, where there’s another grand stone viaduct right in the middle of the town. The journey through Newport is the only part of the Greenway that goes on the road, so be careful of traffic as you cycle through the town and out the other side, where you’ll rejoin the path.

The home stretch back to Westport is 12km, and goes mostly through the countryside, bar a couple of sections next to the main road. You’ll cycle under some more stone arch tunnels and over a few snaking bridges, and you’ll pass by an old Telefón phone box, now used as an honesty shop for hen and goose eggs, with some second-hand books up for grabs, too.

Railway viaduct bridge in Newport in Co Mayo
Cycle across the viaduct bridge and enjoy the views.

There are a few different exit points of the Greenway when you get to Westport, but the easiest one delivers you out onto Mill Road, where you can pedal back to your bike hire shop to drop off your steed, before heading off for a well-deserved drink.

Where to get a drink in Westport

Westport has a reputation as a pub town, but there are also some great places for the wine fans. Savoir Fare is a wine and cheese shop run by the Franco-Irishman Alain Morice, who describes it as a marriage between gaelic and gallic. The cheese and charcuterie are all Irish and the wine European, some from Irish-owned vineyards. It’s only open during the day, but it’s a lovely spot for an afternoon glass of wine and a cheese plate. Just over the road, The Gallery is a natural wine bar where you can get a glass of low intervention Pét-Nat (natural sparkling wine) and listen to the in-house collection of vinyl.

If it’s a pint you’re after, Matt Molloy’s is the most famous pub in Westport, run by its namesake, the flautist in The Chieftains. There’s live music every night of the week, with many a visiting musician joining the session, like Sharon Shannon, Paul Brady and Lunasa. There’s also live music every night next door in the Porter House, which won the title of best music pub in the 2022 Irish Pub Awards.

Enjoy live music at Matt Molloy's.
Enjoy live music at Matt Molloy's.
Enjoy new heights

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