Great Western Greenway
The Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland spanning 42km in total. It follows the route of the former railway line from Achill to Westport. The railway route closed in 1937. The first 14km stage of the Greenway route opened in 2010 with 10km while the extension opened on June 18, 2011, lengthening the route to 42km, almost all off-road. It is the ideal activity for the whole family.
In Westport, an official access point is located to the right just off the N59 traveling in the direction of Newport approximately 500m from Westport town centre and just minutes from the Westport Woods Hotel.
The route visits the picturesque villages of Newport and Mulranny. Throughout the route you will pass through idyllic countryside. It offers spectacular views of some of Ireland’s most spectacular mountains and magnificent views of Clew Bay and it’s many islands.
The first route of the Greenway will take you from Westport to Newport. This section is 11km long. Estimated time cycling this is 1 to 1.5 hours while estimated time walking is 3 to 3.5 hours. Newport to Mulranny is the next section and is 18km long. Estimated time cycling this is 2 to 2.5 hours while estimated time walking is 5 to 5.5 hours. The last section of the route is Mulranny to Achill Island. This section is 13km long. Estimated time cycling this is 1 to 1.5 hours while estimated time walking is 2 to 2.5 hours
A number of bike hire firms offer a range of bicycles. Drop off and collection services are offered by some firms. In Westport the Westport Bike Shop, Westport Bikes 4 Hire, Sean Sammon Cycle Hire and Clew Bay Bike Hire all have bicycles to rent. Clew Bay Bike Hire has bases in each town & village along the route and allows you to hire in one town and drop your bike off at any of their other bases. This means you only have to cycle as far as you want and they will bring you back to your starting point in their shuttle bus.
History of the Route
The Westport Railway line was extended to Achill Sound in the 1890’s. It was one of the so-called 'Balfour Lines'. Arthur J. Balfour introduced an Act providing State assistance for the construction of light railways to disadvantaged areas. Newport was the first station on this extension which opened in February 1894, followed by Mulranny in August of the same year. The line to Achill was completed in May 1895. The arrival of the railway line allowed towns to prosper. It proved to be a great social and economic asset to Mayo. However, the development of roads in the 1930’s signalled the decline of the line. The last train ran in the autumn of 1937, 42 years after the line had opened.
Mayo County Council have provided a Greenway App for iPhone. Linked to the iPhone’s GPS, it gives more information based on where you are on the trail.
For more information on the Greenway, you can visit the official site here.