Westports hinterland consists of some of the remotest and bleakest scenery in Europe, and it s almost startling to find such a finely wrought town amid a wilderness of boulder-strewn, scarcely inhabited countryside perched out here on the Atlantic verge.
Westport, elegantly designed by James Wyatt in the late eighteenth century for Peter Browne, second Earl of Altamont, is embellished with two splendid set pieces, the Octagon and the Mall. The Octagon is the unusually shaped main square, which is open to allow street entrances on three sides. The Mall, running through the lower town, gives the place its air of being a Low Countries transplant. The River Carrowbeg has been canalized here and lined with tall sycamore and lime trees; it is flanked by good Georgian houses, one of which has an unusual five-bay window.
Peter Browne, a member of the derided Ascendancy class was, in fact, an outstanding benefactor of the region and shining example of a social order which, under better circumstances, might have created a more quarrelsome Ireland. He introduced modern agricultural methods to the Westport area, established a linen industry in the town and built some elegant warehouses (these still stand beside the excellent harbour which he also constructed), and he provided good houses for his weavers, who were given looms and money to buy yarn. Sadly, the Union with Britain in 1801 destroyed the linen venture since hand looms were unable to compete with England’s new spinning-jennies.
A tour of Ireland should include a trip through Westport. Ireland Luxury Tours usually try to build in a visit when travelling to Belfast from Galway…..if possible.