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Clew Bay in Mayo: A Road Trip Guide

Clew Bay in Mayo: A Road Trip Guide

According to local folklore, Mayo’s Clew Bay has 365 islands – one for every day of the year!

Called ‘home’ by Grace O’Malley, ancient Ireland’s Pirate Queen, Clew Bay is bordered by the Nephin Mountains to the north and Croagh Patrick to the south.

However, it’s the bay’s numerous limestone drumlins and islands that give it its ‘wow factor’.

Below, you’ll find a map of Clew Bay along with things to do and places to stay on its stunning shoreline. Cheers!

Some quick-need-to-knows about Clew Bay

 

Right, let’s get you up-to-speed on the key info nice and quickly:

1. Location

Clew Bay is an inlet in County Mayo on Ireland’s west (or Atlantic) coast. It’s roughly 16km from east to west and 11km from north to south. It’s a part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which passes between Achill Island and Westport. 

2. An island for every day of the year

Local folklore says that there are a whopping 365 islands in Clew Bay or one for every day of the year! While there are heaps of islands and limestone drumlins in the bay, the real number is closer to 120… although that’s still very impressive!

3. The Grace O’Malley link

Clew Bay was the home of Grace O’Malley, or Granuaile, the Pirate Queen. She was a fearsome pirate who commanded a fleet of ships and had several castles in Mayo. These included Kildavnet on Achill Island, Doona in Blacksod, O’Malley Castle on Clare Island, and Rockfleet in Clew Bay.

 

Things to do around Clew Bay

clew bay and its islands

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the beauties of Clew Bay is that it’s surrounded by many of the best things to do in Mayo.

Below, you’ll find everything from island day trips and hikes to scenic drives, historical sites and beautiful beaches!

1. Hike Croagh Patrick

climbing croagh patrick

Photos via Shutterstock

Standing at 764 metres high, conquering Croagh Patrick is no walk in the park (literally).

The 7km hike is challenging, taking most people around three and a half to four hours to finish.

But, if you can make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with the most outstanding view over Clew Bay. 

 

2. Cycle the Great Western Greenway

The Great Western Greenway (A.K.A The Mayo Greenway) is a 44km long greenway that follows the old Westport to Achill Railway track.

It’s a fantastic cycle route that was voted as one of the “top three cycle trails in the world” by the New York Times.

If you’re not feeling up to cycling the entire route, it can be broken down into three sections, Westport to Newport (12km), Newport to Mulranny (18km), and Mulranny to Achill (14km).

The entire greenway is classified as “moderate” with gentle gradients throughout. 

 

3. Take a cruise (and see the seals)

For a more relaxing experience, take a cruise through Clew Bay with Westport Cruises.

You’ll get an entirely different view of the bay compared to on land, as you weave in and around the bay’s many enchanting islands, including “John Lennon Island”.

Make sure you have your camera ready as you pass by the approximately 400-strong harbour seal colony which can be seen throughout the year!

The cruise departs from Westport and is 90 minutes long, with seasonal daily sailings between May 1st and October 31st.

On board, the 50-seater passenger ship has a heated lounge, upper outdoor deck, a bar and cafe, and toilets. 

 

4. Beaches galore

Silver Strand Louisburgh

Photo left and top right: Kelvin Gillmor. Other: Google Maps

Clew Bay is home to countless beautiful beaches. Some of my favourites are Bertra Beach, Old Head Beach, Carrowmore Beach, and Mulranny Beach

Bertra Beach has stunning views over Clew Bay and its small islands.

The Blue Flag beach is a beautiful mainly sandy stretch that is popular with walkers, anglers, and watersports enthusiasts. It’s also great for a summer dip!

Old Head Beach and Carrowmore Beach in Louisburgh both have a rural feel and are popular with families.

 

5. Tackle the Atlantic Drive out to Achill Island

The Atlantic Drive is a scenic route that winds along Clew Bay’s coastal roads and across Achill Island.

The best way to see Clew Bay is to start in Mulranny and drive along the beautiful Clew Bay coastline to Achill Sound.

Along the way, make sure to stop over at the Spanish Armada Viewpoint and to look across the water near Corraun for a glimpse at the old Kildavnet Tower on Achill Island

On Achill, you’ll follow the route above, taking in Keem Bay, Minaun Heights and plenty more.

 

6. Visit one of the Clew Bay towns

Westport Town

Photos via Shutterstock

The main towns along Clew Bay are Westport, Newport, Louisburgh and Mulranny.

Westport is a good choice for a family day out as it’s home to attractions like Westport Adventure Park and Pirate Adventure Park.

Newport and Mulrany both have a quaint village feel and are packed with lovely walks, like the Harbour Walk in Newport and the Mulranny Lookout Hill Loop. 

Louisburgh is also fantastic, it’s close to plenty of beaches and it’s the start of the picturesque Louisburgh to Leenane drive through the Doolough Valley.

 

Places to stay around Clew Bay

West Cork Ireland

If you fancy staying in and around Clew Bay, you have plenty of choices.

Note: if you book a stay through one of the links below we may make a commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

1. Budget options

There are plenty of budget options in the area. Some good options are:

2. Mid range

For something mid-range, check out:

 

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