Shoptalk: Westport, Co Mayo
From gift stores to adventure-sport emporiums, inexpensive beauty salons to outlets for Irish-designed jewellery, this is a town that knows how to make shoppers welcome
Fashion and homewares shop Liberties in Westport, Co Mayo
In Westport, “Yeer welcome” is a warm greeting given in most shops in a soft Mayo burr, but for a masterclass in the authentic céad mile fáilte, head to Connemara by Gerard, the kind of place that you assume will be full of souvenirs aimed at an American market. And it is. But Noel O’Grady’s patter has to be experienced to be believed.
He sold this writer’s son heraldic pins, at €3.99 each, gifting him one when his pocket money didn’t stretch to it. He does this kind of thing a lot. A young girl who bought a feadóg from him, and who was a few euro short of the price, was asked to send him tickets to her first concert. Eighteen months later, two tickets to her first school performance landed on the shop mat. O’Grady and the wife travelled to Dublin to see her perform.
He’s been working at the shop for 30 years, since he was 13. A local treasure, his storytelling and originality should be encouraged – he makes you feel more than welcome, but never in a put-on way.
Hidden down the back at heritage brand Foxford Woollen Mills are linen duvet covers (doubles from €125) and matching sheets, designed by Helen McAlinden, that have to be touched to understand their ability to elicit a good night’s sleep.
Weekenders will love Petals, a smart hair and beauty salon where a mini-manicure costs just €15; Gúna Nua, a sister shop to the one in Ballina that sells cool casuals and smart garb for occasions; and O’Reilly and Turpin, on the corner of Bridge Street Upper, where you can buy Irish-designed jewellery and homeware.
One of the nation’s biggest adventure-sport hubs, Westport offers opportunities for kayaking, surfing, mountain climbing and cycling. Portwest, in Bridge Street, is an adventuring emporium selling everything from packaways (light waterproofs that can be carried on a bike), at €29.95, to wetsuits, starting from €35 for kids, all designed locally. Originally owned by Charles Hughes, whose drapery opened in 1904, the shop is now run by his grandsons, brothers Cathal, Harry and Owen.
Two more brothers, Vincent and Pat, run Carraig Donn (carraigdonn.com). The former runs the knitwear division, the latter its 35 shops.
For on-the-hoof grazing, pop into Just Baked for a focaccia sandwich, €4.95, or Becca’s Bakery for a coffee, fuel for the formidable walk to the quays, where the Custom House, the Quay Gallery (thequaygallerywestport.com) and Liberties, with its fashion and home shops next door to each other, are all worth visiting.
If staying overnight, savvy shoppers can stay at the centrally located Wyatt Hotel, from where guests can avail of discounts of between 5 and 20 per cent in some shops.