Heritage hot spots History, nature, art, environment

 

WESTPORT HOUSE: What is it?Westport House is a classically proportioned country house designed by Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 1700s for the Browne family.

The house and gardens are still owned by the family, who are direct descendents of Grace O’Malley (Granuaile), the 16th-century pirate queen, whose stone fort stood on the same site. The privately owned estate was opened to the public 50 years ago; its current owner, the 11th marquess of Sligo, Jeremy Browne, recently fought to retain the house and land for his five daughters by appealing laws that banned women from being heirs.

Why visit?The Pirate Adventure Park in the grounds of Westport House is the main attraction for families. Popular rides include the Cannonball Run slide, Pirate Queen swinging ship, Pirates Plunge flume ride, swan pedalos and miniature train.

You can walk though over 30 rooms in the house itself. (Tours are also available in July and August.) Additions to the tours include the Grace O’Malley Experience, a child-friendly introduction to the pirate queen. Outside are a river walk and tree trail.

Why now?The inaugural Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts is on today and tomorrow, with more than 50 groups performing on three stages. Acts include Jools Holland, Imelda May, Ray Davies, The Waterboys, Alison Moyet, Hothouse Flowers and Damien Dempsey. Tickets are €75 for one day or €130 for both days; children under 12 are free. See westportfestival.com. Westport House Gardens is also hosting its first children’s summer camp this year, starting on July 4th.

How do I get there?Westport House is 15 minutes’ walk or five minutes’ drive from Westport, in Co Mayo. Between St Patrick’s Day and August 31st it is open each day from 9am to 9pm. (The website has details of opening hours at other times of the year.) Admission is €12 for adults, €9 for senior citizens and students and €6.50 for children; under-threes go free. There is a visitors’ camping and caravan park on the estate. Call 098-27766 or see westporthouse.ie.

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