View of Clew Bay
View of Clew Bay

Clew Bay Bike Trail in Mayo Open to Cyclists

A bike trail that was launched in 2021 and incorporates Achill and Clare Island off the coast of County Mayo is a great new addition to an area that also includes the popular Great Western Greenway.

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The Clew Bay Bike Trail is overlooked by Croagh Patrick, also known as Ireland’s Holy Mountain to the south, and the Nephin mountain range to the north.

The bay itself, which contains approximately 365 small islands, is situated near the towns of Louisburgh, Lecanvey, Murrisk, and Westport, as well as Newport and Mulranny.

While visitors to nearby Westport will be familiar with driving around Clew Bay, this new trail offers much more, especially for the cyclist who is interested in exploring this beautiful region of County Mayo.

A possible route, outlined in the map below, could include starting off from Westport and then taking the 105-kilometer/65-mile trek clockwise, cycling through Murrisk, as well as Louisburgh, and then catching the ferry at Roonagh in Louisburgh to Clare Island, eventually ending up on Achill Island.
A map of the Clew Bay Trail. Photo courtesy of the Clew Bay Trail.

On Clare Island, there’s ample opportunity to see the entire island by taking the Clare Island loop trail for a total of 10 kilometers (6 miles).
The coastal walk that leads to Keem Bay on Achill Island in Co. Mayo. Photo: Christian McLeod Photography for Failte Ireland.

After crossing to Achill Island, expect to do about 8 kilometers (4.9 miles) from Cloughmore to the Achill Sound.

The journey back to Westport is about 44 kilometers (27 miles).

Here are some of the attractions you can expect to see along the way:

Croagh Patrick

If you’re thinking of climbing a mountain in Ireland, this is probably the most well-known and iconic given the fact that Saint Patrick is said to have fasted there for 40 days in 441 AD.
Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, Ireland's Holy Mountain. Photo courtesy of Seamus Keane.

Choose a clear day to get to the summit of this challenging peak, which stands at approximately 764 meters (2,506 feet) and contains a church honoring Ireland’s patron saint.

The views are totally worth it from the top, including the opportunity to see Clew Bay from afar.

Take a Clew Bay Cruise from Westport

Old Head Nature Reserve and Beach

This beautiful 42-acre area includes a reserve and beach located along the southern edge of Clew Bay close to Louisburgh.
The Old Head Woods Reserve, which is close to the Clew Bay Bike Trail. Photo: Mick Reynolds – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The area is a popular spot for watersports and the nearby woods are also used by campers looking to experience the tranquility of the region.

The reserve, which is a Special Area of Conservation, is managed by the Irish National Parks & Wildlife Service.

There’s a pier near the beach that is a great spot for fishing. Swimming is also safe in this area.

Dolphin Watching from Roonagh to Clare Island

A mere three miles away from Roonagh Pier is Clare Island, once the home of the legendary Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, otherwise known as Granuaile.

Either the Clare Island Ferry or O’Malley’s Ferries will take you on the 25-minute journey.

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Clare Island

There are several things to see on the island. They include Clare Island Castle, a 16th-century tower house that belonged to the O’Malley clan.

It was converted into a police barracks in the mid-1800s and is now a National Monument.

The Clare Island Abbey, built in the 12th century, is also worth seeing.

a building in a cemetery Clew Bay bike trail
The Clare Island Cistercian Abbey where Grace O'Malley is reputed to be buried. Photo: Pat O'Malley,

The Cistercian Abbey is said to be O’Malley’s burial site. Make time to go inside, if you can, to see the Medieval paintings on the wall, thought to have been commissioned by the O’Malley chieftains.

The Clare Island Lighthouse is the only two-towered lighthouse in Ireland.

It was built by the Marquis of Sligo in 1806, and the Napoleonic Tower, situated on the western end of the island is also a familiar sight.

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Achill Island

Achill Island is the largest of Ireland’s offshore islands and is a popular tourist destination.

It was also a stronghold of the O’Malley clan, and you’ll find evidence of that in a castle/tower house called Kildavnet located on the island.

a castle Clew Bay bike trail
Kildavnet Tower on Achill Island. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Kildavnet is also the name of the church and graveyard nearby where many victims of the potato famine were buried.

Achill Island has some great beaches. Among them is Keem Bay, formerly the site of a basking shark fishery.

The Dooagh Village, which is located nearby, contains the remains of 80 houses now in ruins. It is also known as the Deserted Village.

Once the famine took hold, residents of the village abandoned it and moved closer to the sea or emigrated.

Carrigahowley Castle

a castle Clew Bay bike trail
Rockfleet Castle near Newport, Co. Mayo, reputed to be the place where Grace died in 1603. Photo: Arthur Ilkow, Tourism Ireland.

Also known as Rockfleet Castle, this, too, is also associated with Grace O’Malley. She married Donal O’Flaherty, whose family built the castle during the middle of the 16th century.

Burrishoole Friary

As you make your way toward Newport, you’ll see the Burrishoole Friary, founded in 1470 by Richard de Burgo.

a building with a cemetery surrounding it Clew Bay bike trail
Burrishoole Friary in Co. Mayo, which you can see along the Clew Bay Bike Trail. Photo: By Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Like other religious buildings across Ireland, it, too, was suppressed by King Henry VIII during the Reformation.

One ferry ticket covers the journey to both islands. They should be pre-booked with either Clare Island Ferries or O’Malley Ferries.

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