Updated October 2021: The well-known CIE Tours International company handed out deserving awards to three County Mayo attractions during its annual awards for excellence ceremony held in Dublin in 2020.
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No awards were handed out in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The awards recognize the best hotels and tourist attractions in Ireland based on feedback from over 25,000 people who took CIE’s tours.
The three County Mayo attractions that received awards included Westport Walking Tours, the recipient of a gold award for the “Best Walking Tour,” as well as Ballintubber Abbey and Westport House, which both received a Merit Award of Excellence for delivering an exceptional quality experience and welcome to tourists.
The County Mayo hotels receiving awards at the ceremony included The Lodge at Ashford Castle, winning a gold award and named “Best 4-Star Hotel;” the Clew Bay Hotel, also winning a gold award and named “Best 3-Star Hotel;” and Hotel Westport, which received a Merit Award of Excellence.
Westport Walking Tours
Established by Stephen and Alan Clarke, natives of Westport, these gentle walking tours are chock full of stories, many of them handed down from their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
The Clarke brothers tell the history of this planned Georgian town, the layout of which was designed in 1780 by the noted architect of the time, James Wyatt.
Evidence of Wyatt’s careful planning can be seen in The Mall, the elegant tree-lined bank of the town’s river, the Carrowbeg, as well as other architectural features.
You’ll find Stephen, who is certified in tour guiding and heritage, walking around town with a yellow jacket.
The company’s signature uniform is in memory of Stephen and Alan’s uncle, Martin McCrossan, who was a well-known tour guide in Derry known for wearing the same type of yellow jacket.
He died suddenly in 2015.
Tours are free of charge, but you are welcome to tip the guide.
They depart from The Town Hall Theatre Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and at noon and are offered from April 1 to Sept. 30.
Private tours are available by request, at a minimum cost of €80 per group.
Private group tours are available at a cost of €80 per group.
Westport Walking Tours also organizes pub and food tours. See the website for more details.
The Augustinian abbey, which was founded in 1216, has undergone countless attacks over the years, particularly during the Protestant Reformation, a period in the 16th century when Catholicism was outlawed in Ireland.
The abbey marks the beginning of an ancient 22-mile pilgrimage route that eventually ends at the top of Croagh Patrick, located outside of Westport.
Not to be missed when you visit the abbey is The Celtic Furrow, the visitor center that contains a treasure trove of information tracing the cultural, historical, and spiritual roots of Ireland for over 5,000 years.
Find out more about this beautiful spot by visiting the abbey website.
The abbey is free to visit, although donations are always welcome.
Westport House is known as Ireland’s most beautiful house.
The Browne family built the house near the site of an O’Malley castle belonging to the family of Grace O’Malley, the famous pirate queen who was head of the powerful O’Malley dynasty during the 16th century after her father’s death.
There is a statue in her honor on the grounds of Westport House.
The architect who was responsible for designing Westport’s street layout also designed three facades of the house to form a quadrangle, which was later filled in with a grand staircase.
Other architects involved in its creation included Richard Cassells, who designed the Irish government building, Leinster House in Dublin, and Thomas Ivory.
There are 30 rooms to be seen on a tour of Westport House.
Wander through the Chinese Room on the first floor, where you will find delicately hand-painted wallpaper, view the stained-glass doors in the south corridor depicting the family crest, the Sicilian marble staircase, and the beautiful collection of family portraits and local landscapes throughout the mansion.
A real treat during any visit to Westport House is the Victorian Afternoon Tea served in the formal dining room by waitresses dressed as Victorian maids.
Admission to Westport House and grounds, if purchased on the website, is €12.85 for adults, €10.45 for seniors over 65 and students with a current ID, and €6.15 for children. Kids under 3 are admitted for free.