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Winter Wonderland Westport HouseWinter Wonderland of the West! 

Westport is a brilliant town; full of fun, hospitality & community spirit. I was there in October, and I reckon if Santa lived in Ireland, he’d be from Westport– it just had that kind of vibe! So if you’re anywhere nearby, round up the family for some Westport Christmas fun- parents get a treat, too ūüôā


Here’s the scoop from Westport:


Westport House’s Winter Wonderland: open weekends until Christmas Eve

~Sensory Santa option for children with autism on 6th December, new this year~

Make sure you bring all the family to Westport House this festive season to meet Santa, Mrs Claus and their Elves.  A sprinkle of magical Christmas dust will transform the historic 18th century house into a magical Winter Wonderland on selected Friday evenings and weekends from Saturday November30th until Christmas Eve (for full opening times see )

Your merry little Christmas will begin the moment you step into the house, with its cosy fireplaces, friendly staff, and stunning décor.  Whether your children have been naughty or nice, they will receive a special gift from Santa at his Santa’s Grotto, and because parents deserve a treat too, you will be treated to a warming glass of mulled wine.


Sensory Santa

On¬†December 6th from 3-6pm, Westport House will provide the extra option of a ‚ÄėSensory Santa‚Äô session at their Winter Wonderland. Catering to the specific needs of children with autism and sensory disorders, they will turn up the lights and tone down the Christmas tunes as well as allocating time slots to reduce waiting times. Santa will meet with families individually allowing families to relax and enjoy a magical Christmas experience.


                                                                                                                             Mrs Claus

Winter Wonderland Westport House

There’s plenty more to enjoy from magical storytelling and sing-songs by the fireside in the Drawing Room with Mrs Claus, to festive face painting with a cool as ice snow(wo)man and Little Drummer Boy workshops. Make sure you visit the Elves Workshop where kids can paint their own Christmas tree decoration to hand proudly on their tree at home or to give as a gift to someone special this Christmas.


Westport House Express Train

Once you’ve unwrapped everything to enjoy in the House, you can take a ride on the Westport House Express train through the frost kissed grounds and watch out for festive surprises around  each corner, while you snuggle up with complimentary blankets.

As part of the 2013 Winter Wonderland, Westport House are renewing their tradition of a Christmas Wish Tree where families are invited to write their wishes and for every family wish we will donate ‚ā¨1 to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice they hope will be generously supported, as people remember that true meaning of Christmas is all about giving.

Westport House Winter Wonderland

Tickets are priced at ‚ā¨10 for infants under 2 ‚ā¨20 for children aged 2 up, and ‚ā¨10 for adults.¬† Babies under 1 year go free for their first Christmas. Groups, schools or kindergartens are welcome midweek and special rates are available. Pre-booking is essential on¬†¬† with the exception of Sensory Santa bookings which must made directly by phone on 098 27766.

For wheel chair users:¬† it is important to note that there is no wheelchair access to Westport House or lifts within and the Winter Wonderland event takes place over 3 floor. There are 18 steps up to the front door Santa’s Grotto takes place on the main bedroom floor which is upstairs. We hope that this won’t impede your visit but wanted to be sure you knew in advance to plan accordingly. ¬†


Opening Hours:

Winter Wonderland takes place from 10am to 6pm for the following weekends:  November 30 & December 1, Dec 7 & 8, Dec 14 & 15 and Dec 21 & 22. On Dec 6th, the Sensory Santa Session is 3 to 6pm; booking by phone necessary.

Due to popular demand, the venue is opening on Friday, Dec 13 and Dec 20 from 5pm to 8pm in the evening only. On December 21, 22 and 23, they offer three extra-long days from 10am to 8pm. And on Christmas Eve, Dec 24, will be open 10am to 2pm.

 For further information on the Westport House Winter Schedule see

Happy Christmas!

Electric bike needed!

Terry was always ahead of me on the flat (!) Barrow tow-path, even though he kept coasting & turning in circles…I needed an electric bike!


Okay, hands up– how many of you are like Terry & I; one person fitness oriented, & the other one fun oriented? I know– fitness & fun are not¬†mutually exclusive; I’m just being silly…but sometimes the ‘fun’ person can’t do fun things with the’ fit’ person because, well, the fun-ster isn’t fit enough–and that really sucks.¬†



For example- biking along the Barrow river towpath, or along the Great Western Greenway. My fitness-instructor hubby Terry has to go at a snail’s pace or he leaves me (puffing, sweaty & red-faced) way behind. Also, we can’t go up big hills because I’m just not fit enough. I’d have to have a nap after! We’d love to do a bike tour together, but it just seemed impossible. Until I copped on to Electric Escapes.



Yes! A solution to the issue of less-fit people wanting to to experience the full thrills of cycling.

Want to go up & down hills, see and photograph¬†fantastic high views, cycle¬†longer distances, and linger¬†in spots which take your fancy without having to exhaust all your remaining energy to¬†madly¬†race ¬†back before dark? Use a¬†top notch electric pedal bike!¬†Electric Escapes’ bikes and trips are also perfect for those super-fit folk who want to challenge themselves on hills and distances, but with their less-fit partner or friends. Win-win!


Electric Escapes

Electric Escapes isn’t just ‘bike from A-to-B;’ they’ve tours that let you stop & experience— through food, history, nature; whatever your interests are. Or you could just do a very romantic picnic trip! I met the owner Paul this week in Westport because I really wanted to find out more about the trips & ethos behind Electric Escapes. Paul is very much about everyone being able to experience the joys of cycling, the outdoors, and the special local places, stories and products of Ireland– as much or as little as they want. I’m keen to do a trip!

You can simply rent bikes & head off, you can design your own longer trip, or perhaps you’d like to do the trips Electric Escapes has on offer. You can also tweak them to suit yourself. A trip I love the sound of is the Pirate Queen Tour. Here’s part of what it entails:


“Tour Plan–ISH!

We could put down every detail of each day, listing distances, places, things to do etc but as our customers have said it’s the secrets & deviations off of the straight and narrow that make Electric Escapes special. To help you we’ ll give you some guidance below as to the area and places we’ll be exploring . Do your research on The Wild West of Ireland, Connemara and us. Now imagine the freedom of your own tour here with a secret local pass to the best bits!

Day One:
Arrive in Westport, voted best place to live in Ireland! Maybe get used to the Kalkhoff E-bikes by trying them out on the famous Greenway 44km off road cycle track. Or just relax, and enjoy the world famous music, culture, food and craic in one of Ireland’s best loved towns.

Day Two
We ‚Äėre off to the magical Pirate Queen Island of Clare, one of 365 Islands in Clew Bay. (An optional extra here is to stay in a lighthouse perched on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.)

Day Three
Head off through a breathtaking valley to Ireland’s only Fjord, Killary. Maybe shear a sheep or two, take a seaweed bath, cruise for dolphins, kayak or just taste some fresh mussels at your own mussel farm.”

There’s more to this trip! ¬†Up to 6 days, and as I’ve mentioned,¬†there are other tours, or you can design one yourself. You can go as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. The longer ones like the full ‘Pirate Queen’ would make a terrific special anniversary or honeymoon trip.


It IS cool!

I’m pretty excited to think that Terry and I can get outdoors together & do something ¬†like this without me holding him back. I reckon it’s a great idea for the whole family or groups of friends, too– no one need feel like the weakest link. Plus, electric bikes are getting really cool– look at the one in the video below! It can go 80km an hour, do stunts, and make you look like a fit young bad-ass who has all the cool technology ūüėČ

I’m not sure that is in my future, but an Electric Escape of some sort ¬†is ūüôā

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Very%20Cool%20Electric%20Bike”]

 Head out West!

Westport festival of Music and Food

Westport festival of Music and Food

Westport is a fun town with beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and interesting history all around the area.¬†I’ve been sent some information on the¬†Westport Festival of Music and Food¬†on¬†29 & 30th of June, and Westport House’s offer of tickets & camping for the weekend.

I really enjoyed my time in Westport, & I’ve been¬†privileged¬†to see the cup & ring¬†standing stone¬†and watch¬†the sun ‘roll down’ Croagh Patrick¬†outside of Westport- pity I was there in the years before blogging & smartphones, but¬†click here for a site that does have photos & info. Scroll down on that page for the rolling clip.

Head Wesht! Here’s the Westport info I was sent:

Westport House Camping

”One of the most anticipated highlights of Westport House‚Äôs events calendar this summer is the return of¬†The Westport Festival of Music and Food¬†which takes place on¬†Sat 29th¬†& Sun 30th¬†June 2013.¬† The festival will be a two-day celebration of music and food, embracing local and international rock, folk, celtic and acoustic sounds, headlined by¬†Elvis Costello & The Imposters and Imelda May, and joined by a host of other top music acts such as Christy Moore, Ryan Sheridan, Damien Dempsey among others. ¬†

Westport House offers an incredible festival camping experience for festival goers.¬† With hot showers, real toilets, wifi, picnic areas, laundry, and family-friendly facilities onsite, all set against a stunning backdrop, it‚Äôs no surprise that camping proved a huge hit with thousands of revellers last year and is expected to be even bigger and better in its second year.¬† Combined festival & camping tickets are on sale through¬†¬† only start at ‚ā¨155 per person for the weekend.”

 If you have other hot festival tips, please let everyone know in the comments below. Thanks, & have fun festivaling!

Lough Corrib, Cong, Ireland

Enemy territory! Yes, Cong,  Mayo is on the Galway border (where the John Wayne film The Quiet Man was filmed,) and was enemy territory for Kilkenny folk on Sunday, the 9th of September, 2012; it was the All-Ireland hurling final of Galway vs Kilkenny.

But as we had won a Secret Sunday package from Lisloughrey Lodge, located by Lough Corrib, we braved the sea of Galway flags and had a 24 hour visit to this lovely part of Ireland.

Settling in for the hurling match

The match was kicking off at 3.30, and we arrived at the lodge in time to settle in to their Quay Bar in a prime telly-viewing position. The remaining guests from the last night’s local wedding were still around and started filtering in.Yep- Galway supporters.
Our room was just getting the final touches, so we could only drop off our bags; there was no possibility of hiding our Kilkenny cheering by watching in there. Uh oh! Ahh, no- actually I’m just being dramatic; we’ve always found hurling fans to be quite respectful of the opposing supporters. And so it was at this match- we all enjoyed great banter with each other. The match was exciting & close the whole way through, and ended in a draw! It was win-win for us, really, as we didn’t have to feel rude celebrating if Kilkenny won, or feel dejected while all around us celebrated if Galway won. Perfect. Plus, the pints in The Quay Bar were good ūüôā

Lough Corrib, down from Lisloughrey Lodge

After the match we went for a little wander before dinner at Lisloughrey’s Wildes restaurant. (Which turned out to be our top dinner of 2012! I MUST do a post..) You can see the lough from the lodge, & we headed down to the small quay there, snapped photos, & made a note to do the historic Lough Corrib cruise in the morning. (365 days a yr,trips 2 times a day.) Then we drove the few¬†kilometers¬†into Cong village.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking the village might just be touristy tat about The Quiet Man, which neither of us had seen, although Terry’s Dad had actually worked on the movie. In fact, he had a spooky experience during that work, when he stayed in Ashford Castle. Have a listen to what happened:

[soundcloud id=’59379740′]

¬†Well! Luckily for us, Cong was quiet enough, but not spooky or lifeless! As it was the evening, there were no tourist buses, but there were some folk enjoying the nice weather & the outdoor seating at the many inviting pubs. The village itself ¬†has had a bit of a spruce up thanks to the local folk in Tidy Towns, according to Susan at Lady’s Buttery Irish art & crafts shop, and Cong really is gorgeous! There were flowers in boxes, baskets & beds- and not just bedding plants- beautiful & bee-friendly perennial plants, too. Many of the old houses & buildings that were empty had been painted cheerful colours & decked out in flowers, so that before speaking with Susan we’d had no idea they were empty. Well done!
Look how the water goes right under the building in the middle pic!
Generally, myself & Terry are not peeps who do much shopping, but we got a few things in Cong at Lady’s Buttery (named after a cave where local women used to store butter.) The owner Susan was happy to let us take a few photos of the shop, where her husband Robert also sells his paintings. He was also involved in the painting of the buildings mentioned above; I wonder can we entice him to Graig ūüėČ Speaking of Graiguenamanagh, I only bought 1 book in Cong’s intriguing¬†Rare & Recent Bookshop because our Town Of Books Festival is on in 2 weeks. Me buying more books is like bringing coals to Newcastle! Though I was tempted, especially by the nature & travel/adventure books from the 1950’s on back, my weakness…
Lady’s Buttery, full of treasures & Terry modelling his Aran jumper purchase
Robert let us know that a good coffee was to be had next door to their shop, at The Hungry Monk Cafe. (Always good to get the inside scoop!) He was right; they had nice coffee, and a lovely fresh scone, too. What was also very nice was the big warm ‘Hello!’ we got upon entering the cafe, even though the place was quite busy. (We did our shopping visit in the morning, so this was about 11.15am–it seemed to be just about the time the tour buses start arriving, so if you want to avoid the bus crowds, it seems early morning or later afternoon are quieter.)
We liked what we saw of Cong on our short visit, & we also fit in a wander around the atmospheric Cong Abbey.
lovely scone & coffee at The Hungry Monk, Cong, Ireland
I think Cong Mayo deserves more than a flying visit; there are walks, Ashford Castle, the Lough Corrib cruise that we we too full of breakfast to take (!) and more in the area besides. The village is charming, especially with the sprucing up that was done, and it would be a pity to just rush around it bumping into people. Head in early, stroll slowly around and enjoy the scenery & history, pop in to the wee shops and museums that interest you, and then stop & enjoy a coffee or pint as you watch the world go by or chat with people. Cong is a slice of charm (ok, idealized, perhaps, but still charming) and is nice to just relax into it & not rush off. Save the rushing off for the middle of the day in summer, & escape any bus tourist hordes by doing a hike or walk further afield. The tourist office is helpful, and I believe they have a booklet or such to guide you to places associated with The Quiet Man if you are into the movie. There are lots of gently charming places in Ireland, it is true, and Cong is certainly one of them- so think about it if you are considering visiting the Galway/Mayo area.
Yes, we only did a flying visit ūüôā Must go back for the falconry ūüėČ

Irish beaches are often deserted, even in sunny weather!
Today is a very sunny and warm (in the 20s/70s) day in Ireland. People are soaking it up, but I find, in general, most Irish beaches tend to be empty.Take a look at this, tweeted today from
@poloconghaile: Silver Strand, Co. Mayo today. Deserted save for a couple of Swiss tourists. I want their guidebook. #Westport
Silver Strand, Mayo, Ireland, from Pol O’Congaile
Of course, some tend to be more crowded, like Tramore in County Waterford:
@waterfordmuseum: If you ever wondered how busy Tramore Beach in Co. Waterford, Ireland could get. Here is your answer c1950. ūüôā
Tramore beach, Waterford Ireland, from Waterford Museum
Now that is crowded!
If you’d like to see more on a very charming Irish beach & coastal village, see this post on Dunmore East Enjoy the sun, hope it is shining on you where ever you are ūüôā
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