A RELAXING STROLL THROUGH NATURE

Is there anything nicer, or more therapeutic, than strolling through mature woodland? No matter what the season, woodland walks lift the spirits – the trees’ ancient boughs calm busy minds, their towering trunks dwarfing our worldly worries. Sylvan balm for the soul.

Learn all about the restoration of pathways through the estate that has culminated in a gorgeous 3.5k looped walk through woodland, by lake and with sea views.  There is no charge to enjoy the grounds and gardens of Westport House. The Hughes family have generously opened the gates to one and all in welcome.

One of the key aspirations for the conservation of the estate has been to restore the original pathways (learn more about the historical grounds & gardens by clicking here) and to introduce today’s visitors to this magical landscape environment.  When originally developing the landscape of the estate, the owners would have given very careful and thoughtful consideration to the planning of the landscape, the sight lines and the views along with the placement of each and every feature of the landscape. And so, it made sense to take out the historic maps to find some clues for where to begin.

With careful research and on-site GPS surveying, we identified the historic routes. The most obvious pathway, and the first restoration we undertook, was that of the path to the southern edge of Westport Lough, from Quay Lodge to the south wing of Westport House.  The pathway had become overgrown and was in a state of disrepair. After we discovered its original remains, we set about restoring it. In April 2019 – after three weeks, numerous tons of gravel, lots of drainage piping and great determination from our grounds team – the pathway was reopened at last.

This charming walking route has brought a whole new dimension to the estate, introducing the public to the most beautiful views of the estate, across the lough – views that had been forgotten. It wasn’t long before news of the new pathway spread and soon countless walkers and runners were delighting in it daily.

INFORMAL, NATURALIST FINISH

With the wind in our sails, we set about finding the next trail. One of the most beautiful locations in the estate – and one that had not been accessible to the public for many years – is the naturalised cascades, rapids and waterfalls on the Carrowbeg River, between the Chinese-style red bridge and the gorgeous 300-year-old stone-faced bridge that leads to Hotel Westport. It was the obvious choice for our next pathway.

After deliberating on the pathway style and material finish, we decided to opt for the most simplistic option: informal. There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, we felt a heavy gravel pathway might disturb the naturalistic setting of the parkland grazing field. We also know that people like to feel immersed in nature, part of it – and if this means getting your boots a teeny bit mucky in certain weather conditions, sure that’s all part of the fun.

We did introduce two access points and signage, though – and to help direct the public, we also mowed a lawn strip alongside the Riverside to define the pathway route, and it worked like a dream!

The next big adventure was embarking on the Southern Woods to tie our new paths and trails together.  One of our owners put on his hiking boots and jungle explorer-like, marked out roughly a meandering trail up the steep hills at the start and finish of the trail (little did we know that our local walkers would come to name it Heart Attack Hill because of its vertiginous nature!).  The start and finish connect through a dense woodland where, on a summers day in full leaf, you could be lost in a forest.  It is hard to believe that you're actually in the middle of a town.  This challenging 1.5km section reunites with the lakeside walk at the man-made Westport Lough.  Our next step was to undertake an archaeological survey to ensure that we would not be disturbing any sacred grounds.  And with full clearance, our lads with some additional help took to clearing the path, installing drains and planting thousands of bulbs so that we might all enjoy a woodland carpet of blooms.

It’s a real treat to watch people exploring the estate’s stunning woodlands, rediscovering the beauty of the Carrowbeg River and historical gems like the sections of ruins of Westport House Church and Graveyard (built in 1735 and once the only church building in Westport). Definitely worth all the hard work.

A number of more extensive routes through the north and south woods are now being investigated – all will be revealed in the near future, so get your walking boots ready!

Discover Westport House through guided and self-guided tours, fascinating exhibitions and a range of reading materials.

Depending on your starting point….whether you are embarking from the bridge to the back of Hotel Westport, The Quay Entrance or entering from the Town Centre gate, our  3.5km looped walk will take you through some of the most beautiful Riverside, Lakeside and woodland view points of the estate. You’ll enjoy heritage buildings and even views of the sea.  There are two routes to choose from – flat (Blue Line) or slightly more challenging (Orange Line) through the woods. We hope you enjoy the trail.

Explore the estate with all the family with our Family Explorer Pack. We hope that you’ll find our trails and maps a fun enticement to encourage the kids to head out on a walk.

If you would like to know more about all Westport House has to offer, please contact us on +353 (0) 98 27766 or email us at info@westporthouse.ie

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