Westport in Bank Holiday mood


DRAWThe Carrowbeg River in Westport has seen hoardes of tourists walk on by since lockdown restrictions eased.   Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Ger Flanagan

WESTPORT last Friday afternoon looked a lot like its former self.
Families eating ice cream cones from Don McGreavy’s lined the benches running parallel to the river, cars with roof boxes streamed up Bridge Street and camper vans (eleven to be exact) lined the footpaths around the town.
The outdoor seating in popular cafes like Gavin’s, This Must Be The Place and Christy’s Harvest were all full, and queues formed outside a local pharmacy along with other small businesses.
Westport was a hive of activity, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the Bank Holiday weather. Some foreign accents could be heard as this reporter walked along the streets; foreign in the sense of Dublin, Kerry and some northern accents.
“I don’t know what the story with booking a table is,” one Dublin man said to his wife as they peered through the windows of Cian’s on Bridge Street.
Although reports, both local and national, indicated that some chancy Americans made their way to Clew Bay recently, this reporter encountered none last Friday.
Plenty of locals were out and about too, like Liamy MacNally and John Brawn perched on the riverside bank taking in the world as it passed by in a hurry.
“I think Westport is going awful well these days,” Brawn told The Mayo News. “I was in Galway recently and it’s very quiet, so it’s great to see Westport busy again.
“Westport has been dealing with tourists for a long time and it’s great to see them back and to see all the people and businesses adapting to the guidelines.”
While the crowds of people on the streets made complying strictly to social distancing difficult, there was a noticeable percentage of people wearing face masks or visors, the majority of whom were older age.
But inside the shops there was a much greater compliance with the wearing of face coverings. In Don McGreavy’s popular shop on the corner of Bridge Street, seven of the ten customers had face masks. Two of three who didn’t were kids.

A wander down the street ends in meeting Fr Charlie McDonnell hopping out of his shiny SUV parked outside St Mary’s Church. He’s in typically boisterous form.
Fr McDonnell has been a vocal advocate for Covid-19 guidelines compliance before most people, and back in March he told this newspaper that he was literally walking the streets ensuring people were maintaining the required social distance.
Fast forward four months and he’s pleased with how people have adapted.
“The town is mighty and everything is going grand,” he said. “There’s a lot of people around but no one is doing anything they shouldn’t be doing and that’s a good sign.
“I wasn’t worried as such back in March, but I thought it was important to put down markers for people. But once people started playing ball, like they are now, everything is fine.”
If anyone has a grasp of what the lie of the land is like in Westport these days, it’s Paddy Joe Foy, who is perched in his horse-carriage, being drawn around the streets by his noble steed, Podge. Paddy Joe is part of the fabric of Westport and its tourism industry and over the past couple of weeks has encountered tourists from all over Ireland on his popular tours.
“There are more people coming into the town in the last week or ten days, there’s no question about it,” he said. “What I have found is that there is an awful lot of day-tripping to the town.
“I’ve had people staying in Castlebar who have come over, I’ve had people staying in Enniscrone and I’ve also had people from Limerick who were staying in Oranmore but visiting here for the day.”
Paddy Joe, as he says himself, ‘is tipping away’ with customers and it’s fair to say that Westport is finally beginning to ‘tip away’ itself again.