MINIATURE WESTPORT AND MORE.....
The centerpiece at the Heritage Centre is an interactive scale model of the town with individual video screens, interesting areas are illuminated in turn and linked to a voiceover in English, Gaelic (Irish), French, Italian or German.
In second place (but as nice...) comes GRANUAILE.
The history of the Browne family of Westport House has been interwoven with Westport for more than half a millennium.
The most colourful member of the family is GRANUAILE or GRACE O'Malley, the PIRATE QUEEN, who ruled the high seas in the 1500s.
The history of Westport House itself is also displayed.
And of course we can't forget Croagh Patrick.
Beautifully illustrated wall panels and a relief model explore Croagh Patrick, Ireland's Holy Mountain and its history dating back pre-Christianity to the dawn of time...
Previously known as Cruachan Aigle it owes its name change to the 40 day fast of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, on its summit.
On "Reek Sunday" in July thousands of pilgrims, some barefoot, make the arduous climb to the church at the summit.
These 3 interesting things can be seen at the Westport Heritage Centre.
No tea at the top
Where to go on a weekend out of Dublin? I knew it had to be the West Coast, and narrowed it down to Galway or Westport.
Westport is not as great a tourist magnet as Galway, but two things drew me to it: Croagh Patrick, the holy mountain very near the town, and the famous pub owned by one of the Chieftains (Matt Molloy, I believe).
The pub was great fun, but so crowded I hardly got to hear any Irish music, which, to their credit, was being played sans amplification. Westport itself was delightful - lovely area, good food and extremely friendly people. My B&B owner not only got up early to make me a huge breakfast at 6 am, he also gave me a lift to the station.
Climbing Croagh Patrick, which pilgrims allegedly do barefoot at night (!) didn't sound like much of a challenge; but the last part of the ascent was covered in sharp and slippery rocks - OK for me but difficult for older folks. I wondered how anyone could come up this way unshod!
There were many tourists from all over Europe - mostly on hiking or biking trips- but even more from Northern Ireland. A woman from Belfast explained to me that it was the Protestant 'marching season' and many Catholics preferred to be out of the trouble zones.
Once we got to the top we were rewarded with a sweeping view of the area, the Atlantic ocean and nearby mountains. The church itself, I was surprised to see, was small and whitewashed - almost like a Greek island church. To my great satisfaction, there was nothing else. No souvenirs, no canteen.... nothing but the rocks, the church, the soft greens and greys of Ireland and the marvellous view.
My Belfast friend, out of breath, looked around her aghast: ' Oh my God, don't tell me there's no tea to be had! I kept going thinking there would be tea at the top!'
We walked down the mountain and repaired to the only pub - a pint was even better than tea at that point.