Located in County Mayo about 90 minutes north of Galway and 90 minutes south of Sligo, sits the Westport House. This historic stately home and estate is truly a place the entire family (from grandparents to toddlers) can enjoy for an entire day.
The Westport House property sits on 480 acres (it was once 115,000 acres of property) and features a gorgeous mansion open for tours, beautiful hiking trails, swan pedal boats in the large pond, and a Pirate Adventure Park on the grounds near the mansion with amusement rides, slides, a train, go-karts, bouncy castles and more, plus falconry and archery attractions, a log flume ride, ziplining and much, much more. Families could easily spend a full day here.
Irish Pirate Queen of Connaught Grace O’Malley ruled the land and the seas around the estate in the 16th century and descendants of her family (the Browne’s or the 11th Marquess of Sligo) maintained ownership of the estate until 2017. The original Westport House was built in 1650 by Colonel John Browne (O’Malley’s great-great grandfather) near the site of O’Malley’s original castle. The stone dungeon found in the house’s cellar is said to be from O’Malley’s time.
Groups of 15 or more can request a guided tour of the more than 30 rooms in the historic house and smaller groups can enjoy a self-guided or audio tour to learn the stories of Westport House and the family who inhabited it. Despite being owned and maintained by the family, the house has been open to the public since the 1960s.
Upon entering the grand Front Hall with its barrel vaulted ceiling, families are greeted by a gorgeous marble staircase and the mythological Angel of Welcome statue. Browne family tradition extends to the house’s staff and visitors that everyone should shake the angels hand upon entering the house in order to receive prosperity.
O’Malley’s father taxed everyone who fished off his coasts and his only daughter took over after his death after young Grace proved herself by cutting off all of her hair and sneaking on to her father’s ship one day when he told her no because her long hair would get caught in the ship’s ropes. O’Malley went on to marry twice (one husband died and she publicly dismissed the second after waiting the allotted one year of marriage required under Irish rule) and was a great leader in war. She sailed to England and petitioned Queen Elizabeth I herself for the release of her son and half-brother who were being held captivate by the queen. When O’Malley was requested to bow before Queen Elizabeth, she refused saying why should one queen bow to another, which was said to impressed Queen Elizabeth. O’Malley was a resilient independent woman well ahead of her time and her legacy lives on today in the Westport House.
Hours: Because there are so many different sections to this estate, hours vary throughout the year so make sure to check the website prior to visiting. Pirate Adventure Park is open on weekends in June and daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in July and August. It’s closed most of the remainder of the year excluding Irish school and bank holidays. The historic house is open daily throughout much of the year. However, it is closed in January and only open on weekends in February, November and December.
Age or Height Restrictions: All ages will enjoy Westport House but Pirate Adventure Park is recommended for ages 4 to 11. Some rides to have height restrictions.
Things to Know/Bring: The property is expansion and except plenty of walking. Bring a stroller for younger children. But strollers are not permitted inside the historic house in order to keep the antique floors protected. Except for the historic house, much of the attractions are outdoors so be mindful of the weather. A variety of ticket or combo ticket options are available, but tickets that include Pirates Adventure Park allow for unlimited use of the rides (unlimited!). Other attractions like archery and zip lining are pay-as-you-go. Restrooms and baby changing areas are found throughout the property.
Dining: Concession stands can be found in the Pirate Adventure Park in the summer months and a cafe with homemade scones, tea, sandwiches and more is located in what was once the servant’s kitchen on the lowest level of the mansion. Check out the original stove (still used at Christmas time) and the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. Picnic areas are also available on the grounds.
Parking: Free parking available in various lots.