a report by Alex Blackwell

The Irish Cruising Club founded in 1929 has been an ‘island of Ireland’ organisation from day one.  Every year an annual dinner weekend is held to bring together the four regions: North, South, East, and West, and to introduce the newly elected members to the Club.

Clew Bay Sunset from Knockranny Hotel
photo credit Alex Blackwell

This year the annual weekend was based at Knockranny House Hotel Westport. Well over 250 members and guests joined together for a gala dinner. During the dinner the accomplished Russian polar sailor, Nikolay Litau, was presented with the Club’s premier sailing award, the Fastnet trophy and medal. Last year, Captain Litau sailed the yacht “Northabout”, built in Co. Mayo by Jarlath Cunnane, around both the NE and NW arctic passages in one season, the first time this has ever been accomplished.

Nikolai Litau receiving the Fastnet trophy from Jarlath Cunnane
photo credit Alex Blackwell

Prior to the dinner, groups of members and guests participated in several pre-arranged activities, or made their way to town to visit the many fine shops, relax at the cafes and get to know Westport. One group took advantage of the lovely weather to climb to the top of Croagh Patrick. As one might have expected, the views were reported to be sensational.

A large group of 85 took a pair of busses and ferries, organized by Carl O’Grady, out to Clare Island. There they were given an animated and informative talk on the history of Clare Island by Carl in the shade of Grainne Uaile’s Castle. Most then walked to the Abbey in unseasonal sunshine and warmth to admire what is left of the 14th Century frescoes, some walked the archaeological trail, and others went as far as the lighthouse. In between, a delicious light lunch was served at the Go Explore hostel.

Carl O’Grady speaking to the Irish Cruising Club Members about the history of Clare Island
photo credit Daria Blackwell

A number of members, guests, and a dog joined Stephen Clarke of Westport Walking Tours for a great 8 km walk along the Westport Greenway, with fabulous views of the river, town and Croagh Patrick. They then continued along the sea front and harbour before entering the Westport House Estate and walked past the lake, house and parkland, all looking particularly beautiful in the sunshine. Stephen kept all entertained with his stories and history of Westport as well as many “local legends”.  Some of the group then took a closer look at Westport house, some spent more time exploring Westport (and shopping), while others retired to the various cafés and hostelries for lunch.

Irish Cruising Club walkers at Westport House
photo credit Grainne Fitzgerald

Another group, excellently looked after by Clew Bay Bike Hire, did a cycle ride from Achill to Westport. They were bussed to Achill Sound, where they collected their bicycles. What followed was a wonderful cycle in glorious weather along the Great Western Greenway. The scenery was stunning. En route, they stopped at the Mulranny Park Hotel for coffee, where they sat at trestle table on the lawn, looking out to sea. The staff could not have been more friendly or helpful. From there, they headed for Newport, where they had another pit stop at the Grainne Uaile Pub before continuing to their destination in Westport. A memorable cycle, which they certainly intend to repeat in the future!

Irish Cruising Club cyclists taking some respite at the Garainne Uaile, Newport
photo credit Mairead Allen

A final group spent the day at the magnificent Westport Golf Course. They enjoyed a superb round of golf on the beautiful course with its stunning views, thanks to the Chairman, Captain and club committee. The golf trophy was awarded to Ms. Beverly Killen from Malahide, who also won the trophy in 2016.

Cited as perhaps the best gathering the Irish Cruising Club has had to date, many of the participants have vowed to return to Westport again soon.