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recent decision to include courseracing in the Rio 2016 Olympics). Kitesurfing has come far, fast. Although pioneers were experimenting through the 1990s, commercial kites didn’t hit the market until just over a decade ago. The October event puts west Mayo and, by extension Ireland, right up there alongside worldclass kitesurfing destinations such as Maui in the US, Mauritius and Cascais in Portugal, the three other stops on the tour. “It’s a different sport today,” says O’Connell, fresh from the waves at Keel. Along with Sammon, he’s a director at the championships. “At the beginning, it was like two lines attached to a plastic bag, and you
did what you did to survive. It just tracked in the wind; there was no safety, no real launch ability on the water. If you crashed the kite you could have swum for three hours, in the jellyfish and the seaweed. Today, a weekend will get you to where it took us six months to get. It has evolved.” Back at Pure Magic, where I met the boys tucking into a hearty breakfast of sausages, beans and fresh brioches, a little boy came over to show Colussi his brand new kite. It was his birthday present. And he was beaming. “That’s the start of the trouble for your parents,” Colussi laughed. Not that you have to attach yourself to a kite to enjoy Achill, of
Back at Pure Magic, François Colussi chills out.
Mulranny Park Hotel is the driving force behind the Gourmet Greenway, a trail of local food producers along the Great Western Greenway cycling trail, many of whom you’ll find on the menus in its Nephin Restaurant. Ollie O’Regan is the head chef, there are wonderful Atlantic views, and Clew Bay scallops should be your first order into the kitchen. (098 36 000; mulrannyparkhotel.ie) Overlooking Westport’s elegant Octagon (the town was built and laid out as an estate town for nearby Westport House), the Pantry & Corkscrew is one of the best casual dining options in a town and county that know a thing or two about casual dining. Pop in for lunch, dinner or just coffee and a slice of cake. (098 26 977; facebook.com) After a day’s driving along the Connemara or west Mayo coast, it’s hard to resist Cronin’s sheebeen, below, in Rosbeg, Westport – a thatched pub nestled against the inner shores of Clew Bay. Crammed with pictures of Croagh Patrick, maps of the coastline and mementoes of great Irish rugby wins, the gregarious gastro-pub serves up a reliable mix of daily specials, with a particular focus on seafood. (098 26 528; croninssheebeen.com)