Galway Bay is located off the west coast of Ireland, between counties Clare and Galway in an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. It stretches westwards from historic Galway city, is bordered on the north by County Galway, and to the south by the Burren area of North County Clare. The bay is protected at its mouth by the Aran Islands (Inis Mor, Inis Meann and Inisheer) and is around 50km in length, and 30km wide.
Galway Bay is immortalised in the song “Galway Bay” which was originally composed by Frank Fahey, and renewed by Arthur Colahan in 1947, and popularised by legendary singer Bing Crosby. Indeed, Galway Bay has been mentioned in many songs in recent times, notably the Pogues “Fairytale of New York” and Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”, where Sean Connery sings a song about the Galway Bay area.
There are many picturesque villages and towns that dot the coastline of both counties Galway and Clare which border the majestic Galway Bay. These include: Spiddal, Barna, Oranmore, Claddagh, Galway city, Salthill, Kinvara, Ballyvaughan and the Burren Area, with its unique rock formations, monuments and enchanting plant life.
Tour by car
The best way to tour the Galway Bay shoreline is by car. Starting in the Doolin/Liscannor area of County Clare, you can take in the stunning views of the Cliffs of Moher, and if you’ve time to spare pop into the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre.
From the Cliffs of Moher, follow the N67 around Black Head and onto Ballyvaughan, home to some of the country’s finest beaches and again breathtaking views of Galway Bay.
Another popular tourist attraction in this part of County Clare is Aillwee Caves, underneath the landscape of the Burren. You can see the Aran Islands from here on a clear day! From Ballyvaughan take the N67 to the famous fishing village of Kinvara in County Galway.
Kinvara is an Irish speaking area. From the pier you can see the famous wooden framed, hide covered ”currach” boats that are still used by fishermen to catch fish in the Galway Bay area. Check out the beaches here as well!
The journey from Kinvara to Galway is a scenic drive along the shores of Galway Bay. Take the N67 to Kilcolgan, then the N18 to Oranmore and then the N6 to Galway city.
Galway city, known as the ”City of the Tribes”, is a city much inspired by culture and music, laced with pretty shops and charming restaurants, and is perched on the shores of Galway Bay.
About 3km from the city is the seaside resort of Salthill. Along the promenade, overlooking Galway Bay, you can sit back, relax and watch the waves of Galway bay rolling in! It’s also dotted with many fine restaurants, many famous for their fresh seafood.
From here take the R337 to Barna and Spiddal. This is a stunning drive along the coast road.
Things to do
There are many activities you can enjoy along the coast of Galway Bay. Sailing can be arranged at the Galway Bay Sailing Club. You can take a boat trip from Rossaveal in Galway, or from Doolin in Clare to the Aran Islands, at the mouth of Galway Bay.
The Aran Islands are located about 48km, 30 miles or so, from the mouth of Galway Bay. Irish is the everyday language spoken on all 3 islands. Attractions here include Dun Aengus, an ancient stone fort on Inis Mor, while from the cliffs you can take in the spectacular views of Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. With no end of unspoilt sandy beaches with clear blue water, watersports of all kinds are hugely popular in the area, as is fishing. Find out more about the Aran Islands.
From Doolin, you can also take a boat tour along the Cliffs of Moher.
If you’re a keen angler there are plenty fishing opportunities on Galway Bay. For the golf enthusiast there’s the Galway Bay Golf Resort in Oranmore.
Galway Bay was also renowned for its unique sailing craft, the ”Galway Hooker”. The ”Hookers” were most prominent just after the Great Famine in Ireland in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Claddagh Fleet was at its zenith at that time, with nearly 100 vessels. Galway was the centre of the boat building industry in the West of Ireland at the time. However, more modern technologies led to changes in working practises, and the fleet was rendered obsolete.