The Claddagh or 'An Cladach' meaning 'the shore', is a notable area in Galway, on the western side of the city. The Claddagh was once an ancient fishing village, dating from the fifth century. This community, most of whom sold their daily catches at market near the Spanish Arch, lived in thatched cottages. They sailed in the famous Galway Hooker boats and spoke Irish. They even had their own king, who led the fishing fleet and settled disputes in the community.
Today, the Claddagh area includes St Mary's Dominican Church, a national school and a community centre. The original village of thatched cottages were demolished in the 1930s and replaced by a council houses. The last true King of Claddagh, Martin Oliver, passed away in 1972 but the title is still used in an honorary and ceremonial context. The current king is Michael Lynskey.
Legend has it that this area was most famous for the Claddagh ring, which was created by jeweller, Richard Joyce. The story goes that he was kidnapped by pirates on his way to the West Indies and his master taught him jewellery craft. When he was released, he returned to Galway and set up his trade. The design of the ring symbolises love, friendship and loyalty and is of two clasped hands holding a crowned heart and is a popular souvenir for visitors to the city.