The West of Ireland and in particular County Galway is one of the most unique parts of Ireland for visitors to explore. With barren fields, rugged coastline, stone-walled fields, stark mountain ranges, and vast boglands, the West has some of the richest scenic beauty and natural attractions in Ireland.
With Galway City, a true Renaissance city as its hub, the West offers a diverse set of experiences for every visitor. From the sunsets over Galway Bay to the rocky shores of the Aran Islands, and the enchanting locales of "Quiet Man" country. Follow the trails of Connemara National Park, tour the great museums, watch craftspeople make hand-knit sweaters and other traditional crafts, sip a cup of tea beside a turf fire, or listen to the Irish language being spoken and sung. Galway provides glimpses of Ireland as it used to be, while also having a thriving urban centre at its heart.
A brief history…
Galway City originally formed from a small fishing village located in the area near the Spanish Arch called ‘The Claddagh’ where the River Corrib meets Galway Bay. Galway later became a walled town in the year 1232 after the territory was captured by the Anglo Normans lead by Richard De Burgo. The town walls, some sections of which can be seen today near the Spanish Arch, were constructed circa 1270. A charter was granted in 1396 by Richard II which transferred governing powers to 14 merchant families, known locally as the 14 tribes of Galway. See here for a more detailed history of Galway.
The 14 tribes relished their independence but retained their close links to the British crown. Because of its position on the Atlantic, Galway became a thriving seaport for wine, spices, and fish, and developed a brisk trade with other European countries. The docks hummed with the arrival of ships from foreign lands, even Christopher Columbus is said to have landed at Galway en route to his historic voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. Galway's strategic coastal location and natural harbour area resulted in a successful trade with both Portugal and Spain and the city prospered for centuries. However in 1651 with the arrival of Cromwell the region entered a long period of decline. Other prominent sea ports emerged on the east coast, namely Dublin and Waterford and trade with Spain came almost at an end. Many years would pass before Galway would again enjoy such prosperity but the legacy of the cities long and colourful history is evident in the character and style of the city.
Galway City is a thriving, bohemian, cultural city on the western coast of Ireland. Along with being a popular seaside destination with beautiful beaches and long winding promenade, it also has a buzzing cosmopolitan city centre. The city is a joy to explore with its labyrinthine cobbled streets, colourful shop facades and busy café/ bar culture. The city is also well known for its many festivals throughout the year with huge crowds gathering for the annual Galway Arts Festival, Races and numerous other events. Old Ireland is present too with turf fires and traditional music featuring in many pubs to compliment your enjoyment of a well earned pint of Guinness. Take an evening stroll along the promenade and watch the sunset over Galway Bay or watch the salmon fishermen in the River Corrib from the perfect vantage point of the Salmon Weir Bridge.
A visit to Galway City Museum or the National Aquarium will easily happily fill a wet afternoon. On sunny days your options are endless. The clean beaches in Salthill draw crowds of swimmers and the city streets come to life with buskers and street performers. With Connemara on your doorstep a visit to Kylemore Abbey or Ashford Castle while taking in the magnificent mountains and lakes of Connemara National Park on your way is also highly recommended. The unspoilt Burren region across Galway Bay in Clare is also worth a visit. The weathered limestone landscape holds traces of the past with megalithic tombs, ringforts, cairns, holy wells, souterrains and stone walls scattered throughout the area to explore.
Whether its drama, traditional music, late night clubs or simply soaking up the vibe on the bustling city streets, you’ll find plenty to do at night in Galway. The Town Hall Theatre is the best option for seeing a visiting production company’s latest dramatic performance. There are many nightclubs dotted around Eyre Square. Alternatively walk down shop street to Latin Quarter near Quay Street and you’ll find plenty of old world bars where you can sit by a turf fire and join in the craic.
A welcome escape...
Time passes easily when you stop by the Salmon Weir Bridge and study the steadfast fishermen jostle with the tumbling River Corrib below. The Corrib river meets the crystal waters of the Atlantic Ocean at the Spanish Arch, where small fishing boats and wild birds provide an idyllic backdrop to the famous shimmering sunsets over Galway Bay.
Click here for some interesting facts about Galway.