Although Galway is often cited as being the fastest growing conurbation in Europe, it was relatively slow to develop. During the early medieval period it was not even considered a town; Athenry was 2.5 times its size. Galway began to prosper in the fifteenth century and it evolved into an important seaport. Wine was one of its major imports and it was the importation and distribution of this commodity which helped to found its commercial prestige.
In 1477, Christopher Columbus visited Galway and this was noted in the margin of his copy of Imago Mundi. The people of his birthplace, Genoa in Italy, presented a memorial to the people of Galway in commemoration of this visit.
St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church (Church of Ireland) is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland still regularly used. Christopher Columbus almost certainly worshipped here in 1477.
in 1473 Galway was almost destroyed by fire. However, this provided the impetus for its wealthy citizens to erect lavish houses e.g. Lynch's Castle, and the city was rebuilt in a planned fashion.
Lynch's castle (the residence of one of the Mayors of Galway and now a bank) is the oldest building in Ireland in daily commercial use.
The word 'lynch' is reputed to have its origins in Galway. The story goes that the son of a former mayor of Galway, James Lynch Fitzstephen killed a Spaniard (in medieval times Galway had strong trading links with Spain) over a woman. As Chief magistrate the mayor felt it incumbent on him to impose the law even though the defendant was his own son. When nobody could be found to carry out the sentence Fitzstephen is supposed to have executed his son himself. No reference in the town records can be found for this story and it is more than likely false. Incidentally, the real source of the word is thought to be Captain William Lynch of Virginia, USA who in 1782 was indemnified for illegally punishing people.
In medieval times Galway was ruled by 14 merchant families. These 'tribes' are where Galway gets the nickname the 'City of the Tribes' or 'Cathair na dTreabh' and include names such as Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Ffont, Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martyn, Morriss and Skerrett.
After the English Civil War(s) the British parliament at the behest of Oliver Cromwell ordered the execution of the defeated Charles 1. So that he would not be executed by an Englishman volunteers were looked for in Scotland and Ireland. Two Galway soldiers Gunning and Dear offered their services and were sent to England. On 30 January 1649, Gunning was chosen to perform the execution. As a reward, the property where the pub The King's Head now stands was bestowed on him.
Bubonic plague was introduced into the city by a Spanish ship in 1649 and killed at least 3,700 of its inhabitants and forced many Galway residents to abandon the city temporarily.
St. Nicolas of Myra has been the patron saint of Galway city since the 14th century. He lived in Greece in the 4th century. This choice of patron is common among sea-ports because he is the patron saint of sailors and merchants. He is also considered to be the patron saint of children and is thought to be the inspiration for the modern day Santa Claus.
Tigh Neachtain public house, at the junction of Cross and High Street, was the townhouse of Richard Martin (also known as 'Humanity Dick') who, as one of Galway's first Members of Parliament at Westminster, was instrumental in bringing new anti-cruelty laws which led directly to the founding of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).On his actress wife's insistence, he also established a small theatre in Kirwin's lane (adjacent to Busker Browne's pub) where the insurrectionist Theobald Wolfe Tone trod the boards. Tone was rumoured to have been infatuated with Martin's wife.
The cannons on display on Eyre Square were captured from the Russians during the Crimean War (1853-56) by the British Army who subsequently presented them to the town of Galway. During the 'Fenian fever' of the 1860s they were removed in case the Fenians (a militant separatist organisation) used them as weapons against the government.
Galway was one of the counties most affected by the Great Famine (1845-47); approximately 20% of the population died. Relief works carried out during the Famine included the construction of the Dyke Road and Threadneedle Road. This still bears the Irish name, Bothar na Mine, The Meal Road, today.
The (Roman Catholic) Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is built on the site of the old Galway gaol.
Irish sporting ballad 'The Fields of Athenry' is a folk ballad set during the Great Irish Famine and tells the story of Michael from Athenry, Co. Galway who is sent to penal colony, Australia, for stealing food to save is starving family. Written by Pete St. John in the 1970s, it is widely sung at Irish rugby and soccer internationals.
The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, a ownland found in County Galway. The Irish version of the name, 'muiceanach idir dhá sháile', means "piggery between two briny places" and probably refers to a pig farm once located in the area.
The famous actor, Peter O'Toole, has
a strong connection with Galway. He
claimed that he was born in Galway
before being taken to England as a
baby. He built a house outside Clifden
in the county in the early 19705, where
he spent many holidays and lived there
at various times. The star of films like
Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter
and Venus, he won many awards but
holds the record for the most Academy
Award (Oscar) nominations without
a win. He was awarded an Honorary
Academy Award in 2003. O'Toole
passed away in 2013 and his ashes were
scattered in Connemara.
Maria Edgeworth, author of Castle Rackrent, considered Galway the dreariest town she had ever been in.
Book Sightseeing Tours
Connemara Day Tour
Discover Connemara, a beautifully scenic region just north of Galway City with Lally Tours. This tour includes stops at Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Gardens, Leenane Village, Killary Fjord and the village of An Spidéal overlooking Galway Bay.
Cliffs of Moher & The Burren Day Tour
The unmissable Cliffs of Moher & Burren Tour with Lally Tours includes up to 2 hours at the cliffs and includes stops at the lunar-like Burren region, Dunguaire Castle, Aillwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre and the charming village of Doolin overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Cliffs of Moher Express Bus
A Non-Stop Express Shuttle Service to the Cliffs of Moher with Lally Tours. Experience Ireland’s natural, mysterious, 214m (702 ft) high cliffs and interactive visitor centre. You’ll have 2 full hours to explore on your own before heading back to Galway.
Galway City Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Explore Galway with one of Lally Tours' friendly guides to learn about this colourful city and see it from the best vantage point: an open top bus! You’ll see everything from medieval walls in the city centre to the sandy beaches of Salthill. Hop on and off as much as you’d like and your ticket is valid for 24 hours.