Galway City is a historic city, located on the West Coast of Ireland. The city has always been a popular destination for tourists; however this is true even more so today. Galway City is a fantastic location on a number of fronts. First the city itself is a joy to explore and experience. Secondly, Galway makes for a perfect base from which to explore the entire west coast of Ireland.
1. Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch is a remnant of a time gone by, it was once part of the city’s medieval walls. Named so as the arch saw ships pass through into the city to unload goods from Spanish ships. Galway’s port saw a lot of traffic in medieval times as trade between Ireland, Spain and Portugal was at an all-time high before British rule came into effect. The main imports that came through the arch were wine, fish, spices, and salt. It was a thriving port until Cromwell conquered the city in the 17th century thus upgrading the importance of eastern ports closer to English soil.
Now the arch is a popular tourist attraction and a great spot to sit and enjoy the occasional Irish sun while looking out over the ocean, on a nice day you’ll find tourists and locals alike.
2. Aran Islands
The Aran Islands consists of three islands situated just off Galway Bay. The way of life on the islands gives visitors a view back in time. The main attractions found here are breath-taking views, ancient ruins and religious sites.
On Inishmore, the largest of the three, lies the most popular attraction found on these islands; an ancient fortification built atop the cliffside. It’s named Dun Aengus and dates back over 3,000 years. The spectacular fort sits 300 feet above sea level where one can find amazing views of the ocean, Galway Bay, and on a clear day the Cliffs of Moher. Guided tours are available on site.
The islands are only accessible by boat or plane. Visitors generally choose to cycle around the islands to take in the beautiful landscape and views but there are mini buses for those less inclined.
3. Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are about an hour and a half’s drive from Galway City but are a must see if you are in the area. These cliffs are some of the highest in all of Europe as they tower 200 metres above the crashing waves of the Atlantic. On site there is a dedicated visitor’s centre where you’ll find plenty of information, tour guides, and a well-equipped bar and restaurant. The facility charges €6 admission for adults while children under 16 go free; this includes parking, access to the visitor centre and Atlantic Edge Exhibition and a contribution towards conservation and safety of the cliffs.
The Atlantic Edge exhibition has won numerous awards and boasts many informative features. Among these are live camera of the cliffs and their underwater caves, interactive displays, and fun informative displays aimed at the younger age group. There are also separate ferry trips available which allow visitors to get a chance to see the rising cliff face from sea level.
The Cliffs of Moher are situated along the popular driving route: The Wild Atlantic Way. It is Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction drawing in a million visitors annually.
4. The Burren
The Burren is under an hour’s drive from Galway City and is home to the largest variety of flora and fauna in the country. The Burren National Park is a must see for nature lovers as over three quarters of Ireland’s flowers can be found here in the karst landscape that measures 250 square kilometres.The limestone landscape was formed in an ancient past under sea water before emerging due to a geological cataclysm.
Surrounding this fascinating habitat is a ring of villages which boast their own attractions and charm. Doolin, situated to the west, is a music hub where travelling tourists should stop by for a traditional Irish music session.The best time to visit the Burren is in the spring time as the barren land is overtaken by the emerging wildflowers and flora that transform the scenery at that time of year.
5. Druid Theatre
The Druid Theatre is a long established, award winning theatre best known for its experimental works from young Irish playwrights. The theatre has performed national and international tours so their work is of a very high standard.
Since 1979, the company has had its own theatre on Druid Lane in Galway. The theatre is the birthplace of all the work and continues to serve as a facility for the promotion and development of the arts in Galway.Druid productions have won over 50 awards in Ireland, and internationally, including four Tony Awards for the company’s world premiere of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
For more information on current productions visit www.druid.ie.
6. Eyre Square
Eyre Square is the true centre of Galway City. It is an inner city public park where many go to relax and take in the good weather during the summer months amongst the sculptures and pathways. The formal name of the park is John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in memory of the time the U.S President visited Galway and made a speech in the park.
There are an abundance of facilities and things to do in and around the square, including Eyre Square Shopping Centre and Eyre Square Hotel. Due to its central location it has long been used as a meeting spot while the rest of the city is easily accessible on foot from here.
Connemara is a rural outlying area of Galway City. It is home to an unsullied land that provides stunning beauty throughout. It is also known as a Gaeltacht area as the majority of the inhabitants speak the Irish language. It is one of the last remaining strongholds of the native tongue.The sprawling landscape is home to some of the best views in the country, from vast open plains, beautiful lakes, towering mountains, and crashing Atlantic waves. Hire a car from Galway City.
The terrain in Connemara makes it a great destination for active tourists. Throughout the year many who visit will take part in hill walking, horseback riding, golfing, fishing, and a multitude of water sports. History enthusiasts will be overjoyed upon arrival as there are around 5000 years to uncover. There are megalithic stones, tombs, stone and earth forts, early Christian churches, castles, both ruined and inhabited, 19th century houses and the Marconi Wireless Station and the landing place of Alcock and Brown.
8. Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle has overlooked Galway Bay since the 16th Century. Extensive revival of the site was started in the early 20th Century and today visitors will find a majestic tower castle that offers tours and banquets to visiting tourists.
The castle holds a very important place in the history of Irish literature. It was here that meetings took place between literary revivalists in the early 20th century. Famous writers such as W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge would have met here to discuss the Celtic Bardic traditions and how they can give life to the ancient oral customs that were dying out.
The experience on offer at the castle gives a real insight into the lifestyle of the people who lived from 1520 to modern times. The castle is open to visitors from April to October, and entertainment on offer ranges from music events, medieval banquets, and traditional Irish nights.
9. Galway City Museum
Galway City Museum lies in the heart of the city. Here visitors can learn about the extensive history of the city, stretching back to its foundation in Norman times. It houses a variety of permanent and touring exhibitions representing Galway's rich archaeology, heritage and history. The museum is incredibly spacious and modern housing exhibition on three floors. The permanent collections consist of religious items, medieval artefacts, maritime collection, Claddagh collection and many more.
There are of course on loan exhibitions at the museum, some of the most notable to have passed through are vast currency collections, war time artefacts, and more religious item dating back through history.
To find out more about Galway City Museum and the exhibitions on display, visit http://www.galwaycitymuseum.ie.
10. Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the city. Construction began in the mid 1900’s and it was dedicated, jointly, to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and to St. Nicholas. Visitors can enjoy the impressive architecture or attend mass at appointed times.
Construction began in 1958 and was completed in 1965, making this building the youngest of the great stone cathedrals in Europe. The architecture has a variety of influences, visitors will find Renaissance styles mixed with the broad tradition of Christian art.
Music is a mainstay in the cathedral as there has been an adult choir based here since its unveiling. Visitors will find an impressive pipe organ which was first built in 1966 and then further expanded by famous Irish organ-builder Trevor Crowe in the early 21st century.