Galway, the largest county in Connaught, is celebrated in song and story throughout the world and takes centre stage on Ireland’s western seaboard. A spectacularly beautiful county, it is a medley of contrasts - the wildest and remotest of countryside teamed with one of Europe’s most vibrant and popular cities. Drawn as if by a magnet, visitors come again and again, captivated by this most special of Irish counties.
Galway City at the mouth of Galway Bay is both a picturesque and lively city with a wonderful avant-garde culture and a fascinating mixture of locally owned speciality shops, often featuring locally made crafts. Indeed local handcrafts are a feature of the entire region including hand knits, pottery, glass, jewellery and woodwork.
The city has many relics of its medieval past and is worth taking time to explore. It has changed considerably over the last number of years and features a fascinating juxtaposition of new and ancient architecture. The centre of the city is conveniently compact enough to ramble around comfortably.
Anyone who knows the song ‘Galway Bay’ will be familiar with the Claddagh, previously a fishing village of thatched cottages, now an area just outside the city centre. Here is the birthplace of the world famous Claddagh ring, a souvenir many bring home, just to keep a little piece of Galway with them always.
As you would expect, Galway has a huge range of activities for the holidaymaker to enjoy. Golfers will find themselves spoilt for choice between excellent links and parkland courses, the equal of any in the world but without the sting of exorbitant green fees. Horse riding and trekking is another popular way to unwind in this the native county of the Connemara pony. Walking trails to suit all tastes are available both around the city and in the countryside. Hill walkers will find many fine routes in Connemara and the Twelve Bens and the scenery is unsurpassable. So much coastline is a good indicator of the variety of watersports available.
Fishing is always a popular option in Galway - every visitor to the city will have visited the famous Salmon Weir Bridge. Coarse fishing, river angling and sea angling are also available locally.
Thoor Ballylee ... a tower set by a stream’s edge W.B. Yeats, Nobel Prize winner, poet and senator bought this ancient Norman Tower and adjoining cottages in 1916 for the princely sum of £35. He had admired it many times on visits to his patron, Lady Gregory in nearby Coole Park. This castle was to be his Tower, his inspiration and his retreat. His collection of poems “The Tower” contains several poems written at or about Thoor Ballylee. The Tower had been lovingly restored and looks much this same as it did in the 1920’s when the Yeats family lived there.
Today, visitors can tour the tower guided by an audio visual presentation on the history of Yeats’ life and the tower (Irish, English, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish) in each room. In addition there are beautiful gardens and a picnic area, Ballylee Mill, a craft shop, Bureau de Change and tourist information.[A Galway Hooker boat at Crinniú na mBad festival, Kinvara. Dunguaire Castle can be seen in the background.]
Another castle associated with Yeats is Dunguaire Castle, which was the venue for the literary revivalists. Today, the bardic tradition is reflected in the nightly Medieval Banquet. The entertainment celebrates the richness of Ireland’s literary and musical past and evokes the colourful characters who are so much a part of the castle’s history.
Follow the trail of the famed Galway Salmon on its journey from the Corrib River to Galway Bay and beyond. Galway Atlantaquaria, the national aquarium, presents a comprehensive view of the world of water, imaginatively recreating natural habitats, from the seabed to local rivers and lakes - even the city canals.
Presented in an attractive, entertaining layout, it provides an enjoyable and educational environment in which to learn about the diverse marine eco-system of Ireland. Uniquely amongst Irish aquariums, Atlantaquaria features both freshwater and saltwater exhibits. Children especially love the ‘touch pools’ where they can handle live creatures like starfish and crabs.
The deep sea experience features over 170 species of fish including conger eel, ray and lobster. Fun features include one which gives the visitor a ‘fish eye view’ of a waterfall and a deep submarine vehicle where you can experience the feeling of being deep underwater.
Nestling into the hillside beneath the Twelve Bens is the restored cottage of Dan O’Hara. A tenant farmer who was evicted and forced into emigration, he lost his wife and three children on the way to New York. His 8 acre farm is farmed today as it would have been in pre-famine times and the award winning Heritage Centre offers a fascinating glimpse of rural Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. Visitors can enjoy a carriage ride through the centre and see demonstrations of turf cutting, sheep herding and other traditional tasks.
Uncover the story of the medieval walled town of Athenry. Enjoy the interpretative display and try your hand at the ancient sport of archery.
Discover the roots of Ireland’s turbulent history at this award winning centre. This dramatic clash of Jacobites and Williamites in 1691 involved 45,000 soldiers from nine European nations and could be heard 35 miles away in Galway City.
Ireland’s only show mine, Glengowla Silver and Lead Mine is located two miles outside Oughterard. Take a guided tour through marble chambers and caverns, see silver, lead, calcite, quartz and mineral formations in this underground wonderland. Islands
Take a ferry to another world. Visit picturesque Inishbofin from the tiny fishing village of Cleggan near Clifden or to the world famous Aran Islands from Rossaveal or Galway. Walk, hire a bike, ride a horse, see historical features and wonders, learn to relax. The islands are truly in a world of their own.
Set in the heart of Connemara, Kylemore Abbey has been the home of the Benedictine Nuns since 1920. Originally built by Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife, it is one of the great neo-Gothic castles of the period. The restored Gothic Church, a miniature cathedral, is a building of international importance. The lakeside grounds are peaceful and beautiful and feature an excellent café and craft shop. The most recent addition to the attractions at Kylemore is the six acre Victorian Walled Garden which was one of the most impressive in Ireland and is almost restored to its former glory. It includes a formal flower garden, a kitchen garden and a range of glass houses. The Bothy, the Tool Shed and the Lime Kiln are also open to the public.
This beautifully situated centre overlooks Killary Harbour and concentrates on the local sheep and wool industry. Wool handcrafts including carding, spinning, weaving and using natural dyes are all demonstrated. Over twenty different breeds of sheep graze on the surrounding land - be amazed at ‘one man and his dog’ working together in total harmony and rounding them up effortlessly.
Just outside Oranmore, this wonderful amenity is created around an ancient castle, a stately home and a fine estate demesne dating from the 16th century. With an extensive network of walks through woodlands, open farmland and by the sea, the park offers a recreational facility of outstanding quality and beauty. Admission is free.