County Galway hugs the west coast of Ireland with over 40 miles of Atlantic coastline. The weather is likely to be chilly and damp, even in the summer when it’s driest. But as they say, “no one goes to Ireland for the weather,” so pack a windbreaker and a sweater, and get ready to meet the most hospitable countrymen on earth and dive into the Irish culture. Here are nine attractions in and near Galway that you should not miss.
Galway City gets its name from the Gaelic title for the River Corrib, Gaillimh. The city expanded around a fort constructed in 1124 and was ruled by fourteen merchant families known as the “Tribes of Galway” until Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland in 1649. Galway was named the 2020 European Capital of Culture due to its strong tradition of liveliness, song, and dance, and its unique West Irish culture. Some of the highlights you should not miss include Eyre Square, a park dating to medieval times, St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the oldest active medieval church in Galway, and the Browne doorway, the doorway to a residence of the Browne family, one of the fourteen Tribes. Travel Maestro tip: Be sure to partake of the famous culture with some Irish oysters and traditional live music in a local pub.
The Latin Quarter of Galway is a lively area on the left bank of the River Corrib. You’ll find plenty of fun and quirky shops, pubs, and restaurants there and much of the area is pedestrian-only. Landmarks include the Spanish Arch, O’Brien’s Bridge, and the Galway City Museum. Travel Maestro tip: Enjoy local fare and flair at the Galway Saturday market.
Learn more about the Galway culture at the Claddagh Ring Museum and the Galway Irish Crystal Factory. The Ring Museum is housed in Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold, circa 1750, and shows the history and production of the unique Irish heart rings that represent love, loyalty, and friendship. In addition to featuring the artistry of making crystal, the crystal factory also exhibits the histories of the Claddagh Ring, ship-building craftsmanship, and the fourteen tribes.
In 1871, Kylemore Castle, a Gothic Revival mansion was built lakeside in Connemara on the whim of a doctor who inherited a fortune. Over time, he transformed 13,000 acres of bogland into gardens, walks, and woodlands, including a 6-acre walled Victorian garden where only plants and vegetables that grew in Victorian time are grown today. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns bought the property and converted it into Kylemore Abbey, and ran a boarding school for wealthy families from 1923 – 2010.
In 1980, Connemara National Park was established from some of the Kylemore Abbey Estate. It encompasses lush and beautiful mountains (four of the Twelve Bens), bogs, woodlands, lakes, rivers, and valleys. The natural splendor of the area is a magnet for hikers, campers, and photographers. Travel Maestro tip: Try to see the famous Connemara ponies and the 4,000-year-old megalithic tombs.
Clifden is a picturesque 19th-century market town often called the “Capital of Connemara.” Two church spires dominate its skyline against a majestic backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountain range. Travel Maestro tip: In May, salmon leaping upstream to spawn as small waterfalls cascade downstream over the river rocks just add to the charm of this idyllic village.
Cliffs of Moher
The five-mile stretch of the Cliffs of Moher is a breathtaking sight, even when they are shrouded in mist or buffeted by Atlantic gales. The sheer rock face towering up to 650 feet above the sea is home to guillemots and other sea birds. There is a very good visitor center that traces the history, geology, and biology of the region and you can hike the well-worn paths along the cliffs for hours.
The cliffs are part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest coastal touring route. It begins in the northern end of the island and follows the west coast over 1,550 miles through six regions.
The area around Galway has so much beauty, history, and Irish culture to discover, we recommend that you take it slow and enjoy every bit of it. Covington vacation advisors will work with you to custom design your trip with a local tour, a rental car, or a driver-guide. You can stay in hotels, inns, farmhouses, or castles. When you’re ready for Ireland, Ireland is ready to welcome you!