I recently spent the day in Galway – the city with a rich history that dates back to 800 years ago. It’s the perfect place to spend the day wandering along cobblestone streets and learning about Irish history. Everywhere you go in this town it looks like it was ripped from the pages of a story book.
With barren fields, a river running through, stark mountain ranges, and beautiful cathedral’s Galway is incredibly picturesque.
The city takes its name from the Gaillimh river (River Corrib) that formed the western boundary of the earliest settlement, which was called Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe, or the fort at the mouth of the Gaillimhe. The word Gaillimh means “stony” as in “stony river”.
What to do:
1. Find someone to buy you a Claddagh Ring.
Irish Claddagh rings have been worn as symbols of friendship and/or marriage in Ireland since the 17th century. The design shows a pair of hands holding a heart, which carries a crown on top of it. The heart is meant to symbolize love, the hands friendship and the crown loyalty.
Apparently, if you buy one for yourself, you will be unlucky in love.
When worn on the right ring finger with crown pointing away from the heart it signifies that you are open to love. When worn on the left ring finger with the crown pointed towards the heart, you are announcing to the world that you are engaged or married. Replicas can be found at most tourist shops but authentic rings can be bought at Thomas Dillon’s, which is the original makers of the original Claddagh ring and has a very interesting small museum.
2. Say a prayer at the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven
One of the largest buildings in the city which dates back to the late 1950’s. Dedicated to the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, often shortened to the Assumption, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church is the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.
The building was constructed from limestone. It has an eclectic style, with renaissance dome, pillars and round arches, and a Romanesque portico that dominates the main facade — an unusual feature in modern Irish church building.
3. Admire Eyre Square
Presented to the city in 1970 by the Mayor Edward Eyre (that’s how it got it’s name).
Galway is the third largest city in Ireland.
4. See Lynch’s Memorial Window
This memorial of the stern and unbending justice of the chief magistrate of this city, James Lynch Fitzstephen, elected mayor A.D. 1493, who condemned and executed his own son, who was found guilty for murder, on this spot, has been restored to its ancient site.
5. Stroll the famous promenade in Salthill.
6. Have brunch at the legendary McDonagh’s
This family-run restaurant has been serving seafood since 1902. The food is simply delicious and affordable.
The great Paolo Tullio once found Ireland’s best bag of chips at this place.
7. Meet the locals
Galway’s has the largest Irish (Gaeltacht) speaking community in the country. It’s also known as the “Cultural Heart of Ireland” due to its thriving traditions in music and dance.
8. Check out The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas
Founded in 1320, St. Nicholas is largest medieval parish church in Ireland. It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, known today as Santa Claus. The house of worship has attracted many notable visitors over the years, including Christopher Columbus, who prayed there during a visit to Galway in 1477.
9. Visit the Spanish Arch
Built in 1584, the arch stands on the left bank of the River Corrib, where Galway’s river meets the sea. It is the remainder of a 16th century bastion, added to the town’s walls to protect merchant ships from looting. At this time, it was known as Ceann an Bhalla (Head of the Wall).
10. Buy an Aran Sweater
The Aran Islands: Inis Mór (Big Island), Inis Meáin (Middle island) and Inis Oírr (East island) lie just outside Galway Bay and just miles from the Clare coast and the Cliffs of Moher on the West coast of Ireland. These islands are home to Ireland’s major contribution to international style.
First worn by fishermen who needed protection from the harsh weather conditions found in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Ireland. These durable, hard-wearing, warm and even waterproof, the Aran Sweater was the perfect practical companion for any fisherman. The fashion was only a secondary concern to them!
The city is also known for having the most festivals in Ireland every year. They recently won the bid to host the European Capital of Culture 2020, and other popular festivals include the Galway Races, Arts Festival (July), Oyster Festival (September), Food Festival (Easter) and more. info at galwayfestivals.com
Most Irish people say that Galway provides glimpses of Ireland as it used to be, while also having a thriving urban centre at its heart. It’s definitely one place to visit!
If you’d like to experience this, book a tour to Cliffs of Moher and Galway City with Wildrover Tours.