Getaway to Galway

Written by  Kellie Meyer

Discover the Western Coast of Ireland. With Galway as your gateway, you will experience authentic Irish culture and discover the Ireland you always imagined; never ending fields of green in Connemara, astounding coastal scenery in the Aran Islands, warm cottages and medieval castles in Kinvara, and the natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. Some of the most beautiful sights in Ireland are right within your reach.  

Arrival:  

Arrive at the Galway Airport, which is conveniently located about fifteen minutes outside the city centre, allowing you to begin your holiday as quickly and easily as possible. By either bus or taxi, enter into the heart of Galway, where the epitome of Irish heritage and culture awaits you.

If you have to fly into one of the larger airports, like Dublin International, you have only to travel about two and a half hours.  

Day 1: “Galway: A little city with a big heart”

I would begin the day with a relaxing walk through Galway - which feels more like a small town then Ireland's fourth largest city. Wander down the small cobblestone roads scattered with warm, inviting pubs and unique boutiques. I discovered that this charming little town is more like something out of a pop-up story book than a typical touristy city.  You can grab a cup of traditional Irish coffee, take a seat next to the Oscar Wilde statue on Shop Street, and just observe the people passing by. You’ll discover so much about the culture just by watching the locals in their daily routine.

While taking in all that Galway has to offer, chances are you will see a musical street performer or two. Galway is known as the cultural capital of Ireland. During the day, performers crowd the streets; at night, live music can be heard from many of the pubs. ‘The Quays’, incidentally on Quay Street, is a great place to go to hear live bands and for that traditional Irish pub atmosphere.

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Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral

Make your way towards the water, to the Spanish Arch, built in the 16th century as an extension of the city walls to protect the town. Today the Arch is also home to the Galway City Museum. Finish exploring the ‘Latin Quarter’ - don’t miss the famous Lynch’s Castle, now an Allied Irish Bank – then move towards Eyre Square, a popular square and meeting spot in the centre of the city surrounded by plenty of pubs, shops, and restaurants. Maybe stop here for a bite to eat before walking over the Salmon Weir Bridge for magnificent views of Galway Cathedral, one of the largest buildings in Galway. Completed in 1965, this cathedral is a landmark of the city as well as a place of worship. Its massive 145 foot dome makes it noticeable on any skyline view of the city. (If you enjoy visiting this Cathedral then stop by St. Nicholas’ Church, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland.) Follow the River Corrib downstream and end up back where you started, just in time to hear tonight’s live music at the Quays.

Day 2: “Cycling in Connemara

Galway is well located on the Western Coast of Ireland making the destinations on your holiday extremely accessible and convenient. The pristine mountains, gorgeous lakes, and impressive coastal views make Connemara a perfect first stop on your trip.

West of Country Galway, Connemara terrain and climate is ideal for sporting. Go cycling through the country-side or horse-back riding on the coast for a unique and exciting way to explore the area. Visit the Connemara National Park and take a walk through this massive park, covering nearly 3,000 hectares of land and see the famous ‘Twelve Bens’ range.

Day 3: Galway - “Centre of Culture”

After your first visit to another Irish town, relax back in your momentary home; Galway. You have already done your own walking tour throughout most of the city. So today, delve into the city even more. Maybe see the Town Clock in the tower of Saint Nicholas Church, and while you’re there, take a look inside one of the oldest parish churches in Ireland. If you happen to be here on a Saturday, check out Galway Market outside the gates of the church.  

Summertime is a huge tourist season for Galway. It is an amazing time to visit Galway not only for the weather, fishing, and beautiful colours, but it is the time of year Ireland’s largest annual arts festival; the Galway Arts Festival. The Festival has been celebrated since 1978 and brings together artists from all over the world. Each July, the city is bustling with over 100,000 people attending the festival to see over 500 writers, performers, artists, musicians, street art, photography, and many other international arts on display.  

If you cannot make it to Galway in the summer, there are still many other festivals for you to attend throughout the year. One unique festival to check out is the Galway International Oyster Festival which takes place each September.  What began as a clever idea to extend tourist season into September is now voted one of the 12 greatest shows on earth. This one of kind Irish tradition is celebrated at the end of September from Thursday to Sunday. You can enjoy great entertainment, art, and of course, never ending plates of delicious oysters.

Connemara
Connemara
Galway Arts Festival
Galway Arts Festival
Aran Islands
Aran Islands
Kinvara
Kinvara

Day 4: “Ferry to Aran Islands

Located in the heart of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are just something you simply cannot miss on your visit to Galway, or Ireland in general. (Allow two hours from Galway, a 45 minute shuttle bus to Rossaveel Dock, and then take a short, scenic ferry ride to the islands.)

There are three Aran Islands, Inis Mor (Big Island), Inis Meain (Middle Island), and Inis Oirr (East Island). The islands are filled with history; forts, churches, lighthouses can be found throughout the three islands. In Inis Mor, the largest and most popular island of the three, you will find the ‘Dun Aonghasa’ a famous stone fort overlooking the Atlantic. In Inis Oirr sits the remains of Obriens castle overlooking the sea. There are quaint little villages, like Killronan in Inis Mor – the main port for the ferries – that have great shopping and restaurants serving fresh seafood.

Day 5: “Galway- Kinvara- Dunguaire”

Today you can visit the charming little sea port town of Kinvara- just 30 minutes away from your hub, Galway. It is known as the picturesque seaside village. You’ll get a great feel for authentic Irish culture in this quaint town. You can walk down the small streets, maybe look through the shops or stop in an Irish pub. Or you can take a relaxing boat ride or horse ride in the country.

Make sure to leave time in the day to check out Dunguaire Castle, probably the most famous land mark in Kinvara. Dunguaire is a 16th century castle built on the shores of Galway Bay. The castle gives amazing views of Kinvara. You can tour it during the day then stay for night time dinner entertainment at the Dunguaire Castle Banquet. Relive medieval celebrations with a banquet at the castle. It will be an extremely unique experience and a perfect way to end your day. You can spend your night in a little Irish bed and breakfast, which will make it easier to continue your journey to the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren tomorrow.

Day 6: “Dicover the Cliffs of MoherThe Burren

During your stay in Galway, you must take a day trip to one of the most famous and breathtaking sights in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher - located just an hour and a half away from Galway.

Once you visit, you will find why this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland, just its sheer size (a drop into the Atlantic Ocean is about 700 feet) makes it an incredible work of nature. Make sure to visit O’Brien’s Tower, the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. The tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing platform for tourists; even back then the cliffs drew in visitors, so you know it must be worthwhile. Walk up to the top for spectacular views of the cliffs and across the Atlantic looking out onto the Aran Islands and the Twelve Bens in Connemara.

Take your time to soak up the picturesque scenery then pack up to check out some even more rocks. The Burren is another popular tourist attraction in Western Ireland for its Karst limestone formations. The rock formation makes you feel like your hiking on the moon, with the many fractures in the surface. Many plants cannot grow in this area, but somehow, some survive that are not found anywhere else in Ireland. The Burren is a great place to hike, hopping from plate to plate, dodging the cracks.

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

Day 7: “Galway- Say good-bye to the city that felt like home”

I can guarantee that you will miss Galway and want to spend your last day wandering through its magical streets and soaking up the authentic Irish culture. First, go for a walk down Salthil promenade. It is about two miles long from one end to the other but you don’t necessarily have to walk the entire thing. You can go jogging, rollerblading, or biking. It is a just a marvellous walk with amazing views of the Bay and green mountains in the distance. The path should run right into the Spanish Arch, an area you are familiar with from your very first day. 

Nearby the Spanish Arch is the Claddagh Ring Museum. Both a museum and jewellry shop, ‘Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold’ tells the history of the famous claddagh ring that is believed to have originated in the fishing village near the ‘Claddagh’ of Galway Bay. I purchased my very own Galway Claddagh ring here. It is a great souvenir from your Irish holiday.

As you continue to walk around, you’ll hear the sound of the musical street performers playing that all too familiar song, Galway Girl (by now you probably know all the words). These small details are what give Galway so much character. It is what separates it from all the other towns in Ireland. Galway has its own unique identity that no other city can attempt to recreate. Your visit here will be amongst the most memorable in your life, because you did not just go to a museum and learn the history or just observe the Irish culture; you became a part of it.

Goodbye Galway
Goodbye Galway

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