GALWAY

Galway is wild and bohemian, and at the same time full of culture, artistry, exceptional food and music

By Katie Lowry

Galway, situated on the west coast of Ireland, is a vibrant harbour city where the River Corrib flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Galway achieved 4th place on the Lonely Planet’s renowned list of “ best cities in the world to visit in 2020.” This lively and “buzzing” city has finally been recognized for its liveliness and as “arguably Ireland’s most engaging city.”

Galway was also announced as the European Capital of Culture for 2020 where it will provide a year long stretch of cultural activities from February 2020 to January 2021 across the whole city. Patricia Philbin, Galway 2020 chief executive said, “it’s official – Galway is the place to be in 2020!”

Galway for tourists and locals alike offers a lively traditional music scene that dominates the city. ‘Shop Street’ the main high street in the city centre merges with shops and pubs to create an atmosphere like no other in Ireland.

The unique cobbled streets and its offset streets offer a glimpse into a rural Ireland detached from the times and a peek into the past. For incoming tourists’ pubs such as ‘Rosin Dubh’, ‘An Pucan’ and ‘Tig Coili’ offer the opportunity to hear traditional, unique music first-hand while perhaps tasting some of Galway’s own craft beers.

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 Galway has produced many successful artists such as ‘The Saw Doctors’, Mike Denver and Sean Tyrrell, each of these offering a different take on the Irish music scene. A mix of pubs and the Galway Arts Theatre has offered these musicians an excellent platform to boost their talent. 

Interestingly Galway has found the ability to mix traditional Irish music with a modern touch. Tourists can be treated to anything from country to modern electronic dance music or ‘techno’ in the Monroes bar. The city offers numerous nightclubs for adventurous tourists such as ‘Electric’ and ‘DNA’. 

If you arrive in Galway during the summer months and partying is on the agenda, then head up to the area around Spanish Arch, unofficially named “Buckfast Plaza,” where the “craic” is mighty and the sun divine, on a long summer’s day.

As tourism booms in the county, businesses are flocking to the city and Galway is the newest city to soon host the English Weatherspoon’s pub as part of their 200m plan to expand their business. This represents yet another avenue tourists will soon be able take in Galway, as a cheaper alternative to the rest of the nightlife scene.

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One thing in particular that Galway has an abundance of is sporting spectacles. Tourists can try their hand at numerous sports across the county. A great example of this being Pure Skill, just a short drive away from Salthill situated in Knocknacarra. This interesting adventure can allow tourists to try numerous sports from our very own Hurling and Gaelic football to American styled Basketball and baseball. A fun day out for any age group, family and friends alike and it allows everyone involved an opportunity to glimpse into all areas of sport in Ireland.

Perhaps a different take on sport on Galway will lead to relaxing yet challenging trips to the lynx golf courses doted about the county. The stunning golf course in Connemara offers its own take on lynx golf with beautiful fairways and spectacular views across the coastline. For those that wish to lay witness to the fierce competitive nature of our amateur sports in the GAA, Galway offer its very own Pearse stadium for all county games and club battles.

The coast of Galway is never far and can lead to fun activities such as wind surfing, Canoeing and Surfing with lessons widely available. If you prefer the more relaxing side of the seaside, one can take in the breath-taking views from the numerous beaches across Galway such as Gurteen Bay and Salthill. Salthill in particular, could be of keen interest to holiday goers as it is situated a short walk from the city centre and mixes sporting activities with shops, restaurants and a beautiful walkway.

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A unique part of the Irish culture is Gaeilge, the Irish language. The west of Ireland is one of the only areas in the country where the language remains alive.

If you would like to visit one of these regions in Galway, you are spoilt for choice and will dive into the heart of Irish culture upon arrival. Think traditional music, the Irish language, singing, dancing and Irish heritage and folklore.

The three Gaeltacht areas of the Aran Island’s include Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr in the Atlantic Ocean. The other option westwards from Galway city is the Connemara and Galway Gaeltacht. Why wouldn’t you dive into this “throwback” lifestyle?

Irish dancing has been embedded in the roots of Irish culture dating back years with the love and passion still evident today. “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” remain incredibly popular and continue to be a global phenomenon. From Ceilidh’s in the town hall, to Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” video to Broadway concerts, it would certainly be a shame to miss a show or partake in a class yourself.

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There are a huge range of museums and landmarks to choose from in Galway if you would like to immerse yourself in the history of a city deep rooted in culture.

 Visit the Fisheries Watchtower Museum, Clifden Castle on the Sky Road, Kinvara, The Salthill Promenade, The Claddagh Ring Museum, Dún Aonghasa Building Ruins, Eyre Square and the bustling Spanish Arch. At the mouth of Galway Bay, one must visit the MV Plassy, a historic cargo vessel from the 1950s, a historians and photographers dream.

Connemara is certainly a “must see” if you are heading west. The picturesque landscape and beautiful scenery make it a hidden gem which is held close to those hearts who have visited this unique place situated on the north west corner of Galway. You can get there from Galway via the N59 or the R336, both driving through the charming and winding countryside.

Connemara can be described as endless bog land accompanied with a jumble of rivers, lakes, meadows and striking mountains with an untouched, rugged coastline. Simply gorgeous!

Take a day trip out or have a magnificent stay in a traditional BnB or hotel absent from the real world and immersed in nature. Hike up the 12 Bens Mountains or perhaps fishing, golf, horse riding or water sports are more up your alley, Connemara offers it all. It’s simply “a playground for outdoor activities.”

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The Connemara history and heritage centre, Alock and Brown Memorial, Connemara National Park and Greenway, Glengowla Mines in Oughterard, , Kylemore Abbey & Walled Victorian Gardens, Clifden Castle and Cleggan are a few examples of what could be instore should you bask in the delight that is Connemara.

Galway is not just a city on the Emerald Isle rich with culture but a city suitable for any shopper looking for a unique experience.

There are of course your staple high street shops, but the rare finds are located in small areas, dotted around the city including the Latin Quarter and the Westend. Church lane presents you with an exciting and energetic outdoor market, dating back centuries situated by St. Nicholas Church.

The Galway races provides both locals and tourists with an exciting day or week of entertainment at the renowned Ballybrit racecourse, located about 25 mins from the city centre, making it an easily accessible day out. The horse-races have developed over time from a 2-day event in 1869 to now week-long summer festival, this year starting on the 27th of July. Become one of the 150 thousand spectators to brace the annual event.

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If style and elegance is up your street, why not get dressed up to the nines for Ladies Day, which is traditionally held on the Thursday each year and is typically the busiest day of the week where ladies can compete for the legendary “Best Dressed” prize.

Not only is Galway’s pub and night club scene thriving, but it’s no better time for all you foodies out there,  to try Galway’s buzzing restaurant delights. From fine dining, Michelin stars, quirky brunches and vegan options, Galway offers it all. Stop in “The Lighthouse” to try some vegan and vegetarian pleasures or for the meat eaters try “Handsome Burger,” voted Ireland’s best burger in 2019, located at 49 Dominick Street Lower. Head to the bustle of Eyre Square and enjoy an exquisite  7 course tasting menu at Michelin star restaurant “Loam.” “The Front Door” supplies delicious pub grub and “Ard Bia” supplies a top brunch, and these are just a few recommendations!

Every September Galway plays host to the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, one of the longest running festivals of all time in this category, dating all the way back to 1954.

This spectacle of an event occurs on the last weekend of September, which is the first month of the oyster season, annually. Last year about 22,000 people joined the celebration, with tonnes of oysters consumed which is a far cry from the 34 attendees in 1954.

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The Irish Oyster Opening Championship and the World Oyster Opening Championship are the two main events over the weekend. You may also participate in cooking demonstrations, jazz classes and circus skills workshops, a seafood trail and the Masquerade Gala “Mardi-Gras” to name a few.

Ireland may be the Emerald Isle but Galway may be the jewel of Ireland.

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