If you’re visiting in the summer, make time for a trip to Salthill Beaches (you can go in the winter as well but you will need a hardier constitution). The beaches are actually several small beaches separated by outcrops; some are pebbly and some are sandy. Named a Special Area of Conservation, they are naturally beautiful, providing the perfect place to swim in the warmer weather, or join activities such as a Beach Safari, which is particularly good for family holidays.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and are like something out of Lord of the Rings. At their highest point they stretch for five miles along the Atlantic Coast and on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains. The cliffs have a 2000 year history and the name derives from a first century BC fort that stood where Moher Tower now stands. They are imbued with myths, legends and footpaths to wander along, and have even made their way into movies such as Harry Potter and The Guns of Navarone.
Dubbed the islands of saints and scholars, a day trip to the Aran Islands just off Galway and Doolin, is to have the ultimate Irish experience. There are three islands within the World Heritage Site, home to Celtic churches and spectacular natural scenery that seems almost untouched by the modern world. They are important centres of linguistic and cultural heritage as native born islanders are bilingual in both Irish and English.
For some city exploration, visit St Nicholas Church, a medieval collegiate church in Galway, for a tour to discover its history. Dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of children (Santa Claus) and of mariners, you can learn about everyone from the crusader buried in the grounds, to lepers and the iconoclasm of the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell, all the way up to present day worshippers who keep the candles glowing and the bells ringing.
Also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Eyre Square is a public park in the city centre, that was once a medieval market spot dating back to 1631. In 1965 the square was officially renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in honour of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who had visited and made a speech there in 1963. Nonetheless, despite the renaming the square is still widely known as Eyre Square and continues to be home to a number of monuments and curiosities depicting the area’s history.
built in 1584, the Spanish Arch is on the left bank of the River Corrib, where Galway’s river meets the sea. It is what remains of 16th century bastion that once protected the city from looting. At that time it was called Ceann an Bhalla (Head of the Wall). The name is a bit of a mystery as there are no links between the city and the Spanish, but it remains a curiosity, also featuring a wooden sculpture called Madonna of the Quays, which was sculpted by the well known artist Claire Sheridan during the 50’s.
You can’t visit Ireland and not enjoy the music. The country has a whole has a lyrical tone running through its veins and nowhere is this more evident than in the pub. Traditional Irish music is an integral part of many pubs in Galway where they have built a strong reputation for hosting skilled musicians. Pop into any number of them to enjoy the variety, such as The Quays, The Crane or High Coili.
Containing a number of 16th and 17th century architectural relics, Kirwan’s Lane is located in the city centre and is named after one of Galway’s 14 tribes – the families who ruled the town for several centuries. It was restored and brought back to life recently, and is now home to cafes, restaurants and craft shops alongside its history, including Busker Browne’s Pub which contains part of the Slate Nunnery, given to the Dominican nuns in 1686 by John Kirwan.
Galway has a long established heritage when it comes to eating, with a number of cultural quarters at your disposal offering a variety of fare. From artisanal pie-makers to wood-fired pizzerias and fine dining seafood restaurants, the city has a wealth of opportunities to dine out and have a different experience every night of the week!
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