What to see in Galway?
Galway is probably one of the best-known cities in Ireland after Dublin. Located on the West Coast, it is one of those cities where students abound, and a destination for immigrants looking to learn English while working. My expectations were quite high, and as sometimes happens, they largely fell.
Galway has a medieval center that is starred by the central street (Shop St.). I hoped it would be bigger and less overwhelming, even if it was summer. But no, it is small and crowded with people at all hours, full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops that invade part of the road with their terraces and exhibitors. This atmosphere may be more bucolic, traditional or charming outside of the high season.
Perhaps as a “mini” version of other cities and towns in Ireland, it is worth it. But if you go to the island for longer and not just to party, it may be too small for you. Maybe it was because it was not easy to find a quiet place to rest and watch life and its characters go by … (you know, some benches, those strange things that used to be in the street and people used to sit down, and that lately shine by its absence).
It is true that he also told us the worst weather of the trip: raging rain and wind. It even took us to spend a few hours at the Bed & Breakfast reading or writing. However, the sun also came out, at times. You know what they say in Ireland “one day, four seasons”.
Galway is well known for its festive atmosphere
And I will not be the one to say otherwise. It is easy to find groups playing in any pub on the main street and on the same street. The ones we saw were very good.
Ah! One detail: they have their own beer here , apart from Guinness. Her name is Hooker , she’s blonde, and she’s not bad at all, although she’s more expensive than the others. A pint of Hooker together with a pot of steamed mussels or with garlic sauce – a specialty of this part of the coast -, for example, go well 🙂
Its Cathedral is quite beautiful, although it is best to get there by the walk along the Corrib river. Suitable for pedestrians and bicycles, it is not difficult to see the countrymen fishing with angling. They say that here you can see the salmon going up the river without any problem … whenever the season is, of course. This corner reminded me a bit of Canterbury, in neighboring England.
There is another church that we visited and that I personally liked more. Let’s say it had more personality.
It is the Collegiate Church of San Nicolás de Myra , right in the center.
It is said that Christopher Columbus prayed here in 1477, although it is a somewhat confusing story.
More fame has this other: there is a wing in the church where the graves of the Lynch family are. In one of them are the remains of the magistrate James Lynch (late 15th century) who is famous for having executed his own son, since he had murdered a Spanish visitor. He had to do it himself because no one volunteered to execute sentence. On Market St., outside the church, there is a plaque where all this is told, and where the scaffold is said to have been.
Galway’s history and its ties to Spain
Now that I mentioned that the Spanish were around here … and even, who knows, Christopher Columbus (even if he was not Spanish, I include him), I tell a little about the history of Galway.
- Back in the 13th century, a sleepy little fishing village was transformed into an important urban center when the Anglo-Norman invaders ended the O’Flaherty clan’s rule.
- A long time later, Ricardo II granted it a charter and it became dependent on a council of 14 families or tribes of merchants. Hence the nickname by which it is known: Gaillimh (the Gaelic name for Galway) comes from gaill, which means outsiders or foreigners.
- Already in the s. XV, after a great fire, began to build with stone. A sign of prosperity thanks to the development of the wine, spices, fish and salt trade with Portugal and Spain, even rivaling London !!
- In 1691, after the passing of Cromwell and William of Orange, Galway’s decline began. Dublin and Waterford took the witness from him.
Precisely one of the corners and icons of Galway is a place called Spanish Arch . As its name indicates, it is an arch under which it is said that the ships that transported goods recently arrived from Spain, such as wine and brandy, passed. Today it is next to the river, and as you can see it can be crossed on foot. What was a canal has become a street.
Just after passing under the Spanish Arch stands a modern building.
It is the Museum of the City, which I recommendto take a walk because it is very pleasant and curious. It is also free. Right there there is a cafeteria-restaurant that allows you to get out of the junk food that is served in most places, without leaving you a kidney to eat well and healthier.
Where to stay in Galway: the West Side neighborhood
We stayed in one of the hundreds of houses on the other side of the Corrib River, on what they call the West Side . This is a neighborhood that is two kicks from the center. Curiously, we were dissuaded by those from the tourist information office, but the truth is that it is where there are more accommodations and at a better price than in the center. To give you an idea, we paid € 50 for a double room (without breakfast), with a car space to park (August 2012).
The two hostels (much cheaper) in Galway were full and although we were about to stay in one, the girl had finally made a mistake with the reservation software. If you want this option you have to book in advance, but that forces you to plan things a lot, and in this case we didn’t want to.
What to see around Galway
Galway is the point that all the guides point to when visiting the Aran Islands, but you should know that from Doolin, next to the Cliffs of Moher, there are also boats that come and go.
From Galway, actually, either you go by car to the port where the ferries leave, which is a few kilometers from Galway (and you can already search the maps well, it was difficult for us to locate it !!), or you sign up to one of the excursions that leave from the city. If you want to book, you can do it from here, and so you help me maintain the blog. In the end, we had to leave it because “the chosen day” was a bad time.
The fact is that we got up early and headed down the road to the port, lest things change. As things were still ugly, we passed by and approached Carraroe beach. A cemetery at the foot of the shore welcomed us. I don’t know how the coffins don’t float out !! A most poetic site.
After contemplating a little the sea and the open sky, we returned to Galway because it was windy, it was raining, and we did not want to be out in the open. Why deny it.
Maybe Galway disappointed me because we spent too much time on it. Understand me, there are places where you insist on spending two or three days, and in the end it is not worth it. It always depends on how your body gets you. In my case, I wanted to go back to the countryside and enjoy open horizons.