Day Trips from Galway
Where The House Hotel is located, the LatinQuarter is on the left bank of the River Corrib from O’Briens Bridge down to the Spanish Arch.
In this small and sociable place you’ll come by many of Galway’s favourite pubs, bars, restaurants, galleries and shops. If you’re on the hunt for classic Irish arts and crafts you’ll be in luck at the Latin Quarter, where shops like the Galway Woollen Market abound with traditional knitwear and are stocked with the local pure wool you’ll need for your own project. Street-performers and entertainers provide a constant folk soundtrack whether you’re window shopping, seeing the sights or bar-hopping.
Galway’s main public space is just up from the Latin Quarter, and was originally a town green in front of the old gates, used for markets. In the 2000s Eyre Square was completely re-landscaped at huge expense, becoming a modern plaza. There’s a bronze cast of a statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, one of Ireland’s foremost Irish-language writers, and a bust of John F. Kennedy whohad the freedom of Galway. The 14 Tribes of Galway are also represented withflags bearing the family colours. The Eyre Square Centre on the south border ofthe square is Galway’s prime shopping centre, with more than 70 high streetchains and eateries, which our sister hotel The Hardiman is also located.
Sloping down to the river in the Latin Quarter, Quay Street is afun and friendly pedestrian artery with colourful storefronts, trendy shops andrestaurant and bar terraces under awnings.Rain or shine there are buskers alongthe way playing jaunty tunes.There’s a fun, welcoming buzz in all the pubs,which also have live music, dancing and reasonable prices despite being bang onthe tourist trail.Between the eateries and bars are stores like Twice as Nice,purveying vintage clothes and wool, or the Wooden Heart next door, making itsown traditional wooden toys.
Headsouthwest of the city centre and you’ll soon come to the Salthill Promenade,two kilometres long with a beautiful perspective from the north side of thebay.If you’re fortunate enough to walk the promenade when the skies are clearyou’ll see the outline of The Burren down in County Clare, while up in thenorthwest are the peaks of Connemara.The land behind the promenade was setaside for farming until the Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century, andwas then set up for early tourism in 1860 with the arrival of the EglintonHotel, which is still here today.The promenade is lined with bars, seafoodrestaurants and cafes.You can drop in at the Galway Atlantaquaria, run by theNational Aquarium of Ireland, or watch the yacht sails zipping across the waterin summer.
To lookat Galway Cathedral you could be mistaken for thinking that this dignifiedlimestone construction is centuries old.In truth it was begun in 1958 andcompleted in 1965, on the site of Galway’s old city prison.The architecture isa big jumble, and has Romanesque influences in its plain walls and narrowsemi-circular window arches, Gothic in its traceried rose above the mainportal, and Renaissance in its barrel vault and magnificent dome reminiscent ofIl Duomo di Firenze.The windows are the work of British stained glass artistPatrick Pollen, who also produced a mosaic depicting the crucifixion and StJoseph the Worker, while the German-Irish sculptor Imogen Stuart created animage of the Virgin Mary.
Datingback to 1320, this church is Ireland’s largest medieval parish church hostingregular services.It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint ofseafarers and constructed from Galway’s signature grey limestone.In the middleof the 17th century the largest body of Irish genealogical lore, Leabhar nanGenealach, recording the heritage of families across Ireland, was written atthis very place.Most of the architecture is from the 14th and 15th centurieswhen the church was enlarged.You can find evidence of iconoclasm inside,carried out by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century.Thebaptismal font is from roughly this period and has an image of a dog carvedinto its side, while the oldest ledger stone in the church belongs to one AdamBures, dating back to the 1200s.
Rightbeside The House Hotel, by the Corrib River, the Galway City museum opened in anew building in 2007 and is a free and multifaceted attraction coveringGalway’s archaeology, folk history, art and natural history.You can see atraditional Galway sailboat, known as a “hooker”, and the “Great Mace” amagnificent piece of ornamental silverware produced in Dublin at the start ofthe 18th century.Fragments from the 16th and 17th centuries are presented inthe “Medieval Stone Collection”, which has corbels, plaques, coats of arms, chimneyfragments and two complete 16th-century fireplaces.There’s also a photographygallery documenting the city from the 1950s onwards, and artefacts like pipes,bottles and tin signs from Galway’s pubs dating to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Namedafter one of Galway’s 14 Tribes, the quaint Kirwan’s Lane lies inside Galway’sformer city walls.This tight pedestrian street curves through a ravine ofrustic stone houses that have elements dating back to the 16th and 17thcenturies.These buildings hold pubs, restaurants, cafes and arts and craftsshops, and outdoor tables skirt the path when the weather’s good.BuskerBrowne’s Pub here has the vestiges of the Dominican Slate Nunnery, donated byJohn Kirwan in 1686.
Right infront of the Galway City Museum are the last surviving arches of the Ceann anBhalla, or Front Wall.Known as the Spanish Arch, this structure was part ofdefence running from the old Martin’s Tower to the Corrib River to defendGalway’s quays.And while the arches aren’t exactly a stirring monument it’sworth remembering that they date all the way back to 1584, and also sustaineddamage from the tsunami caused by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.
May toSeptember you can catch this boat up the River Corrib to the lake (lough) ofthe same name.The Corrib River Princess sails twice a day from Woodquay in themiddle of the city and on the 90-minute trip you’ll journey through green,pastoral countryside, with farms on the south and east shore of the lake andheath and bog to the north and west.The lake is also loved for its manyislands, with more than 1,300 at the last count.On the river you’ll pass theruins of Menlo Castle, a 16th-century mansion that burnt down in 1910 and isnow completely taken over by ivy.The Corrib Princess sets off at 12:30 and14:30, and there’s an extra trip at 16:30 in July and August.
ConnemaraNational Park Galway is on a feted tourist trail that clings to Ireland’s westcoast for 2,500 kilometres from the country’s northernmost point at Malin Headin town to Kinsale Harbour in the very south. Galway is roughly at the halfwaypoint and has amazing road trips to the north and south. You could head downinto The Burren in County Clare, where there’s an otherworldly glaciated kastlandscape full of photogenic rock formations like limestone pavement. Head upthe coast and you’ll come to the Connemara National Park, which has over 50peaks in four mountain ranges. The cone-shaped Diamond Hill from the village ofLetterfrack has one of Ireland’s best hikes, past a 5,000-year-old tomb and upto a summit blessed with far-off mountain and ocean views.
WhereGalway Bay joins the Atlantic is an archipelago of small rocky islands that youcan reach by ferry.At the height of summer there’s a handy inter-island serviceallowing you to jump from place to place.The farming communities on the AranIslands came about after centuries of ploughing and enriching the soil withseaweed, and in their isolation the Aran Islands have kept a quiet ruralcharacter that can’t easily be found in modern Europe.For one, Irish Gaelic isstill the first language here.The islands are still defended by prehistoricforts like the awesome Dún Aonghasa, posted atop 100-metre-high cliffs onInishmore.The islands’ pastures are criss-crossed by limestone dry-stone wallsthat have stood for centuries, and hiking trails will lead you to cliffs andbeaches battered by the Atlantic, hollowed-out Medieval churches and yet moreNeolithic forts.
Rumouredto be the most photographed castle in Ireland, the 16th-century tower house isundoubtedly picturesque.You can find it about half an hour from Galway on anoutcrop on the south side of the bay, surrounded on all but one side by water.Boththe 23-metre tower and its encircling wall date back to 1520 when they were putup by the Hynes Clan, which had been in this region for a millennium.The castlewas restored in the 1920s by Oliver St John Gogarty, whose guests includedliterary greats like W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and George Bernard Shaw.In thesummer you can go in for a “Dunguaire Castle Banquet”, to feast onmedieval-style fare and be regaled by live entertainment, particularly thepoems of Yeats