Galway, Ireland

Galway is a gem located along the west-central coastline of Ireland. The “City of Tribes” still displays some of its medieval roots while serving tourists with a wonderful experience including the serenity of the River Corrib and Galway Bay.

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1 Galway Cathedral Façade in Galway, Ireland

The name of this Roman Catholic church is almost as grandiose as the structure itself: The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas. Funding for the project began in 1876. The architect, John J. Robinson, was assigned in 1949 and construction along the west bank of the River Corrib began nine years later. Galway Cathedral opened in 1965. Its cruciform, Renaissance design with a limestone façade is reminiscent of grand European cathedrals despite its relative youth. The Bishop of Galway, the Most Reverend Michael Browne, received some criticism post construction. Those complaints soon faded. Since then, the green copper dome has become an impressive landmark visible from most parts of the city and the bay.

Gaol Rd, Galway, Ireland
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2 Galway Cathedral Inside Dome in Galway, Ireland

Most Catholic churches prior to Vatican II positioned the altar at the front of the nave. At the Galway Cathedral, however, the white marble sanctuary has always been in the center. Above the crossing is this dramatic and colorful dome peaking at 126 feet. Adorning the four pendentives of the supporting arches are mosaics of archangels. The inscribed words are from a hymn the angels sang when announcing the birth of the Christ.

Gaol Rd, Galway, Ireland
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3 Equality Emerging Sculpture in Galway, Ireland

Equality Emerging is a dramatic sculpture created by John Behan. The public artwork was erected across from the Galway Cathedral in 2001. An adjacent inscription reads in part, “… dedicated to people everywhere who are struggling for equality and to those suffering because of its absence.”

Gaol Rd & University Rd, Galway, Ireland
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4 Fly Fishing Below the Salmon Weir in Galway, Ireland

Galway Fishery is extremely popular among anglers in pursuit of sea trout and especially wild Atlantic salmon. This is the hot spot – from the Salmon Weir in the background and 250 yards downstream. Although the fishing season starts in February, the peak months are May and June when the salmon swim upstream towards their spawning grounds. The average salmon weighs about 12 pounds and looks spectacular on your dinner plate.

Salmon Weir Bridge University Rd, Galway, Ireland
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5 Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway, Ireland

The Salmon Weir Bridge crosses over the River Corrib. It was built in 1818 to serve as a two hundred foot connection between the courthouse and the former prison on Nun’s Island. The gaol was torn down in 1941 to make way for constructing the Galway Cathedral seen in the background.

17 Newtownsmith Galway, Ireland
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6 Convent of Mercy in Galway, Ireland

In 1827, Catherine McAuley founded the order of the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin. From the start, their mission was to serve the poor, sick and uneducated. In 1840, she was asked by the Bishop of Galway to establish a similar community in his diocese. Their Catholic convent later became part of St. Vincent’s. When this church opened in 1842, it was called Fr. Daly’s Chapel in recognition of the priest who initiated it. This western façade of St. Vincent’s faces the river and features three gables plus a bell tower with battlements. The construction material for this Gothic structure is ashlar limestone. The sisters are still active in Galway after decades of good work including forming schools and hospitals.

17 Newtownsmith Galway, Ireland
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7 Fishing Gear along River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

Some Galwegians prefer fly fishing while others use a rod from the shores of the River Corrib. The former can only wade as far as the Salmon Weir Bridge before returning upriver. Casting is reserved from the shoreline (called the New Beat) beyond the bridge and extending to Claddagh. Either way, applications for the chance to win a limited number of licenses are best submitted before the season starts in February. Otherwise, consider a charter operating in Galway Bay. Catch-of-the-day often includes shark, cod, mackerel and pollack.

25 Bowling Green, Galway, Ireland
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8 Riverside Walk in Galway, Ireland

Galway is Ireland’s sixth largest city with a population of about 75,000. That number does not include tourists. In short, it can feel busy. The perfect respite is a serene and scenic riverside stroll. One walkway along the Lower Corrib starts at the Wolfe Tone Bridge and ends at the Salmon Weir Bridge. On the other side of Nun’s Island there is a path parallel to a canal beginning at University Road and stretching to Claddagh. A third recommendation is the quay along The Long Walk. They are all lovely and easy.

Bridge St Galway, Ireland
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9 Tourist Train in Galway, Ireland

An increasingly popular option to see and get around a major city is on a hop-on-hop-off bus. Galway version is the Tourist Train. The service offers a one-hour ride pass major landmarks and along the bay’s coastline. It is an ideal way to get orientated, for families with children or for the motion impaired. But frankly, Galway’s highlights are within a compact area so it is best explored on foot.

Quay Lane, Galway, Ireland
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10 Latin Quarter Mural in Galway, Ireland

The Latin Quarter is a labyrinth of medieval lanes transformed into Galway’s entertainment and shopping district. You will find historic landmarks and plenty of shopping. There are also about a dozen pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating so you can enjoy people watching between sips of lager, ale or stout. Notice the words “Gallimh 2020 Galway.” This celebrates their selection as the European Capital of Culture in 2020. Since the program began in 1985, a city is designated each year to host a series of international cultural events.

1 Quay Ln, Galway, Ireland
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11 Claddagh Ring Sign in Galway, Ireland

A fede ring featuring two clasped hands – a symbol of betrothal – dates back to the Romans. Bartholomew Fallon, a Galway goldsmith, is credited with crafting the Irish version during the late 17th century. The jewelry features a crown above a heart surrounded by two hands. They represent loyalty, love and friendship. This sign welcomes you to Galway’s oldest producer of the Claddagh ring, founded by Thomas Dillion in 1750. Part of the store features a museum displaying millenniums of original rings. The namesake for Claddagh is a headland at the mouth of the River Corrib and Galway Bay.

1 Quay St, Galway, Ireland
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12 St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in Galway, Ireland

St. Nicholas’ Church was built in 1320, given collegiate status in 1484 and extended during the 16th century. The most famous churchgoers were Christopher Columbus in 1477 and Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1652. This is the Church of Ireland’s largest parish church. Its namesake is Saint Nicholas. He was the Bishop of Myra when he died in 343. Nikolaos the Wonderworker is the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, reflecting Galway’s historic dependence on the sea.

7 Lombard St, Galway, Ireland
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13 Pedestrian Streets in Galway, Ireland

Galway’s City Centre is a network of pedestrian streets lined with stores, restaurants and pubs mixed with street entertainers and historic landmarks. This is the epicenter where High Street, Mainguard Street and Shop Street come together. The atmosphere is enjoyable albeit often crowded by day and then sparkles with an active nightlife.

1 Mainguard Street, Galway, Ireland
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14 Tribute to Dead Entertainers Mural in Galway, Ireland

This ensemble of entertainers who all died prematurely is part of a three-story mural on the side of Sally Longs Rock Bar at Abbeygate Street. Commissioned by Noel O’Dwyer and painted in 2007 by Ciarán Dunlevy, it was the young muralist’s first public artwork. Featured among the legends are Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.

33 Abbeygate Street Upper, Galway, Ireland
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15 Shopping Alternatives in Galway, Ireland

Galway’s main shopping alternatives are in a small district beginning at Quay Street leading towards Eyre Square. The core is appropriately called Shop Street (now that is easy to remember). Many are boutique stores offering local crafts, art and souvenirs. Brown Thomas at Eglinton Square is the premier department store displaying designer and luxury brands. A few specialty retailers market jewelry, crystal, antiques and books. There are also malls such as Eyre Square Centre, CorbettCourt and a bit further away the Galway Shopping Centre.

1 William St, Galway, Ireland
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16 Eyre Square in Galway, Ireland

Eyre Square is a large central plaza established in 1710 when Mayor Edward Eyre gifted the land to the city. He was a descendant of Captain John Eyre who acquired the property after Oliver Cromwell’s troops seize Galway in 1652. The banners display the crests of fourteen powerful merchant families called the Tribes of Galway. Since 1965, the square is officially called the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. The name and a nearby bust commemorate when the president gave his last foreign speech here on June 29 before he was assassinated in 1963. His final words were, “You send us home with the warmest memories of you and your country.”

1 Eyre Square, Galway, H91 F882, Ireland
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17 Landmarks at Eyre Square in Galway, Ireland

The English granted Galway their royal city charter in December of 1484. To help celebrate the 500th anniversary, the Quincentennial Fountain was erected in Eyre Square in 1984. The brown sails resemble those on a Galway Hooker, a type of fishing and cargo vessel unique to Galway Bay used from the 18th through 20th centuries. The man in the blue shirt is admiring the Browne Doorway, a remnant of a 1627 mansion owned by Sir Dominick Browne. He was a city mayor and his family was one of the Tribes of Galway.

1 Eyre Square, Galway, H91 F882, Ireland
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18 Guinness Toucan Mascot Mural in Galway, Ireland

The playful and iconic mascot for Guinness stout was created by graphic designer John Gilroy in 1935 while working at the S. H. Benson advertising agency. Part of the introductory copy by writer Dorothy Sayers read, “How grand to be a Toucan, just think what Toucan do.” Apparently this version on the side of Blake’s Bar in Galway can clutch a soccer ball while balancing two pints on his colorful beak. The toucan theme ended in 1982. However, the classic image keeps showing up around the world.

25 Eglinton St, Galway, Ireland
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19 Ryan Institute at NUI Galway in Galway, Ireland

The Ryan Institute is part of the National University of Ireland. Formed by a merger in 2010, its mission focuses on environmental, marine and energy research. This is their Martin Ryan Building. It opened along the River Corrib in 1993 thanks to a sizable matching donation by Dr. Tony Ryan. The institute also occupies the Orbsen Building plus three off-campus facilities.

Canal Road Upper & University Rd, Galway, Ireland
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20 The Quadrangle at NUI Galway in Galway, Ireland

When the ivy-covered Quadrangle opened in 1849, it was the entrance to Queen’s College. Its Tudor Gothic design by John Benjamin Keane features a central tower with a crown of pinnacles. In 1997, the school’s name was changed from University College, Galway to the National University of Ireland, Galway. Approximately 17,000 graduate and undergraduate students attend NUIG. I was one of them during the summer of 1971.

19 University Rd, Galway, Ireland
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21 U.K.’s Royal Coat of Arms at NUI Galway in Galway, Ireland

The royal coat of arms for the United Kingdom features a lion and a unicorn typically holding a shield with emblems representing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This carving once decorated the portico of the Galway Courthouse. It was removed during the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921) when the Irish Republican Army frequently destroyed these heraldic symbols across Ireland. The carving is now unceremoniously displayed behind the Quadrangle at the National University of Galway.

2 Lower Newcastle, Galway, Ireland
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22 James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway in Galway, Ireland

James Hardiman had a long career as a researcher and collector of historical archives by the time he accepted the job in 1855 as the first librarian of Queen’s College. He was 73 at the time. The main library at the National University of Galway is dedicated to him. This adjacent Hardiman Research Building for arts, humanities and social sciences was added in 2013.

25 Distillery Road, Galway, Ireland
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23 Giant Eye Mural in Galway, Ireland

This giant eye – reportedly of Sara Maxwell – was painted by street artist Ciarán Dunlevy on Eyre Street to promote Richard Hughes Opticians around the corner. Dunlevy refers to his technique as realism art. Yet the giant bespectacled insect riding a bike shows he also has a flair for the abstract if not the absurd.

2 Eyre St, Galway, Ireland
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24 Accommodations in Galway, Ireland

Galway specializes in charm. You will love your visit regardless if you prefer sightseeing, shopping, strolling or sipping along a sidewalk pub. Why not let your accommodations add to your experience? With the exception of the Radisson Blue, the city is devoid of big brand hotels. Others range from large to boutique and are clustered within walking distance of the Latin Quarter or Eyre Square. My preference is for the small and intimate such as St. Martin’s B&B. Imagine having breakfast on this garden terrace overlooking the river.

2 Nun's Island Galway H91 K8Y4 Nun's Island, Galway, H91 K8Y4, Ireland
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25 Origin and Naming of River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

The origin of the River Corrib is a lake by the same name. It divides the city during its 3.7 mile course to Galway Bay. The Galway River’s namesake is Gaillimh inion Breasail, a mythological princess who drowned in the rushing water. The word Galway for both the city and the county came from the same legend. In front of the cathedral’s dome is O’Brien’s Bridge. It memorializes William O’Brien, an early 20th century Irish nationalist and Member of Parliament. This span replaced the West Bridge, the first one constructed over the river.

Wolfe Tone Bridge Father Griffin Rd, Galway, Ireland
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26 Wolfe Tone Bridge in Galway, Ireland

The Wolfe Tone Bridge is the last one spanning the Lower Corrib before the river empties into Galway Bay. It is named after Theobald Wolfe Tone. He was an 18th century member of the United Irishmen and leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 against the British. Their defeat led to the Act of Union 1800, causing Ireland to become part of the United Kingdom. The bridge is located on Father Griffin Road in memory of Michael Griffin. This Catholic priest was allegedly arrested by the temporary constables called Black and Tans in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence. A few days later his body was found with a bullet in his head.

Wolfe Tone Bridge, Father Griffin Road, Galway, Ireland
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27 The Spanish Arch in Galway, Ireland

Medieval Galway was part of the Kingdom of Connacht. During the early 12th century, a fort was built by the king where the River Corrib empties into Galway Bay. By 1484, the fortified town gained some independence from England and emerged as a major seaport. This gate was constructed in 1584 and known as ceann an bhalla or the end of the wall. Now called the Spanish Arch in recognition of the city’s extensive trade with Spain, it is one of two remaining entrances along the quay.

2 The Long Walk, Galway, Ireland
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28 The Long Walk in Galway, Ireland

The Long Walk is a row of colorful buildings stretching along the river towards Galway Bay. They were constructed during the 18th century by descendants of John Eyre. He was a captain in Oliver Cromwell’s army. After they conquered Galway in 1652, the Eyre of Eyrecourt acquired considerable property in the city. The land was handed down for generations. This quay is now an Architectural Conservation Area. The graceful mute swan is swimming towards Claddagh, a former fishing village.

7 Claddagh Quay Galway, Ireland
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