GALWAY is the capital of the West of Ireland, a thriving modern city. With a festival to cover everything from the traditional music to horseracing, Galway is a uniquely cosmopolitan city with something for everyone. Although it has recently been classed as Europe's fasting growing city, it still manages to retain much of its old world Medieval charm.
Galway is unlike any other town in Ireland. Indeed, Yeats described Galway as the 'Venice of the West'. Located on the West coast, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Galway is Ireland's cultural capital. Free spirited, artistic and bohemian, it has an ambience all of its own. The Park House Hotel is the ideal place for weekend breaks in Galway to soak in the citys tradition and culture.
The origin of Galway ('Gaillimh' in Irish) is uncertain. It is known however, that among the ancient Irish, foreigners were called 'na Gall', hence the suggestion that Gaillimh was "the place of the foreigners'. Galway originated as a small fishing village at the mouth of the Corrib. Anglo-Normans invaded the territory in the early 13th century and built walls around the town later that century. The power of the city was eventually diverted to 14 'Tribes', affluent families of English descent, and the city became known as the 'City of the Tribes'.
Galway traded in wine, spices, salt, animal product and fish and became the next port after London and Bristol. The wealth of its citizens was expressed in the many fine stone-faced buildings
In the last thirty years, Galway has concentrated on promoting its tourist potential and building a strong local industrial base. Many Galway people are Irish speakers and much of the Gaelic culture is preserved. Irish speaking areas include many of the smaller towns and villages as one makes their way westwards through Connemara towards Clifden, as well as the Aran Islands of Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.
Historical Places of Interest in the City
Lynch's Castle is located on the corner of Abbeygate Street and Shop Street. It is a fine example of the blending of old and new. It is an illustration of a 'town castle', popular homes of merchants in 15th century Ireland.
James Joyce was a regular visitor to Galway. His wife and muse, Nora Barnacle was born in the city's Bowling Green area. The Nora Barnacle House is now a small private museum, which has retained its former character. It is open to the public during the Summer months.
The Claddagh is the part of Galway linking the Spanish Arch area with Salthill. People have been gathering seafood and fishing from the Claddagh for centuries. Historically, its existence has been recorded since the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century. Throughout the centuries, the Claddagh people kept Galway supplied with fish, which they sold on the square in front of the Spanish Arch. The area has been immortalised through the song, "Galway Bay" and internationalised through the Claddagh Ring.
The Spanish Arch, located on the banks of the river Corrib, was built in 1584. It was originally an extension of the famous city walls, designed to protect the quays. It is in fact a misnomer. There is no proven association with the Spanish in Galway and the building of the Arch. Historically it was known as The Blind Arch and it was located on the site more appropriately known as the Ceann na Bhalla (The Head of the Wall). The Arch also features a wooden sculpture, entitled Madonna of the Quay.
Places of Great Natural Beauty
Connemara in County Galway, is one of the most scenic areas of Ireland, in a wild and lonely way. Connemara's coast is very convoluted and it has a wealth of lovely beaches, little islands and harbours. The area around Clifden, the main town in Connemara, is rich with megalithic tombs.
Kylemore Abbey is a place of breath-taking beauty and a must-see for visitors to the area. The Abbey and its grounds were acquired by the Benedictine Nuns in 1920. They have restored and preserved the beautiful Estate, its natural woodland, wildlife and magnificent gardens.
The Visitor Centre welcomes visitors from across the Globe on a daily basis. Visitors are guided through the Abbey, Victorian Walled Garden, Gothic Church and can taste the delicious local fare - including the renowned home-made scones and jam produced by the nuns.