County Galway

If you are on Ireland tours Galway is a MUST SEE attraction.

It is Ireland’s second largest county, in the province of Connacht.

Extending from the Atlantic to the River Shannon (area of 2,374 square miles) , the county has a population of over 200,000).

Galway City , the county capital , straddles the divide between the barren Irish speaking Connemara to the West and the fertile farmland of the east. It is a vibrant , cosmopolitan city , the site of University College , Galway , a constituent college of the National University of Ireland. It is also one of Ireland’s most artistic cities , with a thriving traditional music scene and two successful theater companies , Macnas and the Druid Theater.

The three-week Galway Arts Festival draws large crowds in July as do the Galway Races , which take place during the first week of August.

Many information technology multinationals have set up bases in the city. Traditional industries like fishing and tourism are also flourishing.

Galway City developed originally as a crossing point on the River Corrib and was ruled by fourteen Anglo-Norman families. It is still known today as “The City of the Tribes.” During the Middle Ages , the city developed a booming trade with continental Europe , and with Spain in particular. The popular city landmarks the Spanish Arch and Lynch’s Castle date from this period.

A small fishing village , the Claddagh , existed long before the city proper and had its own laws , customs , and chieftains. It is from this village the famous Claddagh ring originates.

Beyond the Claddagh lies the popular seaside resort of Salthill , with fine Edwardian buildings blending uneasily with nightclubs and amusement arcades. Walking Salthill’s famous promenade has been a popular form of recreation for city dwellers for many years.

Galway City is also the gateway to scenic areas like Connemara , the Aran Islands , and the Maamturk and Twelve Bens mountain ranges which lie to the West of the city.

Connemara National Park covers almost 8 square miles of bog-land , heath, and mountains including much of the Twelve Bens. The granite-faced Diamond Hill is perhaps the main attraction in the park. Much of Connemara has been designated as special areas of conservation and some traditional farming practices such as harvesting turf are perceived to be under threat.

The county’s most famous building is the neogothic Kylemore Abbey which was built inn the 1860s and is now the monastic home of Irish Benedictine nuns.

Galway is also the home of Ireland’s only native breed of horse , the Connemara pony. Small, hardy animals , their pedigree is believed to be a cross between Celtic horses of old and stallions that came ashore from the sunken Spanish Armada. Originally found wild in the mountains of Connemara , they are now bred all over the world and are used particularly as riding ponies for children.

Connemara marble is a unique green-colored marble used mostly for jewelry and ornate surfaces such as altars and fireplaces. It is now practically extinct.

In 1919, in the first transatlantic nonstop flight starting from Newfoundland , aviators John William Alcock and Aurthur Whitten Brown landed near Clifden , in the Western part of the county.

Lough Corrib , world famous for angling , is situated in mid county. The East shore of the lake is less dramatic with vast swathes of bogland and thriving market towns like Ballinsloe and Tuam.

Come and see Galway on our tours of Ireland.