County Galway

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 208,000.

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 Theatre.

The three-week Galway Art Festival draws large crowds in July as do the Galway Races, which take place during the first week in 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 to 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 that the famous Claddagh ring originates.

Beyond the Claddagh lies the popular seaside resort of Salthill, with fine Edwardian buildings blending uneasily with nightclubs and amusements 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 eight square miles of bogland, 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 (SACs) and some traditional farming practices like harvesting turf are perceived to be under threat.

The county’s most famous building is the neo-gothic Kylemore Abbey which was built in the 1860s and is now the monastic home of the 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 coloured marble used mostly for jewelery 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 bog land and thriving market towns like Ballinasloe and Tuam.

Our seven day Ireland tours spend at least 2 days in and around Galway