County Galway lies on Ireland’s west coast. Under direct influence of the Atlantic gulf stream and ocean currents, this county receives ample rainfall between spells of fleeting sunshine. It is the very same rain that nourishes the magnificent blossoms of Galway’s countryside.
When the sun sets across Galway Bay there is no other place on earth quite like it. Home to the rugged, bleak and spectacular scenery of Connemara, many of Galway’s inhabitants still speak Irish as their primary language.
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Location of County Galway
County Galway is part of the ancient province of Connacht and stretches from the River Shannon in the east to the western Atlantic coast.
It lies on Ireland’s western seaboard along the Wild Atlantic Way.
To the east in the area around the Shannon River, you’ll find rolling farmland plains.
To the west you’ll find raised bog, hills carpeted in heather and furze, land the spectacular lakes and mountains of Connemara.
Connemara National Park is a hill walkers dream and boasts prehistoric megalithic tombs, a herd of Connemara ponies, and many species of Irish birds.
The county capital is Galway City, an ancient city with much history. It’s famous for the Claddagh area and its traditional music venues.
The City of the Tribes is a tourist hub, a perfect base for visiting the west of Ireland and a gateway to Connemara.
The Long Walk is a section of the Galway Quays that boasts a unique architecture. It looks over towards the Claddagh.
From the Spanish Quarter to Shop Street, Eyre’s Square to Salthill, there’s something for everyone in Galway city. You can check out my post about all the amazing things to do in Galway city.
The Claddagh village lies on the western edge of Galway City.
It’s name is derived from the Irish word cladach meaning stony shore. An ancient fishing village, it is famous as the home of the Claddagh Ring, an Irish symbol of friendship, love and loyalty.
Galway Cathedral is a magnificent stone building situated on the banks of the River Corrib.
The National University of Ireland, Galway first opened its doors in 1849.
With its hallowed halls of learning built around The Quadrangle, the University was then known as Queen’s College.
The university has played an integral part in the history and development of the Galway we know today.
Galway’s seaside suburb of Salthill boasts a beautiful beach, long promenade, restaurants, pubs, and guest houses, all with magnificent views of the famous Galway Bay.
I hope someday you are lucky enough to watch the sun go down on Galway Bay.
Plus, if you feel like a pint while in Galway, why not check out one of Galway’s fabulous pubs.
Lying off the coast of County Galway are the amazing Aran Islands, where the locals speak the Irish language.
Situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are famous for their geological formation, stone walls bordering patchwork fields, sweaters with intricate cable designs, adherence to the Irish language, ancient stone forts and monuments, and a rich cultural heritage.
Ferries to the islands depart from Rossaveal, about one hour’s drive from Galway City.
Dun Aengus is an ancient stone fort situated on the edge of spectacular cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I highly recommend a trip to the Aran Islands to learn about island life in a bygone era.
Connemara lies to the west of Galway City and is one of the most scenic regions in Ireland.
Picturesque fishing villages, like Spiddal, dot the coastline.
I fondly remember summer holidays here as a child, with lazy summer days spent exploring this magnificent county.
Connemara”s craggy mountain peaks, windswept vistas, magnificent sandy beaches and extensive network of lakes are simply breathtaking.
Here you find a peaceful solitude amidst rugged beauty.
Much of Connemara is an Irish-speaking area, but don’t worry, most people are bilingual and are more than willing to help and have a chat with English speaking tourists.
Here you will find ancient Irish traditions and customs preserved through a rich linguistic, musical and folklore heritage.
Connemara is famous for its distinct pony breed renowned for athleticism, resilience, and good nature.
It is believed this unique breed was developed from either Scandinavian ponies released at the time of the Viking raids on Ireland, or Spanish Andalusians set loose at the time the Spanish Armada went adrift off the west coast of Ireland.
Whatever their origins Connemara ponies are magnificent animals.
This magnificent building in Connemara is one of the most featured Irish castles on social media.
It is now a convent, and the nuns welcome visitors to tour the parklands and building.
Kylemore Abbey dates back to the 1850’s and is one of Galway’s most popular tourist destinations.
Visitors can tour the Abbey to hear it’s historical tales of tragedy and romance.
A Victorian Walled Garden awaits or woodland trails, lakeshore walks, or nature hikes around the Kylemore estate.
Patrick Pearse’s Cottage in Rosmuc
Patrick Pearse (1879 – 1916), leader of Ireland’s 1916 Rising, spent his summers in Rosmuc.
His thatched cottage is open to the public.
Burned during the War of Independence, it has been meticiulously reconstructed and now houses an exhibition dedicated to Pearse’s life.
Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is situated amongst the famous Twelve Bens mountain range, and is one of Ireland’s six national parks.
Much of the present day park was created from lands that were once part of the Kylemore Estate. The amazing national park is owned and managed by the Irish State and is managed for the enjoyment of the people of Ireland.
The Visitor Centre buildings once were the farm buildings of the Letterfrack Industrial School, and the Park Office was the school infirmary.
These buildings date back to around 1890.
In the years gone by the land in this park was used for agriculture, cattle grazing and for sheep. Evidence of potato cultivation can be seen, with furrowed fields, and old cultivation ridges and hollows on some of the parks lowlands.
There are many old turf bogs, which were the primary fuel source for the locals in years gone by. You’ll see old turf banks in the area.
Megalithic court tombs date back over 4,000 years. Ruined stone houses tell the tale of immigration. There is much evidence of how populated this area was before the Irish Famine. The remains of a disused lime kiln, old sheep pens, stone walls, and drainage systems all tell the tell of an abandoned society.
The town of Clifden is known as the capital of Connemara. A lively town nestled in the mountains, it is full of shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés.
Clifden gained some international fame after 1905. Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the telegram, built his first high power transatlantic long wave wireless telegraphy station Just outside the town of Clifden. Since Ireland was the most westerly point in Europe, situating his station in Connemara minimized the distance to its sister station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.
On 15 June 1919 an international incident occured just outside Clifden near this wireless stateion. The first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown crashlanded in Derrygimlagh bog.
A famous son of Clifden is John O’Reilly. He defected from the US Army and fought with Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. He was the leader of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, a unit of almost 200 immigrants who chose to join their fellow Catholics from Mexico because of the abuse and discrimination they suffered in the US Army. They are celebrated in Mexico to this day.
Clifden’s greatest attraction is its magnificent surrounding landscape. The Sky Road in Clifden is a circular scenic route of unequaled rugged beauty.
A glacial fjord forms a natural boundary between counties Galway and Mayo.
This spectacular inlet is one of only three fjords on the island of Ireland, and because of its sheltered nature, its waters are always calm.
Once again the surrounding scenery is simply magnificent.
Lough Corrib is Ireland’s second largest lake and divides county Galway into eastern and western portions.
Islands dot the lake. The ancient Hen’s castle stands on Caislean-na-Circe, between Maam and Doon.
It was home to Ireland’s famous sea-faring priate, Granuaile or Grace O’Malley.
The land of east Galway consists of a flat plane.
Eastern Galway is dominated by arable farmland, in sharp contrast to the rocky fields of the west. The most famous of these fields are those of Athenry:
“Low lie, the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing,
It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry.”
The eastern county is home to some lovely market towns including Tuam, Athenry, Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Portumna and Gort.
Coole Park lies near the town of Gort. Home to Lady Gregory, Ireland’s most famous poet William Butler Yeats spent much time here.
His autograph can be found amongst those of other famous literary figures on the autograph tree in the park. Unfortunately the original house no longer stands.
Thank You for Taking An Armchair Tour of County Galway
And so, we conclude our quick tour of County Galway. If you are planning a trip here are some helpful links:
To visit the other counties on our tour of Ireland check out my post on Ireland’s thirty-two counties.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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