Through vast, uncluttered pastoral settings spanning mountains, forests, grasslands, loughs and bays, County Galway intends to instill in the memories of its visitors the purest classical visions of Ireland.
One of the most densely populated areas of Ireland, a mere 250,541 people, less than half that of Dublin City, live here. And yet Galway (which takes its name from the Irish, Cathair na Gaillimhe) amasses 47% of the entire Irish-speaking population. Several of the county’s islands, the Arans most prominently, situate a majority of Irish speakers. Several more have no inhabitants to even speak of (only 10 of 365 islands in Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland, contain any people).
Omey Island, which couldn’t be more inviting, is accessible at low tide, spectacularly, by a route across the sand. The summit of Diamond Hill, at 1,460 feet, can be reached, unusually but with undeniable convenience, by a wooden walkway in the heather. The diminutive Twelve Bens mountain range can be walked in a single day. In-between, a scattering of lakes, some trickling out from the mountains, bog the rugged terrain.
The city of Galway, the capital of the province and the fourth most populous city in the Republic of Ireland, is perfectly positioned between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. Many of its main tourist attractions are within a short distance from each other and together help culture a unifying historical presence – put simply, they are all pretty similar. This is not intended as a backhanded compliment to Galway, however. The beauty with which the River Corrib (the shortest river in Europe) proudly threads through each point of the city’s history, plugging straight into the famous bay, is its strength.
Taking its name from the River Corrib (from the Irish, Gaillimh, meaning “stony”) the city came into existence through the efforts of Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht, who constructed a fort known locally as Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe in 1124. The fort was thereafter captured during the Norman invasion of Connacht in the 12th Century by Richard Mor de Burgh. A small settlement around the fort soon developed into a burgeoning city; along with these developments, the de Burgh name would eventually become Gaelicised, leading the way for the Tribes of Galway, who pushed to reclaim the walled city.
Soon enough, Galway, under English rule, was completely impassable to native Irishmen and only its Hiberno-Norman citizens were granted unrestricted access into the city. Up until the 17th Century, the city remained loyal to the English crown, trading hands following the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, during which time it allied itself to the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny. Under siege from Cromwell, it was captured once again. Throwing its support to the Jacobites during the Williamite war in Ireland, Galway finally succumbed to the Williamites, after which it suffered through the famine, emerging from ruin only during the late 20th Century.
Unmissable Attractions County Galway
1. Hall of the Red Earl (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9.30 a.m. – 4.45 p.m.)
2. Medieval Wall and Spanish Arch (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)
3. Galway City Museum (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday: 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)
4. The historic Lynch’s Castle (now an AIB Bank) is easily viewable from Shop St at any time of the day, or night (AIB Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.)
5. Galway Cathedral (Opening Times: Daily from 8.30 a.m. – 6.30 p.m.)
7. John F. Kennedy Memorial Park (Eyre Square) is accessible, on public grounds, at any time
8. In Busker Browne’s pub, located on the medieval Kirwan’s Lane, you’ll find part of the Slate Nunnery, which was given to the Dominican nuns in 1686 (who were closely associated with this area of Galway City during this time) by mayor Sir John Kirwan of The Tribes of Galway.
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