A brief history…
Busking for Beer
Galway City originally formed from a small fishing village located in the area near the Spanish Arch called "The Claddagh" where the River Corrib meets Galway Bay. The town walls, some sections of which can be seen today near the Spanish Arch, were constructed circa 1270. Galway's strategic coastal location and natural harbour area resulted in a successful trade with both Portugal and Spain and the city prospered for centuries. However in 1651 with the arrival of Cromwell the region entered a long period of decline.
Galway City is a thriving, bohemian, cultural city on the Western coast of Ireland. Along with being a popular seaside destination with beautiful beaches and long winding promenade, it also has a buzzing cosmopolitan city centre with a sizeable student population. The city is a joy to explore with its labyrinthine of cobbled streets, colourful shop facards and busy cafe/ bar culture. The city is also well known for its many festivals throughout the year with huge crowds gathering for the annual Galway Arts Festival, Galway races and numerous other events. Old Ireland is present too with turf fires and traditional music featuring in many pubs to compliment your enjoyment of a well earned pint or two. Take an evening stroll along the promenade in Salthill and watch the sunset over Galway Bay or watch the salmon fishermen in the River Corrib from the perfect vantage point of the Salmon Weir Bridge.
Galway City Sights...
St. Nicholas' Church
St. Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship at the heart of Galway's life. The early sections of the church date from 1320, although tradition tells us that St. Nicholas was built upon the ruins of an older structure, and part of the chancel's south wall may incorporate some of this earlier material. it's said that Christopher Columbus prayed here in 1477 before sailing away on one of his attempts to reach the New World. A tour through the Church will allow you to glimpse the part of its rich history. The church is open all day, every day, and visitors are most welcome.
Formerly owned by one of the fourteen tribes which ruled the city centuries ago, this elegant now houses Allied Irish Bank. Despite this the interior is still extremely impressive with coats of arms, stone fireplaces and a separate exhibition room which opens from Monday to Wednesday and on Fridays. The Lynches were a wealthy family, many of whom served as Galway mayor. One of the mayors, James Lynch Fitzstephen, actually pronounced his own son guilty of the murder of a Spanish sailor who became involved with a female family member in 1493. Lynch hanged his son Walter himself when everyone else refused to participate. The term 'Lynch Law' arose from this unfortunate episode. The old prison on Market Street in Galway City displays a black marble plaque marking the actual spot of the execution.
Located on Nun's Island, on the west bank of the River Corrib near Salmon Weir Bridge, Galway Cathedral is one of the largest and most dominating buildings in Galway. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1958 and was completed in 1965. It is located on the site of the former city jail and features a dome at a height of 145ft. It was the last large church in Ireland to be made from stone, and features a huge octagonal dome that complements the skyline of the City of Galway. Inside the visitor will find the rose windows and wall paintings, which echo the broad tradition of Christian art, particularly impressive.
Situated behind the famous Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum houses exhibitions which explore aspects of the history and heritage of Galway City, focusing on the medieval town, the Claddagh village & Galway, 1800-1950. In addition, the Museum mounts temporary exhibitions & hosts a variety of exhibits from other museums, galleries & special interest groups. The building itself affords spectacular views of the Claddagh, the Spanish Arch, the River Corrib & Galway Bay.
National University of Ireland, Galway
National University of Ireland, Galway stands on the banks of the river Corrib. Its stone quadrangle is one of the city's most famous landmarks. A ten minute walk from the city centre, the University plays an important role in the cultural life of Galway. It is the venue for many musical, literary and sporting events. The campus houses a museum, an art gallery, and a theatre, as well as cafes and restaurants.
Eyre Square is the centre piece to Galway City and was officially presented to the city in 1710 by Mayor Edward Eyre, from whom it took its name. Originally surrounded with a wooden fence, it was enclosed with iron railings in the late 1700s. These were removed in the 1960s, and subsequently re-erected around St Nicholas' Collegiate Church. In 1965, the square was officially renamed "Kennedy Memorial Park" in honour of US President John F. Kennedy, who visited here shortly before his assassination in 1963. The Browne doorway is another notable feature in Eyre Square as it was originally the doorway of the Browne families home on Lower Abbeygate Street and it was moved in 1905 from Abbeygate street to Eyre Square.
The name of the Claddagh area is based on the Irish word "cladach", meaning a stony beach. People have been gathering seafood and fishing from here for millennia. Historically, its existence has been recorded since the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century. Throughout the centuries, the Claddagh people kept Galway City supplied with fish, which they sold on the square in front of the Spanish Arch. The area has been immortalized through its traditional jewellery, the Claddagh Ring, which is worn by people all over the world.
Galway's famous Spanish Arch is located on the left bank of the Corrib, where Galway's river meets the sea. The Spanish Arch was originally a 16th century bastion, which was added to Galway's town walls to protect merchant ships from looting. At this time, it was known as Ceann an Bhalla (Head of the Wall). Its current name "Spanish Arch" refers to former merchant trade with Spain, whose galleons often docked here. In 1755, the arches were partially destroyed by the tidal wave generated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In recent times part of the Arch has been converted into the Galway City Museum.
Salmon Weir Bridge
The Salmon Weir Bridge crosses the Corrib from the Cathedral on one side to the courthouse on the other. Many people gather on this bridge in summer to see the shoals of salmon make their way up the Corrib river to spawn. During the salmon season, people stop to watch anglers fishing in the waters below, applauding each catch. There is a magnificent view of the Cathedral from the bridge itself, and the view remains impressive all the way down to Wolfe Tone Bridge. The bridge was originally granted by Henry III to the Earl of Ulster. The Franciscans later held the fisheries until the suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII, when they were given to the Lynch family. It is now the property of the state.
One the finest medieval laneways in Galway, Kirwan's Lane, located in what is now referred to as the Latin Quarter of Galway contains many relics of 16th and 17th century architecture. It is at the centre of the area that was originally within the city walls, and is named after one of Galways fourteen "tribes" - the families who ruled the town for several centuries. The area has been significantly restored over the years and has rejuvenated the heart of Galway’s historical town centre. It is now home to many bohemian styles cafes, restaurants, bars and craft-shops.
Lynch Memorial Window
This window commemorates one of Galway's most enduring legends. According to local tradition, the mayor of Galway, James Lynch FitzStephen, hanged (or lynched as the practice became known after this event) his son from the window of his home in 1493. Lynch's son had murdered a Spanish man in the care of the family. Lynch's Window stands in Market Street at the side of St. Nicholas' Church.
Courthouse & Town Hall
The county courthouse was built in 1818 and has received much acclaim for its design and architecture. Next door is the former Town Hall, which was originally used as a courthouse. In 1901 it became the Town Hall, Theatre and occasional cinema. More recently it was used as a cinema but now it houses the Town Hall Theatre, the most popular theatre in the city.
The Bridge Mills
The Bridge Mills is a commanding building on the banks of the Corrib. Restored a few years ago with high regard for its aesthetic and historical features, the 430 year old Bridge Mills is now a centre for languages, art, culture and specialised skill-based commercial projects within Galway City. Visitors and locals alike delight in the distinctive, finely crafted gifts, clothing, cuisine on offer.
Nora Barnacle House
Wife of James Joyces, Nora Barnacle House was the Barnacle family home from 1894-1940. It is now a small private museum, faithfully restored to its former character. It is open to the public during the summer months, with guides available to show you around. It contains many interesting photographs, objects and articles.
Circle of Life Commemorative Garden
The National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden is located adjacent to the Promenade in Salthill overlooking Galway Bay. The title of the garden, "Circle of Life", takes its name from its centrepiece which consists of five 2 metre tall standing stones positoned in a circle and each with a carving and inscription symbolising the connectivity and interdependence of man at the different stages of his journey through life. These, and the garden's many other stone features, sculpture and inscriptions, are designed to create an inclusive place of beauty, inspiration which is welcome to all. The garden is a wonderful space to relax and reflect during your visit to Galway.
Menlo Castle is a picturesque ruin of a 16th century castle but the serenity of its surroundings do not reveal its colourful and tragic history, which is surrounded by folklore and mystery. Just outside Galway near the scenic village of Menlo on the banks of the River Corrib, the castle was home to the Blake family who lived there from 1600 to 1910. Menlo Castle is a very well known local landmark and this magnificent ivy covered ruin sits in a beautiful location and it is well worth a visit if you are in the Galway area.
Saint Augustine’s Hill, now Fonthill Cemetary was the location where in 1589 Sir William Fitzwilliam, decrying the leniency of the city, ordered over 300 men from the Spanish Armada to be put to death, by beheading. Fitzwilliam perpetrated these murders as a result of not finding gold or silver in possession of the sailors. Later in 1602 a fort was built here, after a calamitous defeat of the Irish & Spanish forces at the Battle of Kinsale under orders from Queen Elizabeth I. The purpose of the fort was to protect the town and its harbour while also dominating its citizens. The fort was dismantled by the townspeople in 1643 for fear of reprisals on the largely Catholic and pro-Royalist townspeople by the Protestant and pro-Parliamentarian commander of the garrison. Having been originally been used by the Augustinians the local Catholic population regarded the site as sacred and gradually began to use it as a place of burial in the 18th century. Today a plaque set in the east boundary wall commemorates the greatest act of mass murder in Galway’s history. Erected in 1988 by members of the La Orden Del Tercio Viejo Del Mar Oceano, the oldest marine corps in the world, the memorial is only written in the Irish and Spanish language as an intended snub to the language of the perpetrator.