Truthfully speaking ;), all I knew of Galway was what Ed Sheeran told me. It wasn’t much till I heard the Johnny Logan version of “Galway Girl”, the peppy number crooned by Gerard Butler in “P.S. I Love You”, to serenade the American, in an Irish pub.
To be honest, that song takes me back to Kenmare or Killorglin or maybe Dingle… basically to all those smaller Irish towns and pubs on our way up to Galway, but not Galway itself.
Galway is a harbor city on the west coast of Ireland, much bigger, vibrant to the senses, musical & whimsical to note. It has everything that a tourist visiting Ireland can ask for. And not in a bad way.
Days can be spent dawdling along the tributaries of river Corrib, taking pictures, picnicking, or simply walking the Long walk, shopping around the Latin Quarters, lauding the buskers on the High Street or at Eyre square, breaking for a meal accompanied by that perfect roast Guinness, buying doodads at the farmers market or just shooing-off seagulls.
Galway is optimally positioned, roughly midway between the towering cliffs of the northern Island and the southern peninsulas along the Wild Atlantic Way. A hurried tourist could get her effort’s worth here, dipping into and sampling the Irish life, whereas, for the leisurely traveler, it is a perfect pit-stop on their long coastal drive.
One can drive straight from Dublin on the East coast to Galway on the west, in about 2hrs. Galway can be added with day trips to the nearby highlights like Connemara & Kylemore Abbey, Achill Island to the north, and Cliffs of Moher to the South.
Since we were driving south to north, we visited Cliffs of Moher in the day and reached Galway by 9 pm, just after most restaurants close for families and open up for the pub hours. Having a little one in tow, we had exactly two options in the vicinity of our Air B&B, an Italian place and a French restaurant. We chose the latter, called the Rouge, which served decent French cuisine and splendid wine.
Walking to our Air B&B, we chanced upon our very first Silent-Disco street party in Galway. It looked spooky as if the crowd was under some magical spell, gyrating to an unheard beat, transfixed & bewitched.
Our apartment was downtown so we could explore without having to venture far. Though we could barely keep our eyes open, the hub-hub from the Irish bar next door was serenading and after putting the little one to bed we sauntered down for some Irish beer and Irish music. This happened to be one of those best impromptu decisions which remain etched on memory.
This Irish Bar was none other than the famous “Crane Bar” and gifted musicians were playing traditional Irish or Irish trad music, a kind of Irish folk music. One has to experience this to believe it. It was transcendental, an experience that was beyond human emotional or spiritual understanding (so the definition goes) or simply other-worldly. Beautiful beyond words. Attaching a small sample below. Do listen. As a culmination to this already magical experience, an Irish lass stepped on the floor with her step-dance moves, rocking the floor with the tap-tap of her block heels.
The next morning, still under the Galway spell, we walked towards the market square, chancing upon a farmers market, my all-time “favorite experience”, eating and shopping our way through the lanes.
We ended up spending more time here than planned. Which was the reason that the rest of the day did not pan out as planned. Kylemore Abbey was something we had put on our agenda, it being a breathtakingly beautiful castle next to a picture-perfect lake, and on top of all tourist agendas. Though us being “us” we had planned to see this from outside, panoramic vistas if you must, and then head to another great adventure which was cycling in Achill island. We love cycling on our trips since we cannot do much of that in our country and were greatly looking forward to this, Achill Island Greenway being one of the most spectacular and scenic cycling routes on this coastal segment (check it out).
Added the abbey on the Google map which was about an hour and a half away from Galway, and set off on a very cloudy evening. Maybe it was the clouds and hence poor connectivity but that afternoon, we lost our way not once but a few times, accidentally taking some long detours that ended up taking us away from Kylemore Abbey. It was already 5 something by now, and we knew that last-cycle rentals would be closing by 6 p.m. Took a tragic decision to skip the Abbey and head straight towards Achill.
Though all was not lost since the drive through Connemara was breath-taking. Had to resist stopping at every bend to take pictures!
Hubby having researched ahead, drove straight to Mulranny Park Hotel for Greenway Bike hire (we did call them in advance, which is a useful habit anywhere abroad) and managed to secure some cycles, just before closing time! This cycling bit was also very important to us as our little one had just learned to cycle a month back and was excited to test his skill in a foreign land on a picturesque track.
Did part of the loop, as an entire day is ideally needed to do any of the loops and should be accompanied by a picnic on the island itself. We needed to head back to Galway, and on the way back, had a quick meal at Nevin’s Newfield Inn.
The next morning we explored the Latin quarters in Galway, the perfect place to get the vibe of the city. Chanced upon the fairly famous Emma O’Sullivan, tap dancing at the square, got serenaded by some more traditional music at Tig Choílí, and had brunch at The King’head Bistro, before saying bye to Galway. Slán!