We arrived in Galway late afternoon and found accommodation at the rather salubrious Park House Hotel. One of the advantages of travelling out of season is that these fabulous hotels are within budget.
We ambled our way into town in the hope of experiencing some live Irish folk music. Taaffes fit the bill perfectly, a traditional pub in a gorgeous building dating back over 400 years. We settled in with a pint or two, Michael got some tips on playing the Irish bagpipes.
Next morning we set off early to explore this beautiful harbour city. Galway started off as a small fishing village located where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean and became a walled town following the Anglo Norman conquest in 1232. European traders frequented the docks and in the 16th century a fortress was added to the town walls to protect the merchant ships from looting. The only remainder of this bastion is The Spanish Arch, built in 1584 and presumably so named because of the trade with Spain and Spanish galleons.
The Skeffington Arms Hotel, built at the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, overlooks Eyre Square, the city’s hub and popular meeting spot.
Galway was dominated by fourteen merchant families, known as the Tribes of Galway, between the mid 13th and late 19th centuries. One of these was the Browne family, the doorway to their townhouse has been moved from Abbeygate Street and now stands at the north end of Eyre Square. Dating from 1627, the door was moved in the early 1900s when the original building became a ruin and is now supported and encased in plexiglass to help preserve it.
We were surprised to find remnants of the medieval town walls within Eyre Square Shopping Centre.
The River Corrib flows from Lough Corrib to Galway Bay and, at only six kilometres in length, is among the shortest in Europe.
The main channel leaving Lough Corrib is known as Friar’s Cut and was the first canal to be built in Ireland in 1178. The friars of Claregalway Abbey created the artificial cut to avoid the long trip to the west to enter the river. The cut became the main course of the river and has been widened since.
Despite its Renaissance appearance, the construction of Galway Cathedral didn’t start until 1958 on the site of the old city prison. This last great stone cathedral to be built in Europe was completed in 1965. There has been much controversy over the years, mostly aimed at the appearance of the building. It was recently referred to as a “squatting Frankenstein’s monster”. I think it is quite spectacular and sits comfortably in its beautiful surroundings.
Opposite the cathedral, a figure emerges from a stone wall. Equality Emerging represents the struggle for equality and the suffering because of its absence.
Our walk took us past Eglington Canal
and the National University of Ireland
before we returned along the river toward the city centre.
The William O’Brien Bridge was the first of the four bridges spanning the River Corrib. Originally a wooden structure, the current bridge was rebuilt in 1851.
After a wander around the quirky shops in the town
there was only one thing for us to do…….return to Taaffes for another evening of music and Guinness.