This story is always told to vistors of Galway :
In 1493, James Lynch became the mayor of this fair city. He subsequently spent a year in spain staying with a merchant family, to build up his merchant business. At the end of the year, he returned the compliment by bringing back a young Spanish lad, Gomez, to Galway.
James puts up Gomez with his own son. His son is regarded as a bit of a playboy, with legions of women swooning at his feet. He thought that the presence of this good catholic boy would quiten his offspring down. And the name of this sex god ? - Walter.
James was also trying to arrange a marriage between Walter and Agnes of the Blake family. As these stories always go, she was the most beautiful woman in all of Galway.
A dance was arranged at the Blake family castle. This building still exists (next to Jury's inn) and runs as KC' Blakes Brasseries. Unfortunately nothing remains of the old interior.
To return to the dance. Agnes is standing in the middle in all her finery, and who should appear at the door ? Gomez looking radient. She is gob-smacked - it's love at first sight. Walter (as you can imagine) is not exactly impressed. He marches over to her and demands an explanation. They depart from each other, both angry and annoyed.
What happens next ? Find out in Part 2
Day 1 Saturday: Hauled luggage through Dublin airport and to rental car lot a county away. Driving on the left side of the road not as unnerving as driving on right side of car! And what better place to learn that than nd entering the M1 motorway between Dublin and Belfast? I soon learned that my Matchbox car could do 120 kilometers per hour.
I visited an ancient tomb from 3000 BC at Newgrange, then went west to the Hill of Slane, where St. Patrick had challenged the pagan Celtic king at the hill of Tara for spiritual control of Ireland. (Patrick prevailed as he used the much-prevalent shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to this pagan king and successfully converted he and his followers). The hill as it now stands has the ruins of a church and monastery. There was snow on the ground and it was pretty darn cold.
Next I drove to a little town called Trim. I circled the same city center blocks three times before I found the correct street on which to turn. The castle (and compound) of Trim are in relatively good shape for 12th century. Mel Gibson shot many scenes for his movie "Braveheart" here. I took a self-guided tour. It hailed on me…little Irish pellets of joy.
As I continued my way west toward Galway, I stopped in Athlone to view the castle. (At this point I had no idea every town and every back yard had a castle.) Athlone had more serpentine streets and I proceeded to get lost for an entire hour in the same six blocks! It took me a while to figure out where to park, and by the time I did the damn thing had closed. Spent another hour trying to figure out how to leave the city centre to get back on the national highway west.
When I pulled into Galway at 7:00 p.m. it was dark, I'd been lost for at least a short time in each of three cities, and I was hungry. My B&B host for the next two nights had to talk me in by phone. I checked in and walked to a fabulous little restaurant called Kashmir where I had the best Indian food I've ever eaten. My jammies felt very good after this 14-hour day.
Going to Inis Mor was one of the highlights of my trip...absolutely beautiful place. There are 3 islands, you'd need 2 nights to see them all but you can certainly do a day from Galway to Inis Mor. You can either drive to the ferry dock or take coach down which is only 6 or 7 euros, it takes approximately 45mins or so. The ferry costs about 16 euros and is about 20mins or so. I'd advise taking something for motion sickness if you have a tendancy to get sick.
I'd also recommend hiring a bike for the day for 10 euros. When the ferry comes in there's men standing there giving pamphlets with a map and telling you there's bikes on the right. I'd actually go left and on the right hand-side the first shop has a newer and what seems to be more comfortable selection of bikes...not sure if the price is the same.
Collegiate Church is one of the oldest parish churches in Ireland. It has been a place of worship since the 14th Century. In common with many mediaeval ports, Galway dedicated its church to the patron saint of sailors. According to recent research, Columbus visited St. Nicholas' in 1477.
The Saturday market offers a wonderful selection of natural foods and novel and traditional goods and gift ideas which are excellent value. It is no wonder that locals and visitors throng the market all day long every Saturday, rain, hail or shine.
Located in the laneway between Shop Street and Market Street, (past Easons on Shop Street), as you walk between the stalls every one of your senses will be arrested by the cornocopia of smells, tastes, sounds and vision and lively atmosphere created by the interaction betwen the stall holders and browsers alike.
This green in the middle of Galway City is no longer there, but don't panic it's being completely overhauled and will return to glory next spring. I saw a picture of what it's going to look like and it'll be worth the wait.
I loved our visit to the Aran Islands. We hopped on the ferry (45 minute ride) in the morning, and spent the day touring Inis Mór (the largest Island). We took a walk up to the Dún Dubhchathair Fort...what an amazing view!! Make sure you "belly up" to the edge. The Island is only 9 miles wide X 20 miles long, and only one road around the island. This island has only 6 inches of topsoil, making it difficult to grow anything. There is also a 5 century cemetary...amazing history!! There are a couple of shops in the main center of the island.
Take a walk out to the point where the Corrib flows into Galway Bay. There are fields and a walking path around. Nice stroll if it's sunny and not too windy. I'm not sure if the fields or the grassy areas around in this area are meant for it, but there was a tent set up out towards the point. Maybe you could camp there. If you walk all the way to the end of the path, there is a football pitch. I came upon a youth game the day I was there. With sun, football, drink, food, and solitude it didn't get much better that afternoon. :)
The pedestrian walks and the city itself are quite nice. Lots of shops and cafes and pubs/restaurants. Just wandering around the streets on a sunny afternoon was enjoyable. Lots of people say go here, go there, or whatever, but you can see most everything just from wandering around. Besides, the old city walls aren't much. They're inside some kind of shopping mall. I tried following the signs for the entrance to the walls, but somehow just couldn't find it. It must not be all that big anyway if it's in a small shopping mall. Lynch's Castle? It's on the main pedestrian walk, but I didn't realize it until my last day there. I must have passed it about 10 times, because it just blends in with the other buildings. It doesn't really look like a castle to me, but...whatever.
We are all in the gutter...but some of us are looking at the stars.
So said Oscar Wilde who now sits as a bronze statue on a bench in shop street in Galway with his contemporary Edward Wilde from Estonia. The statue is an imagined meeting in the street, but they were not related and never met in real life. The statue was a present from the Country of Estonia when they entered the EU in 2004 - and the statue has proved to be a great hit in Galway.
Oscar Wilde himself did not have a major involement with Galway, but rather concentrated on his vices between writing.
He said his three addiction were :
Boys - for which he was eventually imprisoned by the British
Brandy - he was a rampant alcoholic all his life, from Champayne to meths.
Betting - like a good Irishman.
He also said that although born Irish he was condemned to speak the language of Shakespere - to which one wag replied that that was the longest sentence in the English language.
He also said ' Art is useless', but here he is in all in 19th Century glory.
Driving your car around Galway's inner city isn't just cumbersome. Above all, it would not allow you to breathe in the great atmosphere. The street musicians very much reminded me of my old alma mater Goettingen in Germany. Very distinctly Galwegian though, this Spanish-inspired building style as demonstrated by the townhouse in this picture.
The Claddagh is located on the eastern shore of the River Corrib, directly across from the Spanish Arch. Once the site of an old fishing village, the Claddagh of today is a small headland with nice views of the basins, the Spanish Arch and Galway Harbour.
If the weather is sunny and the Spanish Arch greens are overcrowded with people lying in the grass, try here for a nice spot.
From here, it is either possible to walk upstream along the River Corrib, or to follow the Galway Bay shoreline which will get you to the Salthill Promenade.
Also located at the Claddagh is the Siamsa Folk Theatre.
This house used to belong to Maire Rua (socalled because of her red hair). Rumours has it that she was captured by her enemies after killing her 25th husband (!) and was stuck in a hollow tree. Of course the place must be haunted!
The Aran Islands are three tiny islands off the western coast of Ireland. I was told that the people living there speak irish as a first language, but I had no problems with my English.
From Galway you can take a bus to the harbour and then the ferry to the Arans.
You can try to discover the Islands on foot, rent a bike in Kilronan( harbour on Inishmore) or choose the bus tour.
Must sees are the "worm hole" at the northern coast and Dun Aengus.
Get out of Galway and head around the coastline, its stunning with rugged cliffs, green hills and deserted beaches with clear blue water.
Roundstone is a lovely little village and make sure you dont miss the seafood chowder in the white pub with seats outside(yes, i have forgotten the name! d'oh), its the best chowder i had in Ireland!
Clifden is another great little town, and if you have a car, take a drive around the sky road loop, for more stunning scenery! Then come back to Galway through the Connemara for even more great scenery with the 12 bens as a backdrop. Then past lake corrib and back to Galway. you can do this in a day, as long as you manage to drag yourself away from your pint of Guiness in Roundstone!
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