Just a little off the top please...
The King's head pub stands on the main street and dates from 1649. It is a great pub to visit with good music, food and beer.
For years I didn't realise the significance of the name and the date - but then I got wise !
In 1649 Oliver Cromwell was in power in England, and he needed the previous king, Charles 1st executed. The normal executioner refused, and the story goes that no Englishman could be found to do the deed. Eventually two soilders from Galway offered to do the job called Gunning and Dear. Gunning was selected. One of the last things that Charles 1st was reputed to have said was "How does my hair look ?", well it takes allsorts I suppose.
With the benefit of a mask, Gunning performed the beheading in Whitewall, London. His reward was to be given the land that the King's head stands on. Being a good Irishman, the first thing he did was build a pub !
Some features of the pub remain to this day.
An investigation was held on the restoration of the monarchy into who the executioner was. He was never caught although some in Galway claim that Gunning's business partner got him drunk one evening and Gunning admitted that his right arm was so strong because it was the one that cut of the King's head. His partner then blackmailed him over several years until he had all of the business to himself. They tell you the same story in the pub itself, except the names change. I'm convinced the above version has more historical evidence, but no-one really knows the full truth of the matter.
P.S He wasn't however stupid enough to call the pub the 'King's head' in 1649, the name is only about 100-150 years old.
Please join a fellow Vt'er
Yes, it's true you really can meet 'Sourbugger' in the flesh leading walking tours around the city.
Of course my tour is somewhat different - beheadings murders, bubonic plague, famine and murder are the order of the day with 'Gore of Galway'.
Just pop-in to the tourist information office in Forster Street.
If you are a VT member please be sure to come along and introduce yourself.Related to:
Art is useless
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.
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.Related to:
- Road Trip
Exploring Galway's Inner City On Foot
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.
Strolling Along The Claddagh Quays
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.
Go to the Discover Ireland Centre
On Forster Street, there is a large tourist information office called the Discover Ireland Centre. It is only a few blocks from Eyre Square -- and it was very close to my hotel. The centre is open all year round, and there are tourist advisors who can provide helpful information about Galway and the rest of western Ireland.
When I visited, I spoke to an advisor about my tour options. After that discussion, I purchased a half-day bus tour of the Cliffs of Moher by Healy Tours for 20 Euros. I have written more about this tour in the Off The Beaten Path section.
Visit Eyre Square/John F. Kennedy Memorial Park
In the Galway city centre, there is a square public park. The plot was officially presented to the city in 1710 by Mayor Edward Eyre, from whom the park originally took its name. In 1965, the square was officially renamed "John F. Kennedy Memorial Park". There is a memorial to President John F. Kennedy on the spot where he addressed the people of Galway on 29 June 1963 shortly before his assassination in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. Despite the official name change, the park is still mostly referred to as Eyre Square.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the visit to Galway by President Kennedy. In part, the significance is due to the strong connection between Ireland and the United States as a result of the large number of emigrants. As the first US President of Irish Catholic descent, President Kennedy was a great source of pride for the people of the Republic of Ireland.
Take the Canal Walk
Starting in 1848, the city of Galway designed and built its first system of canals. The city built a second system in the 1950s. The purposes of the canals were to divert and control the water from the River Corrib, to harness its power for mills and electricity generation, and to provide a navigable shipping route to the sea. There are walkways around the canals -- and it is nice place to take a stroll.
See the Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch is on the left bank of the River Corrib -- close to where the river meets the sea. The arch is the remainder of a 16th century bastion which was added to the town's walls. Despite the name, there is no evidence that the Spanish had a role in building the arch. However, the name probably was derived from the Spanish merchants who often visited Galway -- and docked their ships near the bastion for protection against looting. At the time, Galway was famous for its involvement in the wine trade, particularly Spanish wines.
The Murmur project
The murmur project is an oral storytelling project that has begun in a number of cities worldwide. The one in toronto, for example, seems to be quite successful.
The system works as follows - you find green 'speach bubble' sign attached to a lampost or similar structure in the town. This then gives you a freephone number that connects to a recording telling you about the place of significance and stories about it. Sounds a great idea, although if it is any good the local tourist guides won't be best pleased !
The website listed will show the sites, and also the stories that have been recorded. There are about 14 such post already up in Galway with more to follow.
Galway City Museum
Admission to the museum is free. Situated in a newish looking building near the Spanish Arch, Galway's museum is an interesting browse of Galway's history and connections to the seas. The building also features an art gallery with excellent views over the bay and the river. The museum is not very large and cannot compete with Dublin's more comprehensive museums but it is still worth a look.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Watch the Fast-Flowing River Corrib
The River Corrib flows from Lough Corrib through Galway City to Galway Bay. The river is among the shortest in Europe, with only a length of six kilometres from Lough Corrib to the Atlantic Ocean. What the river lacks in size, though, it makes up for in intensity. You really need to see the fast-moving River Corrib in person to appreciate it.
Galway's famous story - Part 1
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
Walk the riverside, Galway.
The Corrib river come down under 4 bridges in the city of Galway before finishing in Galway Bay. There is an excellent promenade alongside the river from the Salmon weir down to Bridge street, the majority on a new walkway away from the traffic.Of course you can carry on walking even further down past Spanish Arch to the bay. Numerous wild birds to see along here and tamer ones like ducks and swans.
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