Galway is one of those places you can drop into without a plan or a place to stay, and somehow fall into exactly the right thing. The people we met were some of the kindest and most generous of all the places we’ve been, and aside from that, the landscape and surroundings were breathtaking.
- Aran Islands. Take a day and head out to the Aran Islands. There are three islands in total, all of which used to be connected to mainland Ireland. For that reason, to this day, they are considered a part of Galway County. To get there, you can head to the Lally Tours office in Galway to arrange for a return shuttle + ferry ticket. Head to the island of Inis Mor (Inishmore) and for 10 Euro, you can rent for the day (helmets complimentary but not mandatory). Take the coastal road to Dun Aonghasa, a pre-historic ruins site, and then head to the wormhole. You’ll reach a dead end on the pasture path, where you’ll drop your bike. From there, you may start to feel as if you’re on a treasure hunt as you’ll follow red arrows / minimal direction spray painted on the rocks to to the wormhole. The walk out will take approximately 20 minutes. Insider tips: 1) Note the tides as the full effect of the wormhole only comes at high tide, though still a phenomenal site to see at low tide. 2) Lunch in the cafe at Dun Aonghasa by the fire was perfect, but you can also head two minutes down the to a proper thatch roofed house that has been turned into a cafe.
- Cliffs of Moher & The Burren Region. If you don’t have a car, we would highly recommend visiting the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren Region with Lally Tours. We were given great context about The Burren as we drove through it, and had ample time to discover the Cliffs once we arrived. Insider tip: When you’re at the Cliffs, climb past the fenced section out to the cliffside in all directions but do be careful as it’s extremely windy!
- Visit Aillwee Cave. The story goes that this cave was discovered in 1944 by a farmer chasing after his dog who he finally found at the entrance of this cave. Though given it’s date of discovery, it’s actually a newer attraction. The cave wasn’t properly explored until the ’70’s and wasn’t then set up to accommodate tourism until recently. On the tour through the cave, you’ll learn about the evolution of Ireland- notably how it was originally located on the equator in tropical waters, and then slowly moved north during the ice age. You’ll also see pre-historic fossils in the limestone as you go through your tour.
- Connemara. Otherworldly landscapes and incredibly scenic views. You don’t want to miss this!
- Visit Spiddal. This is a charming little town a bit outside of Galway Center (about 18km), whose residents still speak “Irish” (Gaelic as we know it).
- Walk the beautiful Blackrock + Salthill coastal route from Galway Center. You’ll come across the Blackrock diving board, where you’ll actually see people jumping into the cold ocean waters!
- Spanish Arch. This is a Galway landmark that you’ll certainly pass by at some point as you explore the city.
- Artisan Restaurant. This cozy spot serves gourmet comfort favorites, with a seasonal appropriate menu. Go for lunch and try their sandwich and soup combination.
- Ard Bia at Nimmos. Irish on the outside though feeling more Californian on the inside, this quirky bistro sources fresh local ingredients for their seasonal menus. Seafood is very fresh here also, and for desert, if available, do try their apple pie.
- McDonagh’s. This family run, maritime-themed quick serve restaurant has been known for its seafood since 1902! Very casual self-serve spot with cafe seating around the windows and good old fashioned fish and chips.
- The King’s Head. The King’s Head comes with a tale, dating back to the 17th century when a peasant at the time chopped off the King’s head. He’s been celebrated ever since and the act of his legacy is famously reenacted each year over pints and music. The building itself is quite old, dating back to 1649, with a fireplace of almost 400 years! Their food is quite good as well, and they do have live music most nights.
Must pub hop
- Spanish Arch Bar at the Spanish Arch Hotel. Go for the live music on Monday nights. One of the instrumentalists plays on average, 6 different types of instruments- switching often times in between songs but never misses a beat! Really fun place and lively atmosphere.
- Salt House. A small local spot across the bridge at Raven Terrace with 23 beers on tap, and over 150 bottles, and a special selection of Galway local brews. They offer a comprehensive explanation of each beer type in the front of their drink list, and the bartenders are more than happy to help find the right brew for you.
- Taffees. This bar has been quenching the thirst of many for over 150 years. Still a strong favorite amongst the locals, Taffees, found in the heart of Galway, is a must. It’s the spot to go for the live music which plays nightly.
At some point, you must try Murphy’s beer. It’s similar yet sweeter to Guinness, and you’ll only find it in Galway.
Must know – Interesting Facts about Galway*
- The Galway Hooker is actually the name of the old fishing boats of Galway.
- Matchmakers. With all the online dating of today, you’d think the days for matchmaking were gone, but this isn’t so. Years ago, in a small town within the Burren region, the resident matchmaker would be called upon after the Harvest by a child’s parents to match him/her with another in the town. There would then be a festival once a year and all the “matches” would meet. To this day, the tradition carries on- and surprisingly the matchmaker’s schedule is full each time!
- Griechs. These are cracks in the limestone.
- Galway Bay. Interestingly, limestone is prominent on one side of this bay, yet granite is prominent on the other.
*Check out Timeout Galway for more tips about things taking place in Galway when you visit.