Back in April we had a holiday in Ireland consisting of a three
centre break in Galway/Mayo and it was most enjoyable. We drove
the length of Wales to cross on the Holyhead/Dublin ferry choosing
to do that because it would make the route to Galway more direct
and, as it turned out, mostly motorway. Even getting out of
Dublin was easy, you just follow the signs for the tunnel and
drive through that for ages until you see light at the end.
Galway City was now just three hours away. We had a splendid
hotel, so much so that we felt it appropriate to dress for dinner.
The first day we wandered around to get our bearings. The place
was so busy with one big pedestrian area packed with people,
some sitting outside drinking coffees, street musicians, window
shoppers and some, I’m sure just trying to get on with
their work. This is truly a vibrant city!
At the top end of Eyre Square were two open topped city tour
buses we chose the second one because it seemed more jolly and
fun. We’re glad that we did. We bought our tickets but
that didn’t yet entitle us to take our seats on the top
deck, oh no, first we had to have a chat with our genial driver.
He was clearly a man who loved his work which consisted, quite
simply of driving his bus and passing on to his passengers the
fascinating history of his city.
The time came for us to set off and some stretches of absorbent
cloth was torn off a drum and handed to us so that we could
wipe the seats down. Well you have to sit on the top deck no
matter that the day had not yet quite arrived at its temperature
and there had been recent rain. So away we went sweeping thrillingly
around all obstacles in our way on this seemingly driverless
vehicle while a smooth Irish brogue told us about the de Burgos.
The de Burgos were a Norman family who arrived with the invasion
in 1185 and set up a commercial centre. From Galway the Trade
Winds took ships to France, Spain, the Canary Islands and Holland
as well as to London and Bristol
Behind Galway City is Lough Corrib, a huge mass of water covering
an area of 180 square kilometres making it the largest body
of water in the Republic of Ireland. We cross over a bridge
now and see a remarkably fast-flowing river, this is the River
Corrib which, guess what - drains Lough Corrib to the sea and
as the sea is only six kilometres away the river is all of six
kilometres long making it the shortest river in Europe. We see
a salmon weir with fishermen wading and casting hoping for a
bit of luck.
Over the bridge now and we find ourselves on a roundabout and
whereas back home roundabouts are covered by flower beds this
one is covered by a cathedral. More about that later.
It is not long before we reach the Atlantic or that part of
it that is Galway Bay. I’ve heard tell that it is a good
place in which to watch the sun go down but we are a bit early
– it is not yet midday. We now arrive at the Claddagh,
the maritime area and home of the Galway Hooker, a brown red-sailed
fishing boat. Hardiman’s History of Galway described the
sight of 500 fishing boats at the Claddagh as ‘perhaps
one of the most satisfying that can well be imagined’.
As with so many things the Galway Hooker is back in popularity
and there is an annual festival held where the boats race across
Galway Bay from Connemara to Kinvara.
pass by the Spanish Arch and up through the town catching passing
glimpses of tourists, taverns, cafes and shops and street musicians
suggesting, were it not for the distinctive Irish feel, something
much more continental.
are soon back in Eire Square and have about 35 minutes before
the bus leaves for the next tour and as we have a day ticket we
decide to go into the town and search out a bookshop before hopping
on again and getting a lift to the cathedral. Books are so tempting
and our first tour of Galway has whetted my appetite for some
more local history. My credit card is under pressure – again!
The Cathedral really is on a roundabout but I think actually that
it is a case of the road being directed around the Cathedral rather
than the Cathedral having to have been built to fit in the confines
of the roundabout. Surely?
Traditionally built in the shape of a cross the Cathedral was
completed in 1965 so is now celebrating its first 50 years. Architecturally
it is a hybrid of Iberian Gothic, European renaissance in particular
Iberian influences and small traces of hiberno Romanesque. And
before you run away with the idea that I know something about
these things let me assure you that I got all that from the book
Galway – A Sense of Place by Roddy Mannion. If you are tempted
to visit Galway as a result of this erudite bit of writing then
I would recommend that you search out the book before you go.
Inside the Cathedral everything is theatrically amazing and I
am so pleased that I have photographs to show you because my simple
words are just not adequate.
spent 3 days in Galway, we walked everywhere just in case we lost
our parking place at the hotel, we sampled the street music, the
Guinness (of course) and oysters. We joined in with the hustle
and bustle of this truly vibrant city. The hotel was superb with
an attentive barman who made the most ‘moreish’ of
us in the UK Ireland is just a short ferry journey away with Galway
city an easy 3 hour drive. The ferries are truly drive on, drive
off. They drive on the left and they speak English. The Irish
are pleased to give you a welcome. Give it a go!
And if you do just seek out this man and his bus!