Here’s nine things you absolutely can’t miss while you’re there.
You’ll know you’re in for something special as you approach Kylemore Abbey and see the iconic baronial castle reflected in a Connemara Lake. Enjoy the perfect family day out at the former monastery, delving into its history of tragedy and romance, before exploring the extensive woodland and lakeshore walks, and the beautiful Victorian walled garden. Stop in for a homemade scone before you leave at Mitchell’s Café or the Garden Tea House.
You’ll be spoiled for scenic choice at Connemara National Park, which stretches across 2,957 hectares – roughly the size of 2,400 football pitches. It takes in four of the famous Twelve Bens mountains, huge expanses of bogs, grasslands and woodlands, and it’s a birdwatcher’s delight. Three different unmissable trails offer something for every level, or during the summer you can take advantage of guided walks.
Discover gorgeous white sandy beaches just 11km off the Galway coast on Inishbofin Island with stunning views back to the Galway coast and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Get your hiking shoes on and make the most of the trail around the island, spot the Iron Age forts dotting the cliffs and catch the island’s own ceilí band before you head back to the mainland.
A 20-minute drive outside the city is the beating heart of Connemara. You’ll find a treasure trove of beaches, delicious food, well-poured Guinness and lovely locals in the colourful streets of Clifden. Nestled between the Twelve Pins Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, you can’t miss the nearby high point at Sky Road, one of Ireland’s most impressive scenic drives.
Step back in time with a trip to the Aran Islands, to an Ireland you probably thought existed only in books. Start by jumping into the Bronze Age at Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór, before strolling 15 minutes’ down the road to The Worm Hole, a bizarre, perfectly formed rectangular plunge pool that has to be seen to be believed. Keep an eye out for the enormous basking sharks on the water’s surface from all three islands, and don’t be afraid to take home an iconic souvenir – an Aran jumper.
You’ll get away with speaking English on these Gaeltacht islands, but there’s never been a better time to try out your cúpla focail. Rossaveal is the main ferry port in Galway for the islands, with sailings twice daily to each island year-round, and more frequent departures in the summer months.
You can’t beat a stroll along Salthill Promenade, ice-cream in hand, on a sunny day. You might only be a five minute drive away, but you’ll feel a world apart from Galway City. Sheltered among beachy coves along this Blue Flag-designated shoreline, you can sunbathe, explore amongst the rocks or dive in and join the swimmers in lapping up those Atlantic waves.
One of Ireland’s most unique cities, Galway City is as famous for its fantastic food and nightlife as it is for its cutting-edge arts, music, design and theatre scenes. Known as the City of Tribes, there’s rarely a weekend without a festival or cultural celebration in the city. Even if there isn’t, you could spend hours exploring its maze of colourful cobbled streets, and it won’t be long before the sound of a traditional session draws you into a local pub.
Kill two birds with one stone by taking in Galway’s famous Spanish Arch and then duck behind it to find Galway City Museum. You might think you know Galway City’s cultural ins and outs from its pubs, but this museum immerses you in the intriguing history of the city and its folklore, and the local connection to the sea. Learn how the city you feel you know so well was shaped over the centuries – with free admission, you’ve no excuse not to drop in.
The Galway Races at Galway Racecourse is the quintessential Galway experience, but it’s about far more than just horse-racing. Taking over the city at the end of July each year, it’s a major cultural festival as well. You won’t be short on options for great music, culinary delights and cutting-edge fashion so dig out your best hat and prepare for a weekend of fun.
Galway has so much to offer, whether you’re a music loving foodie or itching to explore the coastline and islands, there’s almost too much to do here.