We were originally going to spend a couple weeks in Ireland in spring 2020 to start nine weeks in Europe, but we all know what happened to travel in the early pandemic. As such, four nights in Dublin and a couple in Galway would have to suffice as our introduction to the Emerald Isle. This covers two nights in Galway and marks the end of our 2022 trip to the UK and Ireland.
Like my other Irish post about Dublin in January 2023, this one is being completed in April, so another three months have passed. In fact, I’m simply getting it out of the way so I have it for the record, and to reorganize my website into more completely a blog for photography, travel and the odd other thing. I’ll be removing my work content soon, and hopefully have all this done before we travel to mainland Europe in four weeks’ time.
I really haven’t got much to say about Galway so long after the trip, and I realize that some writing would actually help this be a good artifact for years down the road, or when I want to print some of these travel pieces for posterity. Nonetheless, this is going to be mostly some of the better photos I took in Galway and likely little else. At any rate, without further adieu …
Like the rest of our UK and Ireland trip between cities, getting from Dublin to Galway was a simple train trip of roughly 2.5 hours across the country, from the east to west coast. Both cities are at roughly the same latitude, with Galway sitting in a protected inlet, with the Aran Islands a small barrier to the larger North Atlantic
I don’t usually comment on our accommodations when traveling. I research pretty thoroughly and, honestly, am rarely disappointed. I feel it would be remiss if I didn’t just jot down a note about the Hyde Hotel in Galway. It’s actually a lovingly renovated little character building, with a nice restaurant in the lobby and lovely polite staff. You might wonder why it was still a problem. I booked our room a good three months ahead of our trip. Sadly, we were put in a room that overlooked the loading/garbage bay of the much larger luxury hotel next door. Unusually hot weather plus the lack of AC and windows that would only open roughly six to eight inches meant a very uncomfortable sleep. When you add the dumping of last night’s bar bottles and trash next door at about 6am each morning, and yeah, not good.
Galway is Charm
Truth be told, there was something charming about every place we visited on this trip. Some were really too big for the moniker, though. Galway just managed to hit the sweet spot of small-town feel and the variety of a city. Irish people are unfailingly friendly, at least in my limited experience, and once you add beachy areas (yes, beach) like Salthill, the intense beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and more lovely, walkable car-free streets in the city centre, you get an Irish charm here few places can match. We just loved our brief stay.
Distance on foot in Galway: 30.8km over two days of walking, including a hike from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher.
We arrived in Galway by train from Dublin mid-day on August 10th and, once backpacks were stowed at the hotel front desk, we did our customary walkabout. Given our stay would only be two nights and a big chunk of one day would be taken up by our trip to the Cliffs of Moher, and we thought we’d be taking a boat to the Aran Islands for a few hours, we had to make the most of our first half day stroll. In no particular order below, various photos of Galway’s lovely city centre.
We stayed mostly within the compact city centre for such a short stay. The “old town” largely lies northeast of River Corrib, which runs north-south straight down the middle of the city.
I ran across the excavation below walking down one of Galway’s little sidestreets. Apparently during redevelopment of Galway Custom House, the remains of a medieval hall were uncovered by archaeologists. This is the oldest building excavated in Galway thus far and appears on a 1651 pictorial map of the city, listed among the castles and grand mansions as “the old castle of the most illustrious Lord, Richard de Burgo, the red Earl.”
Just to the west of of River Corrib there are a series of small canals that run in a semi-circle from and to the river. They’re really a lovely touch and, for me anyway, really made Galway’s feel, if that makes any sense. In no particular order, some random pics below of the river and canals running through Galway.
Galway After Dark
We found every place we visited on this trip was alive after dark in the summer, and Galway proved no different. Lively pubs spilling onto cobblestone streets, open air patios and restaurants everywhere, more Guinness and Irish Whiskey than you could shake a stick at, at least a couple very colourful LGBTQ establishments and beautiful full moons on clear nights.
I haven’t bothered with the Aran Islands boat ride we booked online, which we couldn’t end up taking due to a borked booking system. However, the day we had planned to do that, we ended up walking a few kilometers to the southwest of the city centre for a half day in Salthill. To the eye, it appeared to be a modestly upscale neighbourhood with a very touristy waterfront vibe. A sort of beachy, Coney Island kind of thing. It was a nice walk on a warm day.
Galway Bay and the Docks
The River Corrib runs down into the ocean at Galway’s waterfront, and I found more than a few interesting things in the area. Not only a number of small boat wrecks with various shades of moss and levels of disintegration on full display. Below, various pics around Galway Bay and environs.
Sadly, I didn’t take a pic of Spanish Arch at Galway Bay, basically where the Long Walk begins.
“The Spanish Arch was built in 1584 and actually consisted of four arches which were part of the medieval defensive walls of Galway. The Spanish Arch was an access point to the city and served to protect the nearby quays where goods were loaded and unloaded onto ships.”Via https://www.galwaytourism.ie/the-spanish-arch/
The Cliffs of Moher
This part of the Galway visit was planned and researched well in advance. A spectacular stretch of high cliffs southwest of Galway, just south of where the Aran Islands sit as gateway to the broader North Atlantic. The entire area is very Banshees of Inisherin. And, while the film hadn’t been released at the time of this trip, I’m pretty sure the fictional island was modelled after the Arans and I know it was actually filmed on them.
We took a bus from Galway to Doolin, a very small town where the clifftop hike to the south viewpoint begins. If you are able-bodied and an 8-9k hike is doable, I cannot recommend this walk enough. It’s jaw-dropping at times. It was a bit of an adventure getting back to Galway from the viewpoint, where all the tourist buses go, but I’ll touch on that after the pics, which will do the rest of the talking.
The following pics are, more or less, in the order we encountered the views. Literally several kilometers of absolutely spectacular constant views. Walking out of Doolin to meet the trailhead, farmland, remnants of time gone by, and the odd friend.
The hike is mostly clifftop once you crest the first vista with views to the left and the right. Occasionally you meaner up into and around farmland, as not every landowner has allowed egress across their property to facilitate the trail. The last photo above is the south viewpoint, and if you really want to, you can hike another few kms to Moher Tower at Hag’s Head. However, you’d have to make the trek back to the viewpoint to connect with a bus back home.
We opted for public transit to get to Doolin and expected to do the same thing back to Galway from the viewpoint. However, transit schedules had other ideas. Between the number of people doing the same as us and somewhat infrequent service, we ended up giving a tour bus driver a few Euros under the table to snag a couple seats. By the very late afternoon it was either that or sleeping on a bench by the parking lot at the Cliffs of Moher tourist centre.
We had a partial day remaining until our train ride back to Dublin to go home and kept it very mellow. Another stroll of Galway’s little streets, some brunch, and a final pint of Guinness with a couple drams of Irish Whiskey seemed like an excellent way to wind down Galway, Ireland and, in fact, the whole trip.
Getting back to Vancouver was mostly a non-event. I say mostly because after the train back to Dublin, transit to our hotel with its very uninspiring North American-style airport hotel dinner fare and overpriced room, our flight to Montreal was delayed. What it ended up meaning was a mere 20 minutes to get to our connecting flight back to Vancouver – or, a sprint through a winding customs line, and multiple passport checks and breathlessly arriving at our departure gate, to literally run right up to board. Not even so much as time to hit the washroom.