Galway Holiday Homes, Attractions & Activities
Galway in the west of Ireland is a wonderful holiday destination with so much to see and do throughout the county. Choose from a selection of self catering holiday homes in Galway and enjoy all of the home comforts you would expect from one of Ireland’s best holiday rental companies.
Nature and Wildlife
Coole Park Visitor Centre & Gardens
Coole Park was once the home of Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist and co-founder with Edward Martyn and W.B. Yeats of the Abbey Theatre. The Visitor Centre now stands as a tribute to the famed Irish writers who visited Lady Gregory at her home each summer.
Although the house no longer remains, the famous ‘autograph’ tree featuring initials carved by many Irish writers including Yeats, Synge, O’Casey and Shaw, still stands. One of W.B Yeats most famous works, “”The Wild Swans of Coole”” was inspired by his visits here.
Marked nature trails weave through many different specimens of trees and plants, many of which were imported from abroad by the Gregory family. Self-guided walk maps are available at the Centre for a nominal fee to guide visitors along wooded walks, river and lake trails. Another distinctive feature is a ‘turlough’ – a seasonal lake, appearing when rainfall is high.
The Visitor Centre houses the “”Lady Gregory of Coole”” audio-visual presentation and an exhibition area. Guided walks and tours can be provided for pre-arranged groups.
Children and family activities organised during summer months. The tearooms
offer delicious home-baking, snacks and lunches.
Galway Bird Watching
See Ireland’s bird life in Galway City and County. With a variety of habitats within easy reach, a wealth of bird life can be seen from waders to passerines to raptors and sea birds.
Tours can be as little as 1 hour or half day and full day tours, with the potential of seeing 40 to 60 species of birds in a full day’s tour.
As all bird watchers know, there is no guarantee what birds will be seen. However, there is a high probability of seeing particular birds at certain times due to tidal and seasonal conditions, and due to migration and careful selection of habitats to suit everyone’s birding experience.
Your Galway Bird Guide is Tom Cuffe a member of BirdWatch Ireland.
The Mitchell Henry Children’s Play Trail at Kylemore Abbey & Gardens
For Families and Art Lovers… The Mitchell Henry Children’s Play Trail has been very popular with children and adults alike ever since since it was installed in June 2011.
The play trail is a permanent exhibition of 24 play pieces scattered through the estate all of which have been designed and made by the furniture design students of GMIT Letterfrack using wood which has fallen naturally on the estate. Each piece is inspired by an element of Kylemore’s rich history. There are magical whispering trees, musical instruments, miniature picnic tables and much more.
Adult visitors are just as excited as younger visitors when following the play trail as the quality work and imagination of the students is inspiring.
Churches, Abbeys and Monasteries
The small village of Clonfert, only a short distance west of the River Shannon in County Galway, is home to a beautiful cathedral that boasts an elaborate, Romanesque-style doorway dating from 1200.
The ecclesiastical history of the place dates back to the 6th century, when St Brendan the Navigator founded a monastery here. When he died, about 584, St Brendan’s body was buried at Clonfert and the presence of his remains explains why such an ornate doorway was later created.
Kylemore Neo-Gothic Church
For more than a century, Kylemore has been the quintessential romantic nineteenth-century Irish castle overlooking a lake in the West of Ireland. To reach it from Galway, the visitor drives through splendidly lonesome countryside, flattish at first but then changing to mountains. At the foot of one such mountain, Kylemore rests majestically, making the journey seem very worthwhile for the combination of Godand man-made beauty rising in terraces from lake to mountain in a magical wooded setting. Kylemore in Irish suitably means ‘large wood’.
Its fairy-tale history started appropriately with a honeymoon in 1849, when Mitchell Henry, the son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant, married Margaret Vaughan of County Down and visited a Connemara that was just beginning to recover from the devastating effects of the potato famine a few years earlier. He was captivated by the scenery, and promised to build his wife a Gothic castle there, which he did in the years 1867-71, to the designs of Samuel Ussher Roberts, the Galway district engineer, and the architect James F. Fuller.
The happy days he spent here with his wife and children came to an abrupt end with her death in 1874, and he sold the castle to the Duke of Manchester in 1903. He then commissioned Fuller to design a lovely neo-Gothic church in her memory (currently under restoration) in the style of a fourteenth-century English Cathedral, which can be reached along a leafy walk to the east of the castle. Kylemore was put on the market again in 1920, when it was fortunately bought by the Irish Benedictine nuns who had been established in Ypres in Belgium in 1665, had come briefly to Ireland under James II in 1688, but then returned again to Ypres, only to be bombed out of their convent during the First World War. Returning once more to Ireland by way of England, they finally settled at Kylemore Kylemore Abbey Neo-Gothic Church which, while retaining its castle character, now took on its present title of Abbey. Here the community work and pray in their own private part of the building, and run a very successful international girls’ boarding school in another part, both of which are closed to the public.
Galway Cathedral was constructed in the mid-1900s, at a time when most similar buildings were using concrete. It is, therefore, the youngest of Europe’s great stone cathedrals. Dedicated to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, it was designed by J.J. Robinson in a very eclectic style. It includes some Renaissance details mixed with the Romanesque and Gothic traditions.
The cathedral also boasts an impressive variety of art, including a statue of the Virgin by Imogen Stuart, a large Crucifixion mosaic by Patrick Pollen, rose windows by George Campbell and more.
St. Brendan’s Catholic Cathedral in Loughrea, County Galway was completed in 1902. Though the structure’s only unusual architectural features are the double transepts, the splendid decoration of its interior makes it worth a visit.
The cathedral features stained glass from influential studio An Túr Gloine, including Michael Healy’s Ascension and Last Judgment of 1936-40. There is also a statue of the Virgin and Child by John Hughes, bronze angels by Michael Shortall and metalwork by William Scott, which was admired by poet T.S. Eliot.
St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church of Ireland
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church was established in Galway City, County Galway in 1320 and is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, known today as Santa Claus. In the 15th century, many of the church’s valuable medieval furnishings were removed by the English King’s Lord Deputy Leonard and later, in the 16th century, Cromwellian troops used the space as a stable.
Still, the structure is well preserved. Inside, visitors can view fragments of two wooden mitres and a crown that survived the difficult times, in addition to the unique triple nave, fascinating carvings, gargoyles and stained glass windows. The house of worship has attracted many notable visitors over the years, including Christopher Columbus, who prayed here during a visit to Galway in 1477.
Kilmacduagh Cathedral Churches and Round Tower
Near the town of Gort in County Galway, St Colman founded the Kilmacduagh Monastery in the 7th century. The site boasts a fine collection of churches and a well preserved but leaning round tower that stands 30m high.
Nearby, visitors can explore St John’s Church and Glebe House, thought to have been the residence of the abbot. The settlement, which became the centre of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, also features the ruins of a cathedral.
Na Seacht Teampaill
Around the year 800, the Irish church seems to have encouraged its flock to go on pilgrimage to remote places in the country, and the Aran Islands in County Galway would appear to have been one of the chosen destinations.
Na Seacht Tempaill, or the Seven Churches, may have been home to seven houses of worship, but today, but only Teampall Brecan and Teampall an Phoill survive. Temple Brecan was built around 1200 and is flanked by a number of rectangular houses, which are believed to be the only pilgrim hostels to survive from late-Medieval Ireland.
Museums and Attractions
Nora Barnacle House Museum
The Nora Barnacle House, in Galway City is the smallest museum in Ireland. Nora Barnacle was wife and muse to James Joyce and this was her tiny family home. She lived here with her mother and six younger siblings until she left Galway in 1904.
The Nora Barnacle House was built in the 1800s, and is the smallest house in the street, with accommodation consisting of two rooms and a tiny back yard. The ground floor room served as a kitchen, dining room and often a bedroom.
James Joyce first met his mother-in-law in this house. The building, now returned to its 1900s condition, is full of letters, photographs and other memorabilia illuminating the lives of the Joyces and the Barnacles. Guided tours are available in summer.
Admission Charge: €2.50 per adult, and €2.00 per child/student/senior citizen.
Battle of Aughrim Interpretative Centre
The Battle of Aughrim Interpretative Centre, in Aughrim County Galway, is an award winning centre commemorating a forgotten day of Irish history, the Battle of Aughrim. This battle was known as ‘Ireland’s Gettysburg’ and was fought on 12th July 1691, in the closing stages of the Williamite-Jacobite War. This War of the Two Kings was fought between rival monarchs, William of Orange and his deposed Catholic father-in-law, James II.
Aughrim was the ultimate battle of this war.
Centre facilities include ‘Daltons Letter’. Narrated by one of Ireland’s finest actors, John Kavanagh, This film recalls the events of the original 12th of July.
Story panels chart a complex course of history from the Glorious Revolution to the flight of the Wild Geese. Friendly and professional staff will be delighted to advise on other attractions in the area.
Galway City Museum
Situated behind the famous Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum houses exhibitions which explore aspects of the history and heritage of Galway City.
Current exhibitions include: Routes to the Past (Prehistoric Galway); Galway Within the Walls (Medieval Galway); Pádraic Ó Conaire: the Man and the Statue; Lamb in Connemara (Paintings by Charles Lamb); Dance Hall Days; Cinema, Galway goes to the Pictures; the Arts in Galway; and Galway & the Wars of Empire.
Among the Museum highlights are the Galway Civic Sword and Great Mace. The Civic Sword dates from the Charter of King James I in 1610, which granted authority for the carrying of such a weapon before the Mayor. The Great Mace, a massive piece of ornamental silverwork crafted in Dublin in 1710, was presented to the town by Edward Eyre, Mayor of Galway, in 1712. The Museum is also home to two iconic symbols of the city – the statue of Padraic Ó Conaire and a traditional sailing vessel or Galway Hooker, named ‘Máirtín Oliver’, which was made especially for the Museum.
The building itself affords spectacular views of the Claddagh, the Spanish Arch, River Corrib and Galway Bay. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 5pm and admission is FREE.
Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh)
Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh)is a small restored cottage overlooking the breathtaking lakes and mountains of Connemara, County Galway. The cottage was used by Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), leader of the 1916 Rising, as a summer residence and summer school for his pupils from St Enda’s in Dublin.
Accompanying Pearse on a visit to Ros Muc in 1915 was Desmond Ryan, a former pupil, who later wrote of the enthusiasm engendered by Pearse on his visits there: “”The Twelve Pins came in sight and Pearse waved his hand here and there over the land, naming lake, mountain and district away to the Joyce Country under its purple mist””.
Ryan also recalled the long walks and cycle rides through the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht and the stories told by Pearse that had been recounted to him by local storytellers.
The interior, although burned during the War of Independence, has been reconstructed and contains an exhibition.
Kiltartan Gregory Museum
The Kiltartan Gregory Museum and Millennium Park is located 3km outside Gort on the main Galway to Limerick road.
This historic place, Kiltartan Cross, is where the blind poet Rafferty met and fell in love with the “Beauty of Ballylee” Márre ní hEidhie and where he often played music for local dances.
The Kiltartan landscape also inspired, amongst others, Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats.
This building was originally a National School built in 1892 at the behest of the local landlord, Sir William Gregory of Coole Park, Gort. His brother-in-law and architect, Francis Persse incorporated ornamental features into the building, similar to those found in Ceylon where Sir William was a former Governor.
The school closed in 1960 and following its restoration, was officially opened by the then Irish President, Mary Robinson in 1996.
Today the old schoolhouse contains photographs, manuscripts, first editions, memorabilia, Great Famine material, genealogy of local families and a reconstruction of an old school classroom from the 1900’s.
Glengowls Mines is a historic 19th-century silver and lead mine which was abandoned in 1865. It is located close to Oughterard, on the N59 Galway to Clifden road.
Take a guided tour and explore large marble chambers and caverns studded with lead and silver pyrite. Veins of calcite and quartz, as well as pitch pine timbers that were brought back to Ireland by emigrant ships.
Above ground, explore the agents house, paymasters office, spring well, hand-winding stow, blacksmith’s shop, circular powder house and horse whim (a horse-powered windlass used for hauling materials to the surface).
Or take a stroll along a 1.5km stretch of the old Galway-Clifden steam railway line.
Dún Aonghasa is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway. Perched spectacularly on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean, the fort is about 900 metres from the visitor centre and offers views of up to 75 miles of Irish coastline.
The Dún Aonghasa Interpretive Centre provides informative tours of the site. As much of the tour is outdoors, visitors are advised to wear weather protective clothing and shoes suitable for walking over uneven terrain.
Leenane Sheep & Wool Centre
Discover the world of wool and the interesting process from sheep-shearing to world-famous Irish knitwear creations at this family-run farm.
Meet the various breeds of sheep on display at Leenane or watch them being sheared in peak season. Learn not only about sheep farming in Connemara but follow the wool from sheep to yarn through daily carding, spinning and weaving demonstrations.
Watch as these ancient skills are practised on spinning wheels and looms from the turn of the last century. Listen to interviews from locals who remember the past and Connemara traditions. Ask any woolly or sheepish questions you like.
An introduction to the local area is available in English, Irish, French, German or Italian while there is a pictorial display of the history of sheep and wool handicrafts.
The gift shop carries a range of colourful and thoughtful souvenirs, ranging from crystal, woollens and jewellery, through to little presents and mementoes. Beautiful knits, woven sweaters, scarves and throws are available while for keen knitters there is a fantastic range of 100% Irish wool knitting yarn available. Practical items include rainwear, (ideal for Connemara weather) while a variety of books by Irish novelists and authors on local history, flora and fauna, plus Ordnance Survey maps for walkers are also in stock.
An Tobar Café serves home-made meals and snacks.
Dan O’Hara’s Homestead / Connemara Heritage & History Centre
This award-winning heritage centre offers a unique insight into the history and heritage of Connemara.
A visit of an hour, afternoon or overnight stay will provide special memories.
Dan O’Hara’s story illustrates the life of a typical 19th-century Connemara tenant farmer. The multi-lingual audio-visual and history presentation tells both of Dan O’Hara’s tale from his eviction to subsequent emigration to New York and also the history of Connemara down through the ages, from pre-historic to present times.
Other features of the heritage centre include reconstructions of a crannóg (pre-historic lake dwelling), ring fort and clochaun (early Christian Oratory).
From the hilltop above the farm, there is a spectacular view of the Roundstone Bog as it stretches towards the Atlantic.
An old-style carriage takes visitors on a guided tour through the Centre by prior appointment. This lively, entertaining tour can include turf cutting demonstrations, sheep herding and other activities on request.
Facilities at the newly refurbished centre include a large craft shop and restaurant. Free carpark available with ample room for coaches.
Historic Houses and Castles
Aughnanure Castle was built in the 16th century as a stronghold of the O’Flaherty clan, and is renowned for its unusual double bawn. It lies in picturesque surroundings close to the shores of Lough Corrib.
In 1546, the O’Flaherty’s motto “”Fortune favours the strong”” and the powerful Mayo O’Malley’s Motto “”Powerful by land and by sea””, were joined in the marriage of Donal an Chugaidh O’Flaherty and Grainuaile, or Grace O’Malley.
Standing on what is virtually a rocky island, the Castle is a particularly well-preserved example of an Irish tower house. In addition, visitors will find the remains of a banqueting hall, a watch tower, bastions and a dry harbour.
Richard de Burgo granted a charter to Meiler de Bermingham in 1235 and shortly afterwards de Bermingham started building his castle at Athenry.
Probably completed by 1250, it consists of a three-storey tower surrounded by the remains of a strong outer wall and is entered at first floor level through an unusually decorated doorway.
Recently re-roofed, the interior now contains an audio-visual room and exhibition.
In the decades preceding the 1641 Rebellion, a number of Irish landowners were building houses that tried to combine the need for spacious and luxurious living with an adequate means of positive defence. Inevitably, such houses differed from contemporaryEnglish manors in having fewer windows, high basements, musketry loops, bartizans and other defensive features. Nonetheless, many succeeded in projecting the air of a gentleman’s residence, and few more successfully than Sir Ulick Burke’s handsome stronghouse at Glinsk, probably begun around the time he was raised to the baronetage in 1628.
Clifden Castle was built by John d’Arcy in a Gothic Revival style in the 18th century, about 1750. The house was only lived in for about 90 years before it was abandoned in the 1840’s. Few photographs remain of this one time noble house but they can be seen in some of the local history books or in the town’s library. Just ask for them.
The house fell into ruin and was stripped bare of anything that could be sold by the locals in order to feed themselves.
One of the interesting features of this property are the standing stones. D’Arcy had these stones erected to mimick other standing stones around Ireland. Today little remains of the house but its shell. You can walk through the house through an entrance through the back “”garden””, as the front entrance is inaccessible because of a steep drop into the structure.
At the junction of Shop Street and Upper Abbeygate Street is Lynch’s Castle, a 16th century castle which was heavily altered in 1966 when it was converted into a bank. The exterior preserves some of the few remaining Irish gargoyles as well as the arms of Henry V11, the Lynch family and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare. The stonework of the windows is of good quality. In the ground floor, historical material dealing with the castle is displayed. A doorway and first-floor window of one of the many fine 16th and 17th century houses which adorned the city has been re-erected in isolation on the north side of Eyre Square. It belonged to a house of the Browne family which formerly stood in Lower Abbeygate Street.
Dunsandle Castle and Woods
Dunsandle Castle was first held by the De Burgo (Burke) family, acceded to the Daly’s and has recently been expertly restored.
The castle is replete with unique architectural features which lead the visitor on a fascinating journey through history. Key features of the castle include a banqueting hall, an anti-clockwise spiral staircase, an oubliette (or secret chamber) and minstrel’s gallery.
Also unique to Dunsandle is its groin vault construction, a Roman design feature that fell into relative obscurity in Europe until the resurgence of quality stone building brought about by Carolingian and Romanesque architecture.
Dunsandle also contains an 18th-century Ice House in the castle grounds and Bawn (courtyard). Surrounded by 20 acres of native woodlands, pathways, picnic and playground areas allow visitors to explore and enjoy this natural heritage.
Opportunities abound to spot wildlife including squirrels, foxes and kingfishers as a riverside walk meanders peacefully along the banks of the River Cleran.
More daring visitors, placed in the medieval stocks, can add their souvenir photographs to the Rogues Gallery collection on the Dunsandle Castle website.
Rosserrilly Abbey is the finest and best preserved medieval Franciscan foundation in the country. It was built by Sir Raymond de Burgo in the 14th century, and the majority of the surviving fabric is of the 15th and 16th century date. The remains include a nave, chancel, a sacristy, mill, brew house and an extensive kitchen area, There is a fish tank, dormitory, refectory and two cloisters, one of which has a cloister arcade. There is a guest house, priors apartments and several other buildings of uncertain use. A narrow 15th century Tower occurs at the junction of the nave and chancel and this is of five story’s. A north transept and a later side chapel also occur. Extensive earth works also survive alone with the remains of a gate house, Several side chapels occur.
The friary was abandoned by the monks in 1753, but still remains largely intact and is well worth a visit.
Portumna Castle and Gardens
The great semi-fortified house at Portumna was built around 1618 by Richard Burke, or de Burgo, 4th Earl of Clanrickard.
The Jacobean-style building remained the main seat of the de Burgo clan for over 200 years, until it was gutted by fire in 1826. Conservation works are ongoing, however the ground floor of the house is now open to the public while the castle and Gate House feature exhibition panels.
Portumna Castle has formal, geometrically laid-out gardens to the north. The Willow Maze incorporates several different willow varieties and its central path is lined with espalier fruit trees which are underplanted with lavender.
A 17th-century potager kitchen garden has been restored to it’s original splendour and organically planted with flowers, herbs, hollies, and vegetables. The garden offers the visitor an ideal opportunity to see and experience gardening layout and techniques of yesteryear.
Kylemore Abbey and Gardens
Kylemore Abbey is the ideal destination for a day out in majestic Connemara. Located about an hour’s drive from Galway City, a visit to Kylemore will rank as an unforgettable memory.
The dramatic landscape and iconic image of a gothic castle reflected in a Connemara lake has made Kylemore Abbey world-famous and it is now the largest tourist attraction in the west of Ireland.
The Benedictine nuns invite visitors to experience the Victorian atmosphere of the Abbey’s restored rooms, miniature gothic church, head gardener’s house and garden boy’s house. Learn of the tales of tragedy and romance, the engineering initiatives, model farms, royal visits and the Abbey’s former role as a girls boarding school.
Explore the many nature trails,woodland walks and the magical award-winning walled garden where in keeping with its Victorian heritage, only flower and vegetable varieties from that era are grown.
Mitchell’s café and the tea house offers home-cooked food made from recipes perfected by the Benedictine nuns and using fresh vegetables and herbs from the walled garden.
The craft shop has a wide selection of design-focused Irish giftware including artisan food products, knitwear, pottery, art and handcrafts made by the Benedictine nuns at Kylemore.
Choirs travel from around the world to Kylemore Abbey to sing in the Gothic church with its superb acoustics. All are welcome to attend the choral performances and admittance is included in the Kylemore entry fee. Check the Abbey’s website for upcoming choral performances.
National and Forest Parks
Rinville Park is located just 5 minutes from the picturesque village of Oranmore. It is a wonderful amenity, created around an ancient castle, a stately home and a fine estate demesne, which dates from the 16th century. With an extensive network of walks through woodlands, open farmland and by the sea, the Park offers a recreational facility of outstanding quality and beauty. There is access to Rinville Point and Saleen Point, where views of Galway Bay, Galway City and the Burren of Co Clare, can be enjoyed. Raven, grey heron and otter are numbered among the fascinating fauna which can be observed, while the flora includes cultivated and wild flowers, shrubs and trees.
The Park has picnic areas and a children’s playground, and is open year round. Admission is free.
Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is situated in the heart of its rugged West of Ireland namesake region.
Some of the Park’s mountains are part of the famous Twelve Bens range while the stunning vistas from the 400-metre high Diamond Hill include the distant islands of Inishbofin, Inishturk and Inishshark and the turreted Kylemore Abbey.
A number of walking trails beginning at the Visitor Centre offer walkers a variety of scenic routes and nature trails through the Park.
The park is also home to Connemara ponies – originally presented by the late President Erskine Childers – red deer and an enormous variety of birdlife, including skylarks, stonechats and peregrine falcons.
Other remnants of times past include Tobar Mweelin, a well which was formerly used to supply water to Kylemore Castle, ruined houses, a disused lime kiln, old sheep pens, an ice house and ancient walls.
The Visitor Centre features include exhibitions, the “”Man and the landscape”” multi-lingual audio visual show and tea room (seasonal).
A summer programme of guided walks and special events for younger visitors are also available at this site, one of six such national parks in Ireland.
Turoe Pet Farm and Leisure Park
Turoe Pet Farm & Leisure Park offers hours of fun for families and young visitors, regardless of the Irish weather!
Take a stroll around the 14-acre park and enjoy the tranquil countryside setting or pack the picnic hamper for an idyllic outdoor meal.
A host of friendly animals await feeding and cuddling by young visitors who have a choice of two outdoor playgrounds and football pitch or the indoor play-area, complete with bouncing castles and rope ladder, for more weather-independent fun.
Turoe Pet Farm is renowned for holding special bank holiday weekend events throughout the year. Pick from the Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Party and Illuminated Christmas Village.
The latest addition is the “”Inflatable City”” which features indoor play maze and bouncing castles, live music, light lunches and delicious home-baked refreshments served in the ‘Country Kitchen’.
Joyce Country Sheepdogs
While in the lovely surroundings of the Connemara Mountains, why not get an insight into traditional hill sheep farming. See how our skilled sheepdogs make the wild, horned, blackface sheep behave like pet lambs.
Included in the farm visit –
* Sheepdog demonstrations
* Talk on hill sheep farming
* Meet the puppies (when available)
* Boat trips and hire
* Meet Seamie and Síle, the donkeys.
Demonstrations and talks are held at 13.00 and 15.00 (Tuesday to Saturday) or by appointment.
Inishbofin Island, 11km of the Galway coast, is renowned for its white sandy beaches, rare flora and fauna and magnificent scenery. It is a retreat that provides an inspirational haven for artists, musicians and photographers.
Inishbofin translates as ‘the island of the white cow’. This name apparently comes from the legend of an mythical old woman and a white cow which a lost fisherman came upon on an enchanted Island many centuries ago. Every seven years the woman is said to emerge from a lake on Inishbofin to warn of impending disasters. Luckily she hasn’t appeared in a while so your safe.
Iron Age promontory forts dot the cliffs, early Christian and medieval monastic remains tell the tale of St Colman and St Leo, 16th Century strongholds whisper of pirates Don Bosco and Granuaile and the remains of a 17th Century barracks cry out for the Catholic clergy once imprisoned here.
Today, Inishbofin has become an important centre for traditional Irish music and song, boasting its own Ceilí band and local contemporary musicians. The island plays host to many visiting musicians and artists who come to Inishbofin for its renowned music sessions.
Inishbofin is a breeding area for many species of birds such as the endangered corncrake. For the adventurous there are exciting mountain walks, hill climbing and excellent shore angling.
The local Heritage Museum sheds light on local history with accounts of island life in times past and information on the many archaeological sites. For those tracing ancestral roots, visitors can also access a genealogical database of the people of the island.
The Aran Islands
In Galway Bay lie three rocky limestone outcrops that make up the Aran Islands. They are a bastion of traditional language, culture and music, unique in their geology and archaeology and unrivalled in their potent sense of history.
Each of the three islands, Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr have their own distinct atmosphere and character, but the dramatic landscapes and endless sea form a backdrop to a labyrinth of meandering stone walls and tiny, tightly packed fields. In between, a network of narrow winding roads and grassy lanes sweep from pristine beaches and craggy shores to the dizzying cliffs that mark the edge of Europe.
The islands have lured legions of writers, artists and visitors over the centuries, their enigmatic ancient monuments, early Christian remains, holy wells and historic lighthouses adding to their sense of timelessness and mystery.
The pace of life is slow here and a profound sense of peace accompanies any walk or cycle down the narrow grassy lanes. This serenity makes the islands a precious sanctuary from the rush of modern life, and their isolation guarantees their place as a stronghold of traditional culture. The nightly music sessions, lively dances, traditional crafts, seagoing currachs and wonderfully warm and welcoming spirit are inimitable parts of Aran.
The Aran Islands – Inis Oírr
Inis Oírr lies 8km off the coast of County Clare. It is a tiny Island only 4km long and 2.5km wide yet wandering along its shores it’s easy to get the impression that you have the whole world to yourself.
Inis Oírr has probably been inhabited for 5,000 years but the earliest evidence of civilisation is at Cnoc Raithní, a Bronze Age burial mound dating from 1500BC. Nearby are Teampall Chaomhán, a medieval church ruin half buried in the sand and the 16th century Caisleán Uí Bhríain, an imposing three storey tower house built within a Stone Age fort. To the north of the island golden sandy beaches offer safe swimming and stunning vistas of Connemara; while the eastern shore boasts a shipwreck and breathtaking views of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
The island also has an arts and cultural centre, Áras Éanna, where you can attend workshops, see exhibitions and learn about traditional culture. for more information on the centre visit www.araseanna.ie. If you visit in August you may get to see the traditional currach boat races.
Aran Islands – Inis Mór
Inis Mór (Inishmore) is the largest of the Galway Aran Islands. It is blanketed in fissured limestone and a patchwork of fields hemmed in by precariously balanced dry stone walls. You can walk, cycle or ride the lane ways here to discover the island’s most celebrated monument, Dún Aonghusa. One of the most famous and most important prehistoric sites in Europe, this semi circular stone fort sits dramatically on top of a 100 metre drop into the sea. Elsewhere circular forts, early Christian remains, 12th Century high crosses and medieval churches dot the island.
Traditions are very much alive on Inis Mór; nightly music sessions, regular dances and even currach racing are part of everyday life. Whether you wander the flower strewn lane ways, watch the seals in the clean waters or relax on the beach, you will undoubtedly be smitten by the people, culture and heritage of this incredible island.
Aran Islands – Inis Meáin
Inis Meáin is Aran’s Middle Island. It is the quietest of the three Aran Islands and a place to escape the crowds.
A maze of narrow winding roads, sheltered paths and trails criss cross the island, from the rocky hillsides of the south to the deserted sandy beaches on the north shore. Wild flowers bloom everywhere and numerous examples of early settlements dot the limestone karst landscape.
The incredible oval fort of Dún Chonchúir can be found here and so too are the beautiful Cill Cheanainn and the church of Mary Immaculate with its magnificent stained glass windows by the famed Harry Clarke Studios. Nearby is Teach Synge, the restored island cottage of writer John Millington Synge, for whom the island was a favourite retreat.
The island offers a diving centre to explore the clear waters and discover the abundant marine life off shore. There is also a centre running renowned Irish language and culture courses; where you can learn about the history and traditions of the island from music and poetry to set dancing and ecology.
Zoos and Aquariums
This National Aquarium of Ireland is one of the West of Ireland’s premier attractions.
Situated in Salthill overlooking Galway Bay, it is home to over 150 marine and freshwater native species. Highlights include seahorses, friendly rays, sharks and an enormous skeleton of a Fin Whale.
The Ocean Tank is currently home to Valentine, the only White Skate on public display in the world.
The Aquarium offers a truly hands-on experience, and visitors can hold starfish or spiny spider crab in the palm of their hands, help feed hundreds of hungry fish, and even explore an underwater world in a model submarine.
Suitable for all ages, the weather-independent aquarium is truly an attraction not to be missed on a visit to Galway city.
Other features include the Lighthouse Gift Shop, Arabica Coffee House and the Royal Villa Restaurant.
Ocean & Country Visitor Centre
Ocean & Country Visitor Centre and Museum has over 200 exhibits, and a seaside nature trail.
Get a glimpse of the local maritime history through a special exhibition dedicated to sea and shore life. The Centre has over 250 exhibits on display.
Ireland’s only glass-bottom boat tours – purpose built to the highest safety standards and certified by the Department of Transport to operate one one of Europe’s most scenic and well-protected harbours.
Ballinakill Harbour is home to a large variety of sea birds, grey seals, dolphins and porpoises are frequent visitors. Now, for the first time ever, you can take part in a scenic and wildlife sea tour with a difference that takes you on an amazing voyabe of discovery. See the underwater world as only seen before by divers, commentary throughout the tour. For best under-water viewing, lower tides are best – please enquire beforehand.
Silver Strand Blue Flag Beach
Blue Flag Beach at Silver Strand, Barna, Co Galway
Trá an Doilín, Carraroe Blue Flag Beach
Blue Flag beach at Trá an Doilín, Carraroe, Co Galway.
Kilmurvey Blue Flag Beach
A European Blue Flag Beach is located at Cill Mhuirbhigh, on Inish Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands.
Spiddal Blue Flag Beach
Céibh an Spidéal beach has a Blue Flag.
Salthill Blue Flag Beach
Salthill, Co Galway, has a Blue Flag Beach.