For first time visitors to Ireland, Galway is the perfect place to start! The city is an authentic representation of “The Emerald Isle” and once you explore its rich history and culture, you’ll consider never going home!
Galway is known as the Croí Cultúrtha na hÉireann, or “Cultural Heat” of Ireland. It sits on the West Coast of Ireland, and is one of the largest populated cities. Entering Galway, one of the first sites you’ll encounter is Galway Cathedral. It’s also known as Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, which is located on Nun’s Island. Although a very young church (completed in 1965), it’s the largest church in Ireland to be made out of stone, and hosts a dome that is 145ft tall that can be seen from all over Galway.
Galway’s City Centre is memorable within itself, but the real gems of Ireland are located on its outskirts.
Corcomroe Abbey dates back to the 12th century, and features beautiful arches, detailed carvings, and Celtic burial crosses. Anyone can be buried there, so grave sites range from the 800s all the way to present day! Close to the Abbey, you can find a fairy ring that the Irish today still consider to hold ancient Druid magic, and where the entrance to the “other world” is hidden.
The Burrens, “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place, is an area covered in rocks that were left behind when the glaciers moved across Ireland. Located in the Burrens is the Portal Tomb, which dates back to 4200 BC-2900 BC. It consists of two standing rocks, with a slab of rock across the top. Sounds basic, but these “slabs of rock” hold boatloads of history & cultural significance.
The Cliffs of Moher alone are worth the trip to Ireland! Perched on one side of the cliffs is Brian’s Castle. Here you can view the Aran Islands and Hags Head from the castle’s roof. Fun fact, as if the cliffs weren’t already magical, you can also see the cave and rock that were filmed in the sixth Harry Potter movie, “Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince.” The other route along the cliffs will give you plenty of time to walk along its ledges and soak in all its majesty. Walking alongside the edges of the cliffs is very doable on a clear day, but make sure and pack your walking shoes because it’s about a 5-mile hike!
Before heading back to Galway’s city center, the last memorable site to stop at is Dunguaire Castle. If you’re looking for a castle that oozes history and romance, this castle is for you! The castle is fully intact and hosts banquets where you can find traditional music and locally sourced food. If you manage to catch the castle on a rare, clear day like we did, you’ll catch it reflecting in the water, which makes a perfect ending to your day exploring Galway!