Located on the west coast of the Ireland, Galway is famous for its festivals. In the Middles Ages it was ruled by fourteen families of traders. Thus, Galway became a major seaport. Elected European Capital of Culture in 2020, it shines throughout Europe.
If there’s a city in the Republic of Ireland that’s more Irish than the other, it’s Galway. Located in a region with a majority of people speaking Gaelic as a first language, with a deep affinity for culture, music and dance, Galway is often considered as the cultural capital of Ireland. Facing the Atlantic, the ocean is as much part of Galway’s identity as the culture and its many students give the city a lively and bohemian atmosphere. So, let’s go explore some of Galway’s secrets.
The city’s nickname is the “City of Tribes”. Those tribes were in fact 14 merchant families who dominated the political, commercial and social life of the city; The Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D’Arcy, Deane, Font, Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerritt had a lot of influence, especially during medieval and early modern times. “The Tribes of Galway” was coined during the English conquest of Ireland as a derogatory term but the families adopted it as a sign of defiance.
If you walk along Eyre Square, you will see the flags of the families flying high and if you come across a navy blue roundabout, look for the inscription, they have also been named after one of the families’ names.
Like many European medieval cities, Galway used to have a wall. That wall has since long been torn down but some remnants can still be seen and one of the best-preserved is… inside a shopping mall! And it’s quite a sights to see has the portion of the wall and a couple of towers are part of the Eyre Square Centre and thus, covered by a high glass ceiling. Talk about unusual!
Talking about walls, you can’t leave Galway without giving a kick to the Salthill Promenade’s wall. “The Prom”, as it’s known to locals, is a 2 kilometers long walk along the coast. It’s a great way to just relax, breathe some sea air and watch the sunset on the sand or from one of the many bars and restaurants. Just don’t forget to kick the wall that’s in front of the Blackrock Diving Tower before turning around. It’s supposed to bring luck and any true Galwegian would not miss it. What’s more, six years ago, a donation box has been installed and you can contribute to Galway’s charities.
If you are like us, we could not help but think about Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”, the story of an English bloke visiting the city and falling for a fiddle-playing local. The video shot as a point-of-view perspective (with the “Galway Girl” played by Saoirse Ronan) takes us for a night out around town and especially in a pub (the real star of the video, if you ask us). But where is it? Well, it turns out it is on Salthill and the pub is called “O’Connor’s” and the place has been run by the same family since 1942! Inside, you will find different areas (one has a maritime design, the other looks more like a cottage) and music is played every night. It’s Ireland, after all.
There’s a good chance you will visit the historical St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church while discovering Galway since it’s in the middle of town. This Anglican Episcopalian church has quite an interesting history. It started as a catholic church dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, Nicholas of Myrna. Christopher Columbus, who made a stop-over in Galway on his voyage, is said to have worshiped there. In 1652, the English troops of Cromwell broke the siege of Galway and turn the church into a stable. The English troops will end up defacing the building’s statues, leaving one smirking angel intact.
Today, it is an inclusive church. Its rector is Lynda Pellow, a woman, and it was the first church in Ireland to have a public blessing for a same-sex couple. Moreover, the church is known to organize many musical events. In addition to its own choir school, the church plays host to concerts regularly.