There are so many reasons why people come to Galway that is impossible to create a definitive list of what to see and do, but here are some of our favourite Galway attractions.
Kylemore Abbey, on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The building itself was built between 1863 and 1868 for a Manchester politician called Mitchell Henry, who is buried here with his wife.
Important fearures of Kylemore Abbey include the neo-Gothic church built between 1877 and 1881 in memory of Mitchell’s wife, a miniature replica of Norwich Cathedral, and a Victorian walled garden located about a mile from the Abbey.
Spanish Arch, Galway
Galway’s famous Spanish Arch is located where Galway’s River Corrib meets the sea.
A remnant of a 16th-century bastion, the Arch was added to the town’s walls to protect merchant ships from looting.
The Spanish Arch is so called due to Galway’s merchant trade with Spain, whose Galleons often docked under its protection.
Meiler de Bermingham probably completed this castle by 1250. The remains include a three-storey tower surrounded by the part of a strong outer wall. Among the buildings was a Dominican friary, also built by Meiler, which is now in ruins.
The basement of the tower has a vault carried by three pillars. The door is on the first floor, though the steps leading to it are modern; the doorway is well preserved and has capitals which are reminiscent of Irish Romanesque decoration. Three trefoil-headed windows remain on the first floor, and the high pitch of the gable is unusual in such an early castle. One of the rounded corner turrets of the enclosing wall is original, but much of the wall has been restored.
Aughrim, Ballinasloe, Galway
Following England’s glorious revolution in 1688, the deposed King James II fled to France to seek refuge with the Sun King, King Louis XIV. Together the Catholic kings planned to regain the English throne for James by ousting his successor and ironically, his son-in-law, William of Orange.
Visitors can re-live the day that changed the course of Irish and European history at the Battle of Aughrim Interpretative Centre, situated in Aughrim village on the main Galway-Dublin road, the N6. An audio-visual show recreates the true and moving account of Captain Walter Dalton who fought at the Battle of Aughrim.
Spiddal Craft Village is located at the entrance to the County Galway village of Spiddal. Adjacent to the beach, it boasts stunning views of the Cliffs of Moher, Galway Bay, and the Aran Islands.
Craftspeople from all over the Connemara region display and sell their quality products here, including pottery, jewellery, leather, candles and hand-woven gifts. Some of the craftspeople can be observed at work in their studios. Facilities include an art gallery and bistro.
The impressive castle at Portumna was the seat of the Clanricarde Burkes, the most important landowners in County Galway. It was completed in 1617 by Richard Burke, the 4th Earl of Clanricarde, but was destroyed by fire in 1826.
The Office of Public Works has helped restore the building, which is rectangular in shape, with four square towers at the corners. It was one of the first buildings in Ireland with Renaissance features and is also noted for the Jacobean-type gables on its roof. The ground floor of the house is now open to the public.
Thoor Ballylee Castle is a four-storey tower dating back to the 16th century, beautifully situated beside a stream. There was much to enchant William Butler Yeats on his first visit to Ballylee in 1885: the old square castle, the little river, and the legend of a most beautiful local woman ‘Mary Hynes, the Shining Flower of Ballylee.’
He eventually bought the medieval tower in 1916.
Aran Islands, Galway
Located in Galway Bay in the West of Ireland lie the Aran Islands, a unique concentration of culture, history, and heritage.
The islands’ unusual landscape is composed of large limestone boulders, extensive cliffs and pristine beaches. There are three islands in total: Inis Mór (big island), Inis Meáin (middle island), and Inis Oírr (eastern island). Gaelic is the native language spoken here.
The islands’ isolation allowed them to maintain their language and culture. They are accessible from the Galway mainland by ferry and Aer Arann flights.
Covering some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grassland, and woodlands, Connemara National Park is an incredibly beautiful expanse located near Letterfrack in County Galway.
St. Mary’s, The Square, Athenry, Galway
Athenry, near Galway City, boasts some of the best-preserved medieval buildings, walls, and artefacts in Europe. More than 80 percent of the original medieval walls survive today. The Heritage Centre offers guided tours, as well as opportunities to try archery, dress up in medieval costume, and get lost in a maze.