Plan a vacation to Galway - the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s windswept west coast. Snuggled into its harbor, this small city has been a center of Celtic heritage for centuries, beloved for its rugged charm. Head out of the city for the Aran Islands, the mystical islands on the edge of Europe—there’s nothing but fierce ocean between them and Newfoundland. Hike up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park, before returning to Galway’s cosy centre. End your Galway vacation with locally caught cockles and mussels, accompanied by a pint of Galway Hooker beer—not Guinness.
Connemara National Park
Any Galway vacation should start in The Claddagh, the oldest part of the city. Historically, the Claddagh was outside of the city walls, a quaint harbor where colorful fishermen’s houses face out to the wild Atlantic Ocean. Take a look at some Claddagh rings, whose design of hands holding a heart are a symbol of Galway’s fierce spirit and a symbol of Irish heritage around the world.
Stroll north up the Corrib River to find Galway Cathedral, whose dome has turned green after decades of sea air. Originally built on the site of the city’s prison, this magnificent cathedral is actually Europe’s youngest stone cathedral, it’s seemingly 19th-century grey style originating from 1966. Head inside and admire the beautiful stained glass of the nave, and stick around for evensong—it’s home to one of Ireland’s best choirs.
If you want to see Ireland’s rugged spirit, hop on a small fishing boat and head south to the Aran Islands: Inishmaan, Inishmore, and Inisheer. Lace up your boots and hike to Dún Aonghasa, a fort dating back from 1100 BC, whose ghostly citadel was one of the earliest buildings on the islands, guarding the crashing waves on the coast of these rugged islands, bastions of Celtic culture for over 3,000 years.
Head north out of town to Connemara National Park, one of Ireland’s natural wonders. Start your Connemara trip by hiking up Diamond Hill for incredible views of the open moorland blanketing these mountains, where European Sparrowhawks and Peregrine Falcons patrol the skies. End a day by the fire at a cosy pub, with a dram of Knappogue Irish Whiskey, the best way to unwind after a day in the Emerald Isle’s wilderness.
On the other side of Galway Bay from Galway itself is Dunguaire Castle, the ancestral seat of the O’Hynes Clan, which has guarded this stretch of water since the 16th century. Explore the centuries of western Irish history that captivated WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Hike around the castle’s spectacular location - the perfect end to a Galway vacation.
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