Western Ireland’s heartland, County Galway has a spellbinding beauty.
The beating heart of the county itself is Galway city. Lined by colourful narrow shop fronts and pubs, this vibrant tangle of cobbled lanes has an intimate, villagelike atmosphere and an absolutely phenomenal live-music scene that attracts traditional and contemporary musicians – along with artists, writers, poets and assorted wayfarers – from all over the country and beyond.
Radiating from Galway city are the main arterial links to some of Ireland’s most heart-stopping scenery. Northwest of Galway city, the fabled Connemara region harbours one of the country’s largest and most important Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas. Woven with hiking and biking trails, the region’s weathered mountains, sheep-grazing pastures, bogs, and remote villages are raggedly stitched together by stone walls, while along Connemara’s coastline white-sand beaches offer invigorating swimming in summer and windswept walks in winter. South of Galway city there are medieval churches and castles, Norman towers and oyster beds in abundance, and eastwards of the city farming fields roll seamlessly to the country’s bucolic midlands.
Offshore, lashed by the unforgiving Atlantic, the rocky Aran Islands and Inishbofin are anchored by enduring traditions: pony traps, hand-knitted fishermen’s sweaters, and age-old legends and lore. Scrubbed clean by the elements, relics on the islands include ancient cliff-top ringforts and rusted shipwrecks that serve as a reminder of the perilous seas.
The county’s wild landscapes and thriving traditions invariably claim visitors’ hearts, and chances are your first visit won’t be your last.