50 Reasons to Visit Galway
50 Reasons to Visit Galway
By Katie Harrington at Oracular Spectacular
1:) The Spanish Arch: The Spanish Arch, built in 1584, was an extension of the Galway city wall. These days however, the Corrib-side attraction is more commonly known as a summer-time drinking spot. “Sparch-ing”, as the younger generation call it, is a far better pastime than, say, going to lectures for the population of nearby NUIG.
2:) Michael D Higgins: He’s an intellectual, a cultural theorist, a political scientist, a poet, a champion of social justice and human rights and now he’s our President. His origins are Clare and Limerick but Michael D has long been Galwegian by choice. We couldn’t be prouder to claim him for our own. My favourite MDH quote has to be on the Dail floor; in response to “We can’t all be intellectuals like you, Deputy” was when he said “No, but you can aspire to be”. The man has got style.
3:) The Roisin Dubh: The Roisin is the epicentre of all things alternative in the Galway music scene. As well as live gigs, there are regular comedy nights, headphone discos, open mic nights and more in the infamous pub. Famed for its consistently original acts and for encouraging all kinds of new talent in the city, the Roisin is the live venue to beat in Galway.
4:) Eyre Square: Eyre Square is the first impression people arriving to the city by train or bus get, and that’s no harm whatsoever. It’s a beautiful green area smack bang in the middle of the city that means different things to different people; On a sunny day you’ll find a totally laid-back atmosphere with professionals having al fresco lunches, kids kicking a football or throwing frisbee, groups of students eating ice cream and dossing and alternative types smoking whacky tabacky.
5:) Salthill: It’s a little bit noisy and a little bit tacky in places, but on the odd occasion when we do get a bit of sun, Salthill is the first place that springs to mind. Whether you want a leisurely stroll along the Prom, a whirl on the Waltzer, a game of giant chess, a wander through one of the numerous casinos or for the very brave a dip in the ocean; the smell of the sea air and the atmosphere of family fun in Salthill is a huge draw for Galwegians and tourists alike.
6:) Madam Bridget: Found outside the Imperial in Eyre Square since the dawn of time (or so it seems), cross Madam Bridget’s palm with a few euro and have your fortune told. The chain-smoking old lady is a Galway institution with many claiming to have found her predictions scarily accurate. Personally I’m sure I went to her on a dare as a teenager, but I would have to dig through diaries full of teenage strife to find the place I wrote her predictions down and see if any have been fulfilled.
7:) Gaeilgeoiri: Galway has the highest proportion of Irish speakers in the country. We also have the only all-Irish theatre An Taibhdhearc, and it is without doubt the only place I’ve seen where even the ATMs will offer you the option of Irish. Gaelscoils are becoming more popular by the year and we’re delighted our Irish language heritage is still core to the Galwegian identity.
8:) Massimo’s: Massimo’s is the best late bar in Galway, in my very humble opinion. There are nights when you want to sing or dance or listen to music and then there are nights when you want to get together with mates and have a good catch up. Massimo’s has a funky atmosphere, friendly staff and music that’s not so loud that you can’t talk, it’s the perfect place for a few drinks and chatting into the night.
9:) The Tuam Herald: The Tuam Herald celebrates its 175th anniversary this year making it Galway’s oldest newspaper. Dating back to 1837, there are just three older newspapers in all of Ireland. Week by week, the family-run Tuam Herald continues to bring North Galway its news as well as championing local causes and events.
10:) RAG Week 2012: If I had written this list a year ago I would never have considered including RAG Week, but 2012 in Galway has to go down in history. The year they “cancelled” it brought you the infamous ‘Who’s a sexy Garda?’video and a frickin riot outside Supermacs culminating in some nutcase letting off a flare. I think the moral is, if you survive it you’ll have a good story to tell. To paraphrase Limerick’s best known saying – that’s Galway cit-ay!
11:) Monday @ the Galway Races: The Galway Races are the highlight of the city’s social calender and Monday is the highlight of the Races for locals. Before the Dubs arrive down flashing the cash and the poseurs start circling the Champagne Tent (or the Fianna Fail tent in days gone by), Galwegians get together to exchange tips, have a tipple and catch up on another year gone by. It has all the craic of the rest of the week but without the pretentiousness of the latter days and half hour bar queues.
12:) Burke’s Buses: Have you ever tried flagging down a Bus Eireann bus at a random point on the route from Tuam to Galway? It doesn’t go well. They’re all about their planned stops and their rules and regulations. Not so with Burke’s – it may be annoying when you’re in a rush that they stop roughly every half kilometre to pick someone up off the side of the road, but when it’s you you’re damned grateful! And all for the princely sum of a fiver. Typical of an indigenous Galway business they provide the friendliest, most reliable and best value bus service in the West.
13:) The Saw Doctors: Together 25 years now, the Saw Doctor’s have eighteen top 30 singles including three number 1s. On one level, the Saw Doctor’s are just a really good country-rock band with a cult following. On another level, a close look at Saw Doctor’s lyrics over the last two and half decades gives a reasonably comprehensive modern history of Galway and Ireland: coming of age, doubting religion, recession, emigration, disappointment, hope and friendship. And they managed to show the younger generation that they’ve still got it when they covered the Sugababes ‘About You Now’ and had a number one hit with it!
14:) Shop Street: Shop Street is the epicentre of Galway city life. The pedestrian street bursts with the energy of shoppers, tourists, students, buskers, workers and families. A mixture of high street shops, somewhat kitch tourist spots, street entertainment and leading on to the popular pubs of Quay Street – it is a veritable melting pot of life and culture.
15:) The Guard: If you haven’t seen Galway based film the Guard already, stop what you’re doing right now and buy, rent or download it. Now watch it and come back to me. From the writers of In Bruges, it stars Brendan Gleeson in another dark comedy following a small-town cop as he attempts to deal with cocaine smugglers, prostitution, a dying mother, a gay colleague moved down from Dublin, a couple of murders and a ‘Yank’ over from the FBI just for good measure.
16:) Silver Strand: If the hustle and bustle of a beach day in Salthill doesn’t suit you, fear not. Silver Strand, just a few miles away has beautiful views out over Galway Bay and is very popular with families. It has a shallow, sandy beach that you can swim in at low tide if you’re feeling adventurous!
17:) Padraic Joyce: By the time I moved to Galway in 1998, Padraic Joyce was already a household name. He won his first All Ireland Football title in that year against Kildare and like a fine wine, has only gotten better with age. He captained the team in 08-09, has the All Star and a Texaco Footballer of the Year accolades under his belt and continues to play for both his county and his club Killererin.
18:) Leo Moran: Now I’ve already mentioned the Saw Doctor’s but I have to give front man Leo Moran a shout out of his own. Not only is he incredibly down to earth and always has time for a chat, Leo is a fantastic ambassador for Tuam and all of Galway. He is known for lending a hand behind the scenes to a number of worthy causes, especially the Tuam Volunteer Force.
19:) Lady Gregory: Hailing from just outside Gort, Lady Augusta Gregory was an instrumental part of the Irish Literary Revival and the development of cultural nationalism. Her homeplace in Coole Park was an important meeting place for members of the Revival including William Butler Yeats. Together with Yeats and Edward Martyn, Lady Gregory was a founding member of the Abbey Theatre.
20:) The N17: This is a bit of a personal one really, but in a way the road immortalised by the Saw Doctor’s “stone walls and the grass is green”all the journeys of my life – literal and metaphorical – began on the N17; trips to Galway with friends as a teenager, turning off at Claregalway for Limerick where I went to college and Shannon where I left the country alone for the first time. Travelling with my thoughts and dreams indeed.
21:) Sally Longs: Everyone has a Sally’s story. Mine involves running away from Bikers in there after agreeing to play a game of doubles pool and then foolishly allowing someone else to take one of my turns. My personal dramas aside, Sally Longs is a rock/metal bar on Abbeygate Street famed for its art work, its live acts and indeed its clientele – well worth a visit.
22:) Supermacs: According to my intensive on the topic (scanned the Wikipedia page) Supermacs was founded in Ballinasloe after Pat McDonagh failed to get planning permission for a pool hall in the town. We’re delighted he didn’t, because thirty-something years later Shmax is Ireland’s largest indigenous fast food chain and an essential part of any Galway night out!
23:) Monroe’s: If you go to only one place for Trad music in Galway, make it Monroe’s. With live Irish music 7 nights a week it is the go-to destination for music lovers.
24:) Ladies Day @ the Races: Okay so as I said above Monday and Tuesday are the locals favourite days at the Races, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit drawn in by the glitz and glamour of Ladies Day. It’s all about the dress, the accessories, the hat, the champagne for this Lovely Girls Compeition. Horses- what horses? Today is all about the style!
25:) Galway Crystal: Galway Crystal is one of the West’s best known and loved traditional crafts. According to the website, their Master Craftsmen are continuously inspired by the sheer beauty of the surrounding countryside – Connemara, Galway Bay and Lough Corrib – and influenced by the wealth of history and folklore which is synonymous with Galway, the famous City of the Tribes.
26:) NUI Galway: Having attended and loved the University of Limerick, all modern with its glass lifts and sloping walls, walking around the NUIG campus is a completely different experience. Steeped in history, the Quadrangle hosted 63 students during its first academic year 1849-50.
27:) TG4: While the vast majority Ireland’s national media output is confined to the Capital, Galway boasts TG4 – our only dedicated Irish language broadcaster. Since it began broadcasting in 1996 TG4 has won praise for its ability to mix Irish language news, drama such as the ever popular Ros na Run and sports commentary with popular US shows winning it 800,000 daily viewers. It has also been a launching pad for the likes of Sharon ni Bheolain and the Seoige sisters who have gone on to great success since.
28:) An Taibhdhearc: In addition to having the only Irish broadcaster, Galway also lays claim to the country’s only all-Irish theatre company. For many of us, our first experience of An Taibhdhearc was a day out in school to see the plays you were supposed to be studying for Leaving Cert. Looking back, we were and still are lucky to have such a facility in our fair city, and I for one intend to make much better use of it in the near future!
29:) Galway Girls: Mundy’s cover version of Galway Girl was the most downloaded song in Ireland in 2008 and it’s no wonder. In addition to the catchy tune people can of course relate to the lyrics – you’ve never seen nothin’ like a Galway Girl. We’re fiery, witty up for the craic and but for a slight departure right about now we’re modest.
30:) CUBA: There was a time when it seemed all roads lead to CUBA if you were out in Galway. Many were shocked when CUBA and the Cellar fell victim to the recession in 2010, as it was literally and figuratively such a central part of Galway nightlife. It’s a little while now since I have had the privilege of a night out in Galway but I believe the doors have now opened again under the name of the Eyre Square nightclub.
31:) The GBC: Whenever friends from any other part of the country move to Galway, one of the first places they choose as a meeting point for lunch or coffee is always the GBC. It’s central, good value, quality food. It’s simple, but that’s the beauty of it.
32:) The Omniplex: Again, this one might just be personal to me, but back in the day before the EYE opened and everything was in 3D, the Omniplex held a special place in my heart. A quick trip to Lidl across the road with notoriously bad fake IDs and in we went to the film of our choice armed with a bottle of cheap paint-stripperish vodka to go with our large cokes and 18s film.
33:) The Arts Festival: The Arts Festival is a world famous explosion of colour, theatre, puppetry and sound. Over two weeks the festival features the Macnas parade and shows for all ages and tastes. In 2011, there were 162,000 attendances at 176 performances, talks and exhibitions in 27 venues over 14 days. The city comes to life with crafts, street theatre (more than usual), drama and dance confirming Galway’s place as the true capital of culture.
34:) Students: Galway has a huge student population and they are a large part of what gives the city its life. Between NUIG, GMIT and GTI, students add a youthful and diverse feel to the city that you just don’t get in other places. From time to time that may make it feel a little out of control as in the case of RAG Week mentioned above, but 99.99% of the time students make a positive, vibrant contribution to the city.
35:) Fairytale of New York: This may be a tenuous link, but I’m claiming Fairytale of New York for its Galway reference. The Pogues tune featuring Kirsty MacColl is popularly known as the best Christmas song ever and what are they boys in the NYPD choir singing about? That’s right, our own Galway Bay.
36:) Farmers: When you go off to college first you go to great lengths to shake off the buff/bogger title, but let’s face it ladies when it comes to choosing a fella there’s nothing sexier than a man with road frontage!
37:) Christmas Market: While summer in Eyre Square is all about short shorts, ice cream and frisbee, winter in the Square brings with it the Christmas Market, ideal for picking up stocking-fillers and trinkets. And of course after a good mosey around, there’s no better way to finish off the day than with a warm cider – to keep the cold out.
38:) Occupy Galway: This one may be a bit controversial, but I’m proud of Occupy Galway. They may not have achieved any substantial gain this time around, and I know a lot of people just think of them as smelly hippies, but I’m glad we have people around that care enough about sustainability and accountability to stand up for it.
39:) The Corrib: The Corrib is a beautiful river flowing right through the heart of Galway. There’s something very soothing about watching the fishermen nearly thigh high in water over the quincentennial bridge stand still for what seems like hours on edge to get the catch.
40:) The sing-songs: There’s no sing-song like a Galway sing-song. Whether it’s your Aunty’s 60th, a lock in at the local or sitting above the rock face at the back of Laurel Park, it always ends the same way. You’ve got two good singers that know the words and hold everything together while the rest of us drink and dance and join in for the chorus. Sure you wouldn’t have it any other way.
41:) The tourists: Tourists in summer provide what students do the rest of the year round, the buzz, the energy, the diversity. There are parts of the world where tourists are looked on as an annoyance or an inconvenience but in Galway we simply love it. The bigger the melting pot the better.
42:) The Macnas Parade: The Macnas Parade is one of the most highly anticipated aspected of the Arts Festival each year. Beginning at the Spanish Arch and making its way down Eglinton Street to Fisherman’s Fields, each year has a theme. Last year’s theme was ‘This Fierce Beauty’, a concept clearly taken to heart by these ‘lovely ladies’.
43:) The Film Fleadh: Directly before the Arts Festival comes about, Galway hosts Ireland’s leading film festival over six days. It brings together film buffs, directors, actors and critics from all over Ireland and the world in a unique, intimate setting. The central goal of the Fleadh has remained unchanged over the 24 years of its existence – to bring film makers and audiences closer together. For any lover of film and the Arts hitting Galway for the end of the Film Fleadh and the start of the Arts festival is pretty much heaven.
44:) Claddagh: There are few Irish girls who don’t have a Claddagh ring, usually givento them by a close friend or family. Originating in the village of Claddagh just outside Galway the heart symbolises love, the hands symbolise friendship and the crown represents loyalty. As time has gone on, the Claddagh ring has also become a symbol for pride in Ireland and pride in Galway.
45:) Street Performances: One man bands, human statues, balloon artists, unicyclists, break dancers – you never know quite what you’re going to find walking down Shop Street and through the Latin Quarter but wherever you see a semi-circle of onlookers go and join them for twenty or thirty minutes of free entertainment.
46:) Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop: Located on Middle Street, Galway, one could spend hours if not days mining for treasures in Charlie Byrne’s new and second-hand bookshop. From crime novels to college texts and everything in betweeen, Charlie’s is the ideal place for a mooch if you’ve got an hour to kill.
47:) The Rest of the West: As you can no doubt tell I’m very proud of all that Galway has to offer, but another major advantage we have is being a gateway to the rest of the West. Croagh Patrick, Achill Island, Rossespoint, Sligo town and the Burren are all beautiful places with their own charms, and they’re only a stone’s throw away.
48:) The Bog: Now you may not think of the bog as the ideal day out, but for those of us that grew up in rural Galway it’s a place full of cherished memories. Sure, we bitched and moaned at the time, but looking back now it’s all sunshine, sandwiches, sitting on top of a trailer and laughing. And where else can you get a tan and and get toned up in the space of a week 100% free!
49:) Lorraine Higgins: I want to state at the outset that it’s a coincidence that both politicians mentioned are Labour. I’m a huge fan of Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins; she’s intelligent, articulate, well presented, hard working and ethical – In other words, she is everything I’m looking for in a new generation of politicians. She lost out in the last General Election but put in such a good show that she was nominated to the Seanad by Enda Kenny. I have absolutely no doubt that she’s going to be an instrumental policy maker in years to come and we’ll be proud to claim her in the town of the Tribes.
50:) Galway Bay FM: Back in the day before we all had iTunes plugged into every aspect of our lives (I’m talking 2003, here) a fundamental aspect of weekend sleepovers was the tunage – and the requests played – on Galway Bay FM “It’s the late night love hour, with Corrine Gavin” Every week without fail she played Sinead O Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares to You’, usually with a dedication like ‘That one goes out to ClaireBear from TomTomz who says he’s so sorry he didn’t text her back after school, he ran out of credit but he still loves her forever’… Ah, it was a simpler time!
Well done if you’ve made it all the way to here, and thanks for reading.
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