We had an amazing time in Dublin but it was time to move west. First stop….Galway City. We hopped the Citylink Bus in Dublin and took the 3 hour ride to Galway for only €13/pp. The bus driver happened to know the hotel we were staying at and practically dropped us outside the front door! That’s the friendly Irish for you.
Although Galway City is The Republic of Ireland’s third largest city,
its population is only about 78,000. It’s a University town, so student’s make up approximately quarter of the population. I like that. This is a young vibrant city with plenty to offer like trendy cafes, bars and restaurants and you can find accommodation to suit any budget.
You can wander the medieval cobblestone pedestrian walkways lined with interesting shops, sculptural art and noteworthy historical sites or immerse yourself in Galway’s diverse music scene. Tourists (and locals) love traditional Irish music, check out the top 5 traditional pubs to get your Irish on.
Galway is known for its numerous festivals and celebrations; there’s almost something going on every month. We happened to be there during the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival in September. Fresh seafood, many oysters and pints of Guinness were had! Check out festivals and things to do in Galway City.
Besides the city centre core, Galway itself is a very walkable city. From the Spanish Arch, you can walk the path along the River Corrib to the Salmon Weir Bridge with the Cathedral on one side and the courthouse on the other. There are impressive views from here all the way down to the Wolfe Tone Bridge.
There is an enjoyable 2km ocean walk from Claddagh Park to Salthill. We picnicked in the park on Fish and Chips we took away from McDonagh’s Fish and Chip Bar and then continued along the Salthill Promenade with striking views of Galway Bay and islands beyond. When you get to the end of the promenade, don’t forget to kick the wall; it’s a Galwegian tradition!
Galway City is a terrific coastal city to travel from. You can explore countless areas in any direction. We wanted to see the scenic countryside and decided on Connemara National Park to the northwest and The Cliffs of Moher to the southwest.
Since we were backpacking, we decided to take a bus tour because it was the most economical way of covering a lot of ground in the time we had. For only €25 p/person per day, we signed up for Connemara and Kylemore Abbey for the first day and a tour of The Burren which included the Cliffs of Moher on the second day.
I couldn’t say enough about the guides; full of local and historical knowledge and they made the trip fun and entertaining with their sense of witty Irish humour.
Connemara is one of the most beautiful unspoiled scenic regions in Ireland. Our bus meandered through unspoiled scenic areas dotted with lakes, streams, and peat bogs with the majestic Twelve Bens mountain range looming in the distance.
We passed by Killary Fjord and small villages before the imposing Kylemore Castle and Abbey presented itself as we rounded a corner. Thousands of people come to visit the extraordinary Kylemore Estate every year to not only tour the castle but to also experience the 13,000 acres of natural beauty and Victorian gardens. Our day ended with a stop in An Spideal village overlooking scenic Galway Bay…beautiful!
The following day we headed southwest of Galway city to explore the wonders of the 250sq.km region of the Burren; a rugged limestone plateau with its distinctive vegetation, rocky shores and imposing cliffs. We stopped at the Aillwee Caves; for a short stroll through dark caverns to view ghostly stalactite and stalagmite formations and underground waterfalls before making our way to the impressive Cliffs of Moher. From Liscannor to Doolin, this 8km rocky wall rises 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean to a maximum height of 214 metres near O’Brien’s Tower; and is amongst some of the highest cliffs in Europe! The views are nothing short of dramatic and breathtaking and at times the gusts of winds here can be overwhelming.
There are numerous coastal walking trails in this area to suit your distance and time available. The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walking Trail connect the villages of Liscannor and Doolin; about a 13km hike (or cycle).
From here we stopped in Doolin for a bite to eat and continued our tour toward the rugged limestone Burren coastline and historic Dunguaire Castle before heading back to Galway.
Galway is definitely worth a visit. Now that I know the lay of the land, I would take more time to hike or cycle in this area. But for now… time to move on. Our next move will be to Killarney dubbed as a walker’s paradise and home to Killarney National Park…. HOME
Check out my post about Dublin.
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