We’ll get to our 5 top things to do in Galway shortly, but first this little diversion is worth mentioning.
Sunday morning we said goodbye to Killarney and headed North to Galway. On the way we visited an LDS branch in Tralee to participate in church services, then resumed our Northerly drive. Sacrament Meeting (what LDS members call their Sunday church service because the sacrament is administered) was held in what seemed like an office building, which was different than what we are used to, and the branch was much smaller than what we are used to, but the members were very welcoming and the spirit was the same. I love that anywhere in the world we travel we can find an LDS congregation and feel perfectly at home!
As we resumed our drive were shocked to see our path on the GPS cross right over the Ocean (no piddly river) from one peninsula to the next. We weren’t sure how to proceed, but figured it was worth checking out, so we kept driving. As we neared the point at which we appeared to miraculously drive on water, this is what we saw:
What a fun Sunday morning surprise!
First stop; the Cliffs of Moher
1. Cliffs of Moher
You’ve seen these before. They are the cliffs of insanity in ‘The Princess Bride’ and also feature in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince along with several other movies I’ve never heard of. These cliffs are the very definition of the word cliff–dramatic, abrupt, entirely vertical and loud from the noise of the crashing waves below. They are absolutely worth seeing, but don’t bother with the ‘Visitor’s Experience’. You can’t enter the car park without purchasing tickets to the incredibly disappointing visitor’s experience, but you can park a way down the road and walk up the pathway along the cliff face, which is much more enjoyable anyway. Be sure to look for puffins!
Okay, technically, the Cliffs of Moher are not in Galway–they are an hour south. I just lumped them with Galway because we visited them on our way to Galway.
2. Inis Mor (pronounced Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands)
The Aran Islands are in Galway bay. We decided to visit Inis Mor because it is the largest and seemed to have the most to see and do. We took this ferry from Ros A Mihl, near Galway, out to Inis Mor. We took the first ferry out and the last back, and loved every minute of that day. Kendel and I both agree that Inis Mor was our VERY FAVORITE day in Ireland. Next time we visit, we will try to find overnight accommodations on the island.
The ferry was large and comfortable, and the 40 minute ride each way was very enjoyable. If it is clear out, you will have a pretty good view of the Cliffs of Moher. Kendel saw a dolphin, and there are lots of seals and puffins around the Aran Islands.
As you exit the ferry at the on Inis Mor you will see long lines of horse-pulled-buggies and vehicles offering tours. We chose, instead, to rent bicycles and tour the island by bike, so we walked past the offerings to find the bike hire booth. We were so grateful we did, because we were able to stop and see whatever we wanted, for as long as we wanted, and we feel like we saw much more. I think the perimeter tour of the island is probably less than 10 miles round trip. It is small enough that you can choose any road and really not get lost.
We chose to brave the steep incline first and biked the high road (about 4 miles ) over to Dun Angosa, which is a spectacular, huge prehistoric stone fort atop a 300 foot cliff. You park your bikes at the visitor’s center and hike about 15 minutes up to the fort.
We hiked back down to our bikes and rode maybe another two miles over to the Seven Churches, which was for centuries one of the biggest monastic foundations along the west coast of Ireland. Be sure to keep watching to your right, downhill, or you might ride past it like we almost did.
The Seven Churches are at the opposite end of the island from the dock. It only actually rained a little that day, but it felt like we were inside a giant cloud, the air was so heavy with moisture, all day long, so we were soaked and cold. We decided to head back to the other end of the island and find some hot food and hot chocolate.
Hey! We found blackberries and raspberries growing wild over the rock walls. Free snacks!
We took the low road back to the dock-end of the island, enjoying the beautiful coastal views. We stopped at the first pub we came to, Ti Jo Watty’s, and we loved it!
We shopped a bit, returned our bikes, and boarded the ferry to return to Ros A Mihl at about 6pm. What an amazing day!
We planned to walk the Salthill promenade and find a fun pub to eat and enjoy some live music, but we were wet and cold and our behinds hurt after all that biking and hiking, so we skipped that in favor of a long, hot shower back at the hotel. I should mention that we STILL had not enjoyed any live music because we couldn’t manage to stay awake past 8pm, and music at the pubs doesn’t start until 8:30 or later. Well, we didn’t make it that night, either. Kendel kindly ran out for dinner while I spent an hour in the shower warming up, ha, ha! I’m going to add Salthill Promenade to the list, though, and I will be sure to walk it next time we’re in Ireland. We’re planning to bring the kids back over!
3. Salthill Promenade
Situated on the northern inner shore of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are visible to the right and Galway to the left. If you take the ferry out to Inis Mor, Salthill is on your way back to town. Directly across Galway Bay is the Burren and to the west are the bogs and mountains of Connemara. On a clear day you feel as though you could reach out across the bay and touch the Clare hills though there are also many days when you can’t see them at all. There’s an old expression which goes, ‘when you see Aran and the Clare hills it’s a sign of rain and when you can’t see them, it’s actually raining! Local tradition dictates that you ‘kick the wall’ across from the diving boards (about a 30 min. walk from town) for luck before turning around. Enjoy an ice cream cone as you walk the promenade!
4. Walking Tour of Galway (city center)
It will only take an hour, and you should definitely take the time to walk around Galway city center. Start at Eyre Square, and be sure you take a few minutes to sit on a bench and people-watch! Frome there, walk down shop street, past Lynch Castle, which is just a bank inside, but the outside is cool, then take a picture with Oscar Wilde at the statue. At the end of shop street is the St. Nicholas of Myra cathedral. Cross the River Corribh on Bridge Street and then walk up Nun’s Island until you see the Galway Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral and the largest and most impressive building in the city.
5. The Latin Quarter
Be sure to catch the rest of our adventure here: