Ireland Destinations National
Kerry co. (Ireland)
I've always been fascinated by Ireland. I think it might be something to do with it being the Emerald Isle although I'd never really seen myself going until I'd been awakened to how beautiful Scotland was last year. There's a Gaelic connection here somewhere but it was the similarities in scenery that prompted me to book a fortnight on ... the West Coast in August this year.
The journey from Northampton to Kerry, Ireland was a long one. We travelled by car to Holyhead in North Wales, caught the ferry with Irish Ferries to Dublin then drove across Ireland on the M7 and N7 to Anascaul. We left at around 9.20am and didn't arrive until after 11pm although the ferry crossing was 3.5 hours. If we'd have opted for the car hire option then I guess we could have tried to find a route by air, what with there being regional airports at Cork, Kerry and in Shannon.
I booked through the website at www.welcomecottages.com and we stayed at a bungalow that sleeps 6 people. The cottage cost around £1300 for a fortnight in August. Kerry is renowned for its tourism so there are plenty of options including hotels in the larger towns and bed and breakfasts in the smaller locations and on the coast.
County Kerry is steeped in ancient history and folklore. Against a backdrop of mass emigration in the 19th century, a tradition of Irish whisky manufacturing and the establishment of monastic orders in the early centuries A.D., Kerry is awash with archaeological and historical sites of significance. Kerry is most famous for the Ring of Kerry which is a circuit around the county taking in many of the villages en route and providing fabulous scenery for those taking a tour either by car, bike or on foot. The tour is 112 miles (179km) and follows the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula along the banks of the River Laune all the way around to Killarney. We didn't actually attempt the Ring preferring to pick off towns as we saw fit.
The principal towns that we visited in Kerry were Tralee, Killarney and Dingle although both Anascaul and Castle Island also had things too offer as well.
Anascaul (Abhainn an Scail, The River of Shadows) is the village just a mile from our bungalow. Situated on the Dingle peninsula, Anascaul's main attraction was the pub! Not for the obvious reasons but rather The South Pole Inn is a tribute to Tom Crean being a famous local who was part of the 1912 expedition to the South Pole led by Shackleton. The pub hosts a statue to Tom Crean whilst there is also a fully-fledged exhibit at the Kerry County Museum in Tralee. One of the quaint charms of this part of the world is the number of pubs that look like small houses that have had their fronts painted and the front room converted into a bar. There were plenty like this in Anascaul with just an ordinary front door as the entrance. I never saw one single person in either Murphy's Bar or O'Reilly's Bar or any of the other tiny drinking establishments that thronged the main street of Anascaul. Maybe they are for decoration only, I'm not sure.
Just a few miles from Anascaul is the beach at Inch where we spent some of our days getting a suntan. Now I guess this is hardly synonymous with Ireland but amongst the predictable rain showers we did get quite a bit of nice weather and the various beaches in and around the Dingle peninsula were a welcome distraction from our other sightseeing activities.
Dingle was the nearest major town to us being approximately 10 miles away. Here there is a Sea Aquarium centre, which we visited, plenty of pubs and shops, a leisure centre and an active fishing port to see. We couldn't resist paying 36 Euro to go on the dolphin trip to see the famous bottle-nosed dolphin Funghi. This was a roller coaster hour of chasing the dolphin all over the bay, desperately trying to get a decent photograph of the elusive animal. The tour operator did guarantee us that we'd see Funghi or we'd get our money back. In 4 attempts I did get a piccie whilst my father-in-law struck out half a dozen times. Damn that slow sports mode on digital cameras!
Whilst we were on holiday, there was a 3 day horse racing meet in Dingle which looked well attended whenever we drove past. The Irish love their horse racing so you'll find courses dotted about Kerry and Ireland in general.
Drive through Dingle (An Daingean - The fortress) and you are soon on the Slea Head drive. This is a stretch of coast that is simply stunning. Marking the south-western end of the Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side including the wildlife sanctuary at Great Blasket Island and picturesque mountains on the other. There are regular boat trips to the island with it being the most westerly point in Europe. We did the drive a couple of times during our stay and couldn’t help but marvel at one particularly secluded beach; it was backed by a steep cliff face overlooking large breakers crashing on the beach with great regularity. Even with no facilities present the beach was packed, as was the cliff face with back packers and tourists with its claim to fame being one of the sites used in the shooting of the movie “Ryan’s Daughter”. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful this little haven was and it was at its best on the day we were there, glinting in the sunlight on a gorgeous sunny day.
If ever there is a tourist town then Killarney is it. Stacked out with hotels, Killarney is popular with American tourists keen to try out the local golf courses and re-discover their Irish roots. We visited the town on a number of different occasions simply because there is so much there. With the largest tourist information office we saw during our stay, there is a comprehensive shopping centre with a decent cinema and the National Park right on the doorstep.
Killarney (Cill Airne – The Church of Sloes) took off around 1750 when Lord Kenmare developed tourism by building decent communication links. With a population of 9000, Killarney is best known for its national park which we spent a couple of days in. There is a huge range of activities possible there including fishing, swimming, golf, tennis, horse riding, rock climbing and so on but we went for the more civilised option of visiting Muckross House, Muckross Farm and Ross Castle.
What I particularly enjoyed about our tours of Ross Castle and Muckross House is that both were guided and the admission price included the guide. This added a lot of value and my lad found it particularly interesting often being at the head of the guided tour!
There was so much of the Killarney National Park we didn't get to see including the peaks of MacGillicuddy's Reeks, Lough Leane, Innisfallen Abbey and Knockrear House. We could certainly see MacGillicuddy's Reeks from where we were and the fact that the highest peak in Ireland i.e. Carrauntuohill at 3414 feet (1040 metres) was situated amongst them was enough to persuade any one of us to take up climbing (well, except my daughter who wouldn't have liked it).
Tralee (Traigh - Li is Strand of the Lee) is the administrative capital of Kerry and its here that we visited the Kerry County Museum. Kerry County Museum is located in the Ashe Memorial Hall and is named after Thomas Ashe, a Kerryman who was a member of the Irish Volunteers. He died on hunger strike while imprisoned in Mountjoy in 1917. With the Tom Crean exhibit on the ground floor, there was also displays of life in Kerry right from Celtic times BC through to the modern day Ireland we see today. Just as we were there, the town was gearing up for the Rose of Tralee festival with the town closely associated with that particular flower.
We couldn't help but spend a day in the state-of-the-art Aquadrome on the outskirts of Tralee. It cost 32 Euro for an unlimited family ticket and there's the customary explosion of wave pools, slides, saunas and the like. This was great for us as it...erm...persistently rained all day that particular day!
Castle Island is host to one of the biggest cave exhibits in Ireland at Crag's Cave. We took a day out to visit the caves. Discovered in 1983 and thought to be over one million years old Crag Cave is a wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites. Again we enjoyed a guided tour of the caves along with around a dozen other people. Tours were every 30 minutes and the caves themselves were well worth seeing.
Some suggestions I'd make would be to pack clothes for all weathers, as Ireland is renowned for its mountain ranges and therefore its rain and it's worth considering an itinery as there are so many things to do. I lost count of the number of back packers and tourists I saw and the peak months seem to be July and August.
Our time in Kerry was a wonderful experience. I did what I set out to do which was to stare out into the Atlantic Ocean and drink a pint of Irish Guinness (or two). I'm also now the proud owner of a gen-u-ine Guinness T-shirt which gets me admiring looks where ever I go (he he).
The West Coast of Ireland is an ancient land of woods and lakes, rivers and ocean and the views are simply breathtaking. Ireland has its own identity as do the counties and you'll note the endless green and yellow flags flying in Kerry dedicated to the Irish Football team who are the current all-Ireland champions. I'm sure I'll return one day and if you enjoy most outdoor pursuits love your history or simply fancy a chilling holiday then I can't recommend Kerry highly enough.
Thanks for reading
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Dublin in General
I just don’t get it! Dooyoo-ers are normally spot on, but this time, with the exception of the truthful, if overly kind, “When Irish Eyes are smiling… they’re looking at the till”, it appears that Dublin is THE place to be. I found that, simply, it wasn’t. Maybe I’m going to be a bit harsh in this review; I certainly intend ... to be. However, when one books a few days in the Emerald Isle’s first city, one has certain expectations. I expected to be wowed with architectural delights and interesting museums / attractions by day and have my palate sated with delightful foods and, particularly, beverages by night. The truth is, Dublin came nowhere near to my, possibly, too high expectations in any capacity.
The first day we arrived we took the Dublin Bus City Tour. This is, admittedly, a very touristy thing to do, but we have found these open topped busses to be a great way of finding our bearings, get a good overview of the city, find out areas of interest and attractions to see, as well as get lots of money off vouchers. We were, immediately, disappointed. We put this down to a poor guide who was, maybe, suffering a certain amount of lethargy at saying the same thing day in, day out. However, we have since come to the conclusion that it was poor because Dublin itself is not that interesting or entertaining a place.
Due to limited time (three days), we chose the ‘must do’ attractions, the biggest of which being the Guinness tour. The Guinness storehouse is seven floors dripping with self congratulation, product placement (go figure), and sycophantic homage to Arthur Guinness. Arthur Guinness was, apparently, not simply a brewer but a philanthropist, social righter of wrongs, and all round great person. Hell, he invented Guinness, but he can’t have been quite as great as these people have made him out to be; no one could! Glossing over the actual ingredients and process of brewing, using light shows and large, phallic glass jars full of, erm, hops and yeast and stuff, one actually learns very little on the first couple of floors. The history of Guinness amounts to little more than doffing one’s cap to Arthur and learning of his ‘great’ work outside of brewing and that his father was a brewer. On the fifth floor is some interesting advertising memorabilia from Guinness’ past, from the toucan’s “Guinness is good for you” to Rutger Hauer’s castle sitting, etc. That was the good bit. On the top floor you get a ‘free’ pint of the blackstuff and the real gem of the tour; the view. From the top of the building you get a great view of the city. You can pick out some of the things that were pointed out on the tour, like Wellingtons obelisk, Trinity College, etc., but from up there you see what it took me a further 24 hours to see properly; Dublin is just another city. The gift shop was filled with plastic, overpriced rubbish bearing harps and toucans and zoo keepers. Oh, by the way, despite their attempts that day, I still prefer Murphy’s Irish Stout. (For a more detailed review of the Guinness Storehouse, please see http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/other-uk-ireland-topics/guinness-brewery/1004224/)
The highlight of the visit was undoubtedly The Gaiety Theatre. We walked there after Guinness had forced its logo down my throat along with its drink. We went to see the fabulous ‘Blood Brothers’. I shouldn’t really go into detail here as it might not be there when you visit Dublin, but it was fantastic! Willy Russel and the cast built us up and knocked us down; fantastic! Strangely, no gift shop.
As you may tell from the above paragraph, but I’m quite into literature and the arts, and that’s why I was so shocked at how rubbish I thought the Dublin Writers Museum (should that have an apostrophe?) was. The information on the writers was second rate and without depth. A brief overview of childhood, occasionally, some nods to their bodies of work, and tired and bitty contextual history. There was little, if any, notable reference to the actual works or insightful looks at the works themselves. I knew that Ulysses was based on the earlier work and ‘followed’ it, and, had I not known this, would have learnt something. As it was, I didn’t. Just for a change, they had a shop filled with, often plastic, tat, although it did contain a decent array of the works which the visitor had learned little of.
We also visited the National History Museum. This was, probably, the best permanent tourist attraction we saw, and yet, still, was singularly unspectacular. The highlight was the variety of artefacts from ancient Ireland, mainly from the Bronze Age. Due to Ireland’s geography, many bones, bodies and artefacts were found in peat bogs, which naturally preserved them for us. The Viking section was also of great interest, giving some detailed information on Ireland’s, often stormy, often mutually beneficial, relationship with the Norsemen. It was, however, far too small. The Egyptology section was small, uninspired, bitty and a waste of time. A large section of the museum related to, probably, Ireland’s most important, certainly in recent times, area of history; the break with Britain. This section, however, dealt mainly with the Easter 1916 uprising and its aftermath. It had, relatively, many exhibits from the time, especially uniforms from the Irish fighters from this time and up to the actual formation of Eire. As an Englishman, I was quite perturbed at Britain’s treatment of the Irish at this time, and was quite ashamed at how brutally the various rebellions were put down. The lack of detail, although it was nodded at, on the brutality of the various republicans towards their own peoples who had nationalist leanings was skimmed over. However, what wasn’t made clear was that, at this point, most of Europe was fighting The Great War, and so any domestic (as it could be classed at this point) uprisings were a waste of valuable resources as Britain fought for freedom (and yes, I do see the irony here). The stance of the museum, which follows that of the original rebels, was that World War I was not a mindless and unnecessary waste of people’s lives, but just the “opportunity” the rebels needed. With British forces engaged abroad, the Irish went about diverting resources and collaborating with Germany in order to buy arms. It was the sinking of a German munitions / supply ship en route to Ireland that helped foil the rebellion. In short, I found that the museum was quick to pass judgement on Britain’s ill-treatment, but slow to point fingers anywhere else; rather than retelling and showing history, surely a museum’s purpose, it presided as judge over the actions of the government / occupying force (depending on how you see it), without pointing the finger elsewhere. Moving on, the section upstairs on medieval Ireland was well detailed and interesting. It showed the creation of the Ireland of today, moving from clan based tribes to cities and towns. It showed England’s (as this was before the Union) hand in this and how a social order was set up to mirror that across the Irish Sea. It also showed how the vast majority of the population were not Irish, but English peasants / workers who were, probably forcibly, moved there to work on land taken by English Lords and came to think of themselves as Irish. On leaving, you pass a small shop; plastic abounds. As with all dooyoo reviews, this is definitely a personal one, and one which I stand by; a family we spoke to, who I’ll mention shortly, were pleased with the Museum, in particular the Egyptology section.
One attraction of note was one we were sad we missed. The family to whom we spoke, as mentioned earlier, were over as the son was in a swimming competition, and the locals they had met had said that Kilmainham Gaol was a must see attraction. It tells of its great historical past, with particular reference to internment and execution by Britain, and sounded detailed, interesting and thought provoking. Unfortunately, it was mentioned rather than promoted on our tour and we only found out about it when we didn’t have enough time to visit.
Eating out was easy; Dublin abounds with restaurants. As noted in the dooyoo review “When Irish Eyes are smiling… they’re looking at the till”, these are, generally, Italian and it is difficult to find any ‘proper’ Irish food. Some places have boiled bacon and cabbage and that’s about it. I didn’t come to Ireland for the culinary delights, but surely there is more to Ireland’s table than this!
We ate at Pacino’s (Suffolk Street) on the first night; an average Italian with below average service and above average prices. Although I have slated the service, I was served by one of a meagre band of three, which I will come to later. The service was ‘interesting’, and I quote:
Me: What beer do you do?
Waiter: Some Italian stuff. (Pause of three seconds) Oh, it tastes alright, though.
Other customer: Can I pay by card?
Same waiter: I don’t know! Take it down [to the cash desk] and they might be able to help.
The next night I had cabbage and corned beef at the Quays in Temple Bar. The rice was quite reasonable for a pub in such an area and, I must admit, I enjoyed it. It fell apart and complemented the buttered cabbage well. What was a disappointment was, again, the service. No comical faux pas from the two blokes behind the bar; they were surly, uninterested and bordering on the rude. Perhaps they were the “Dublin characters” noted on the plaque on the wall, but I think not. We ate; we left.
Our final night was spent in Flannagan’s on O’Connel Street. Don’t let the name fool you, it was another Italian, though with some reference to domestic foods. The food was average at best, apart from the ribs we had for starters. If you go to Dublin, have the barbeque ribs from Flannagans; they are fantastic. Then, for main course, have them again. Then leave. Price was good, if on the expensive side, and the service was great (more later).
Of course, sating one’ palate in Ireland is more about drinking than eating, and the place to do this is Temple Bar. It is described as a lively and popular place, and so it must be as every pub seems full. This is, however, more to do with reputation and size. All visitors go to drink, at least once, in this area, but it is so small, all pubs are busy. Choice is not really a factor as each of them offers a similar theme and sticks to a, no doubt tried and tested, recipe for a night out; expensive Guinness, Murphy’s and lagers in a fake Olde Worlde setting. One gem was a local ale served in a few of the pubs; shamefully, I can’t remember the name, but it is served on draft, has a green label, and begins with “Sk….”. Sorry I can’t give you anything else; at least it gives you an excuse to try a few.
For smokers, the taking of tobacco inside is now a capital punishment in Ireland, and so the pub of choice is The Temple Bar as it has an outside, but heated, seating area. This contrasts to most other pubs which have a door and a pavement outside. Of course, getting a seat in the heated area outside is, of course, virtually impossible as everyone else in Ireland knows about the hidden corner of freedom and civilization. And for purchasers of tat, The Temple Bar has its own gift shop.
For those serious plastic crap buyers, Carroll’s Irish Gift Stores, which are ubiquitous in Dublin, offer an array of overpriced, mass-produced and often plastic gifts for those who you feel obliged to buy stuff for. Each is an emporium of the useless and needless, covered from floor to wall in Shamrocks, Leprechauns and Tricolours. Anything that can be held down long enough has a fake Irish proverb, prayer or picture pasted to it, is stacked high and sold fast. The foreign workers, mainly Spanish or Portuguese, do their best to get you out of the shop, laden with plastic, as fast and professionally as they can; the domestic purveyors of tat add a surliness which, I believed, was the trademark of Parisians. I spent E35.00 (about £20-£25) on gifts (no, no plastic and no shamrocks or leprechauns – I had to search hard). They shoved it in a bag; no please, no thank you. The bag had no handles, and was just a brown paper bag. I asked for a bag with handles, they have them of a similar size, and was told that these are only for customers buying large items. THEY REFUSED TO GIVE ME A BAG WITH HANDLES! Can anyone believe this? I told them, no bag, not purchase. Faced with the prospect of cancelling an order, an obviously tricky thing to do, they relented. I tried to pay with a debit card. It was Switch, which is British, but has the Maestro sign on it, making it useful Europewide. Indeed, I’d used it to withdraw money and pay for goods in Dublin and in France, Spain and Turkey to name but a few. It wouldn’t work. They told me that ‘they sometimes do and sometimes don’t’. I went to the cash machine, got the cash, returned and paid. I was outside before I realised that they’d again swapped bags on me again and I was stuck with the handless variety again. I couldn’t believe it. That visit summed up Dublin for; surly people selling plastic in handless bags; how much of that is metaphorical, well, I don’t know.
I believe that my biggest let down by Dublin was the people itself. As noted with the Carroll’s experience and others, Dubliners are rude, surly and, generally, not interested in tourists, and outsiders, who must be their life blood. They are rude until it comes time to tip and uninterested in you once you’ve paid. Perhaps it is nicotine withdrawal! You are not given the Irish Welcome promised by the plastic fridge magnets, key rings, wall signs or printed in luminous green across 2 out of every 3 T-shirts you see. You are treated as, at best, a necessary evil, and, at worst, as an annoyance.
There were three, or four, exceptions:
1: The tall, thin, ginger haired waitress and the Irish chef at our hotel, The Royal Hotel Dublin.
2: The blonde-haired waitress downstairs at Flannagans.
3: The waiter at Pacino’s who was, to be honest, rubbish, but a nice guy.
To these four individuals, thank you! You are a credit to your nation and city and, I hope, will take up positions within the local tourist board training others to be as you.
All in all, I didn’t enjoy Dublin. I guess you’re not shocked by that, are you. I can think of no area in which it excelled and would have no hesitation in recommending any other city I have visited in the British Isles over this one. The nightlife is better by many, even provincial, cities; it is no match for Edinburgh or Newcastle to name but two. Its museums are bettered in any of the other capitals and cuisine is bettered everywhere. As for the people, go up north to Yorkshire, Lancashire or Scotland, and, indeed, to Belfast, to receive a true welcome. If you feel you must visit the Emerald Isle, still go north to Belfast to get a feel of what Ireland is supposed to be about.
I would hope that my defamatory comments are applicable only to Dublin and not to the rest of the country. I have heard so many talk of the genuine feeling of being wanted as a visitor in Ireland, and pray that my experiences would not be repeated should I go further a field. Regrettably, though, I fear I will never find out as I have no intention of ever visiting Eire again.
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Galway in general
Gateway to the West As a person who experienced an enjoyable but predominantly rural childhood it has never been easy for me to generate a personal fondness for city life. If you have been reared in a location that is smothered in cultural and scenic richness, such as rural Ireland, it is easy to look at urban areas as an alien ... and unwelcoming environment. However, after several years of study in the west of Ireland city of Galway my negative opinion began to waver somewhat. This is because Galway city is one of the few, if not only, large urban areas in Ireland that successfully blends the country’s traditional rural heritage with the bustling and high-growth era that is modern Ireland.
Galway is ranked among the fastest growing cities of its size, which is nearing 100,000 people, in the whole of Europe. In the last few years it has encountered unprecedented growth and has been a huge economic boost to a region of Ireland that has been impoverished for so long. Thankfully, however, despite its expansion it has not lost its coveted reputation as a magnet for cosmopolitan and cultural ideals. The majority of people who have spent any length of time in this city look back with fond memories and are full of nothing but unending compliments. Therefore, at the risk of sounding like an employee of Galway tourist board, I will try and identify the elements that make this city so popular.
Galway is perfectly placed geographically to take advantage of the country’s significant tourist industry. It is has often been described as the “Gateway to the West”. It’s a stone’s throw away from the Connemara region, one of the few remaining Irish language (Gaeltacht) strongholds, which boasts a spectacular rugged landscape, and is perhaps the main contributor to the Irish postcard industry. As regards the road system in the west of Ireland, Galway acts as a link between the scenery-choked counties of Clare and Kerry to the south and the wild countryside of Mayo and Donegal to the north.
Sites in the city:
Possibly the most famous area of the city is Eyre Square which is the city’s principal banking and financial area and is the first thing you see as you arrive at the railway/bus station. In the middle of Eyre Squire you’ll find a pleasant green area called Kennedy Park (named after a visit by JFK in 1963). As a student I found it the perfect place to watch the world go by on a warm sunny afternoon. Although these days were few and far between as Galway is undoubtedly one of the most rain-soaked cities in Europe. However, it is not for the weather that people flock to Galway.
Another popular tourist spot in the city is the Spanish Arch, which is a famous wall that connects the old city walls to the Claddagh fishing docks. There is a small entrance fee into its museum that houses impressive maritime and military artifacts as well as farm machinery dating back five centuries and is well worth a visit.
The city has a strong maritime tradition as can be seen from the sculpture of fishing sails seen in Eyre Square. Also, beside the Spanish Arch is the beautiful, but now defunct Claddagh docks, which is home to a large swan population. During the summer months this area is swarming with revellers, both local and foreign, relaxing and taking in the view, but beware of the occasional group of drunks that have been known to frequent the area.
When touring the city you will struggle to avoid seeing the impressive St. Nicholas Cathedral, which dominates the Galway skyline. At first glance this structure may appear centuries old but in fact was only constructed in 1960. Inside it is just as impressive with beautiful carvings and pictures decorating the walls.
Close to the Cathedral is Galway University (or the National University of Ireland, Galway as the authorities like it to be called). Th is university is steeped in history and dates back to the 1860’s. It is well-worth taking a stroll through the grounds as it is a beautiful campus with structures such as the Quadrangle with its immaculately kept grass Aula Maxima. The city also has a technical college on the other side of the city that has recently been totally revamped with a very modern and unusually designed structure.
Few large cities are lucky enough to be located so near to a well-known seaside resort. Just a mile from the city centre of Galway is the resort of Salthill. You can take the regular No.1 bus from the city centre but it also easily within walking distance. The area of Salthill itself is slightly outdated as it enjoyed its heyday in the 1960’s (when two weeks in Majorca was not as affordable). However, taking a stroll along its long and beautiful promenade that looks out onto the infamous Galway Bay is guaranteed to give you’re brain and lungs a thorough spring-clean. Salthill has a beach but it is by no means anywhere near the standard of other beaches further down the coast, but because of its closeness to the city it is never short of visitors.
There is also an open-top tourbus that takes in all the major sites of the city. It leaves from Eyre Square regularly each day.
Aside from all the designated tourist sites it is the charm and atmosphere of its streets and buildings that really attracts people to the city. Some have crowned Galway “the Paris of the West” because of the amount of cobbled streets and interchanging narrow alleyways. Shop Street is the most famous shopping area with many well-known retailers located there. This pedestrianised street is nearly always buzzing with tourists and shoppers and would be similar to, if not better than, Grafton Street in Dublin.
Many of the streets are bohemian in appearance with dozens of cobble-stoned alleyways containing little gems of shops just waiting to be explored. It is has been remarked by many that when walking through the streets of Galway you are reassured by a feeling of security, which cannot be said for many other Irish cities. However, I am not suggested that Galway is crime free by any stretch of the imagination.
To truly appreciate what Galway has to offer you will inevitably have to find accommodation. It’s not difficult to find cheap affordable hostels around the city centre but two hostels with good reputations are the Barnacles Quay Hostel in Quay Street and Kinlay House just off Eyre Square. There are also a number of B&B’s to be found in the suburbs of the city and most are advertised on the internet.
If you’re willing to splash out for more comfortable surroundings then The Great Southern Hotel next to the Railway Station in Eyre Square, The Skeffington Arms Hotel in Eyre Square, Dury’s Hotel beside the Spanish Arch and The Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill are the most ideally located. Those intending to stay in Galway for a longer period should get a copy of the Galway Advertiser from its new offices in Eyre Square, but be prepared to fight for a place around August/September with the return of the city’s students for a new year.
When Galway is mentioned in converation it is inevitable that the topic of its nightlife will eventually arise at some stage because it is largely this that has given the city its notoriety. During the academic year the city’s nightlife is dominated by the 15,000 strong student population. This responsibility is eagerly, but perhaps less vigorously, undertaken by the mass influx of visitors (mostly American and German) to the city in the summer months between June and September. One great thing about Galway’s pubs during the summer is that many drinkers sprawl out onto the streets in front of pubs to enjoy the sun as well as the beer. However, th is is not condoned by the authorities and they’ve started to clamp more heavily in recent years.
There is a wide selection of pubs in the city that will serve every taste (or should we say thirst). Pubs like the Kingshead, the Quays and the Cellar Bar in the city centre are popular student hangouts, while pubs like the Skeff in Eyre Square and McSwiggans in Woodquay provide an alternative for professionals or what might be called the “yuppy crowd” by some.
If the traditional Irish experience of Ceili music, Guinness and small poky pubs packed to the rafters with atmosphere are you’re cup of tea then pubs like Taafes, where you will find a great mix of every kind of drinker from every age-group, Teach Ceoli (at least I think that’s how its spelt) on Shop Street and Monroe’s Tavern on Dominik Street will never disappoint. If what you’re looking for is a quiet, relaxing pint in the evening than Murphy’s or Feeney’s on High Street are ideal.
For live concerts the best places to go are the Roisin Dubh, which regularly attracts big acts, an Taibhearc for more alternative music, and occasionally for larger events the Black Box. Also, if the theatre tickles your fancy then the City Hall is the place to go.
It is a common known fact among students and regular danceaholics that Galway’s nightclubs have never quite shaped up to the standard of its pubs. Perhaps the most sensible option would either be Cuba, just off Eyre Square, or Central Park (beware the snotty, ignorant women and the incredibly drunk fellas with their Ben Sherman shirts in there). However, a personal favourite of mine is the small but nonetheless incredibly lively Church Lane nightclub, which it must be noted is free on a Wednesday and Thursday night with a pass. Other notable nightclubs are Boo Radleys, the Venue and the GPO (mostly hard dance at the weekend).
Galway is per haps not noted for its love of food but it does contain some quality restaurants if you know where to look. The most significant restaurant area of the city is Quay Street where you have a diverse choice. If you’re willing to splash out for your meal than places like Cookes, McNamara’s and Quay Street Restaurant would be your best bet.
If all you want is a quick, cheap but good quality meal than you should look out for The Couch Potato, Scotty’s (American-style food with humungous portions) and Lynch’s just off Shop Street. There is also a nice seafood takeaway called McDonagh’s on Quay Street which opens up onto the street. If you feel your grease levels are dipping to a dangerously low there is a McDonald’s, a few Supermacs and a number of other fast-food outlets dotted around the place.
Overall, if you chose to visit Galway I have no doubt that you will be captivated by its undeniable charm and uplifting atmosphere, whether you’re a foreign tourist, a student or just a regular visitor from another part of Ireland. It can truly be said that a visit to Ireland is not complete without a trip to the Gateway to the West. If you don’t believe me find out for yourself!
The Hidden Galway City:
However, like most cities around the world Galway has a dark and hidden past that you may not see. If you're interested read on.
The creation of the new Irish Nationalism at the turn of the 20th Century was essentially the invention of a new tradition, which broke from the reality of Irish society’s diversity. This creation of a narrow and specific heritage inevitably isolates someone or something, which in this case was Ireland’s urban areas. With the granting of independence and the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921 came a popularisation of rural life and culture. There was no place for urban heritage and towns were dismissed as an alien and part icularly English innovation. The rural areas were perceived as being a sanctuary for “true” Ireland. What the Irish were essentially doing was attempting to cover up their colonial past.
Nowhere was this sense of concealment of certain sections of the past more evident than in the western city of Galway. Due to its geographical closeness to the Irish-speaking Connemara region and a large rural hinterland, the city has developed as a prevalent base for the development of this new Irish heritage. However, this was not always the case. For many centuries Galway was very much an English city dominated by a wealthy merchant community. The name Galway itself roughly translates to mean “the place of the foreigner”, which is probably due to the large number of Anglo-Norman families such as the De Burgos who first populated the city.
Within the city’s medieval walls, a prosperous merchant town emerged. Galway was a lone outpost of English influence in the west. The city become a Royal Borough in 1396 and it received mayoral status in 1484 when power was transferred from the De Burgos to the 14 tribes, a group of Norman merchant families that included now popular Irish names such as the Lynches, Browns, and Kirwans.
There a number of hidden features dotted around the city which are a physical reminder of Galway’s forgotten past. Prob
ably the easiest of these to find is the famous Spanish Arch. It is an extension of the city walls out to the pier. It was built in 1584 to commemorate the wrecking of the Spanish Armada off the western coast of Ireland in 1511. Next to this area there is also a statue donated by the city of Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, marking his supposed visit to Galway in 1477 en route to one of his adventurous voyages.
In the time of Henry VIII (1600’s), when England reverted to Protestantism, the new English planters coming into Ireland began to see the Irish as an inferior race because they were Catholic. This resulted in events such as the violent attack on Galway in 1652 by Cromwell. This largely failed in its objective but it did succeed in leaving a lasting impression on the city such as the conversion of St, Nicholas’ Church to the practice of Protestantism. It remains Protestant today yet it has gothic architecture which is typical of Catholic churches.
It is at this church also that you can presently find what is perhaps the most wrongly and ashamedly neglected area of Galway and Ireland’s past, for it is the commemorative home of the Connaught Rangers or “Devil’s Own” as they were nicknamed. This tiny church stuck in the heart of the city centre of Galway is the only significant physical dedication in the whole of Ireland to the thousands of Irishmen who died for over 230 years in the British Army.
In the confined space of the church there is a huge transnational sense of Irishness. The lists displayed all over the church of those soldiers killed in action include typically Irish names such as Murphy, O’Connor, O’Neill and O’Meara. The Connaught Rangers received more Victoria Crosses for bravery than any other Regiment of the British Army in the First World War. They fought around the world in such exotic locations as the West Indies, Ceylon, India, the Middle
East and South Africa giving their lives as they represented their home province.
Yet, from an untrained eye, there is little or no evidence of their sacrifice or even existence. 69,000 Irish soldiers have been killed in British service, more than the entire American death toll in the Vietnam War, yet there is little or no remembrance of them, unlike in America where the country is choked with memorials to the dead. Hopefully, further advances in Irish society will eventually lead to the development of a more significant tribute to the Connaught Rang ers in Galway city.
Despite a move to broaden the borders of Irish identity in recent years there still remains an unwillingness to incorporate Galway’s colonial past into its heritage. Monuments such as the Queen’s Standard behind the Quadrangle of Galway University are typical of this. It has been located in what is perhaps the most deserted and desolate location on the whole campus and is not recognised in the college prospectus. There is also the design of the college crest, which unbeknown to many, if not all, of the University’s students bears the English lion, a potent symbol of British colonialism, in its top left corner. The University was built in 1849 and therefore its Quadrangle is distinctly English and is likened to the architecture seen at Oxford University.
Perhaps the closest Galway has come so far to representing its diverse history are its monuments in Eyre Square in the city centre. The first is the statue of Padraig O’Conaire, a famous Irish poet and short story writer. He is perched on a Galway limestone wall with a rabbit and a bird at his feet, which suggests a rural environment. This represents the homogenous type of Irish identity which developed after independence. It is a very legitimate part of Galway’s history but the urban part of its history should also be shown, especially when the statue is in the middle of the most u
rbanised area of the west. The Quincentennial Monument, which was constructed by Eamon O’Doherty in 1984, signifies the importance of maritime trade to Galway. The monument represents the dark brown sails of the Claddagh (famous fishing docks in the city).
There is also the remains of the front wall of an Old English house that was placed in the square before the house was demolished. The canons in front of the monument were brought back from the Crimean War by the Connaught Rangers. They were unwittingly placed there by Galway County Council. So effectively, the monuments in Eyre Square represent Old English, Gaelic-Catholic Irish, post-modern Irish and the “forgotten” Irish with the canons.
Galway is presently thought to be extremely cosmopolitan and is considered the cultural capital of Ireland. However, it is strange that a city with such an apparent love for culture and diversity has yet to remove hidden secrets from its own past and display them with a sense of pride and respect. To ignore the colonial past of Galway is, in essence, to ignore its foundation. Only when all aspects of Galway’s heritage are publicly displayed and acknowledged can it rightfully deserve its coveted reputation of cultural richness.
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