“ Independent hostel. 3 St. Vincent's Avenue, Woodquay, Galway, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)91 561133 „
On my last trip to Ireland, just about the only part of my trip that I actually planned was a stay in Galway. I remembered the lively town from my last visit, nearly three years before, and always promised myself that I would return the next time I was in Ireland. Knowing how my plans never unfold the way I expect "On the Road" I decided I would do that which is formerly unheard of in my travelling history, and book ahead. So one week before I packed my bags I had a squiz at my 1998 Let's Go (tells you how good hostels *used* to be before three and a half year's worth of smelly backpackers tainted their beds, walls and kitchens - we don't even talk of toilets!) Then I went online to see what I could find. An area sadly lacking on Dooyoo I spotted straight away - come on Eire hostellers! H owever with a bit of further research I found that one of the most consistently recommended Galway hostels was the Salmon Weir Hostel on St Vincent's Avenue. Phrases like "Friends for life!" and "You'll never want to leave!" sounded quite appealing to this lone holidaymaker. I've stayed in dozens of hostels before, and the best ones are those which provide a crowd of no-strings-attached, good-for-a-laugh, ready-made friends for however long you want to stay there, be it a night or a year. It was also recommended in my Let's Go, and appeared to be everything I could want: a clean, friendly, fairly small, independently run hostel. Read on... I took the plunge and booked three nights, thinking I could then extend it if I chose. The hostelier seemed friendly on the phone. The young Australian voice made the booking quickly and easily with no fuss, and asked me to call the night before I arrived to confirm I was still coming. There was no need to give a deposit, although this may become necessary in the peak season. When I arrived in Galway it took me nearly
an hour of going round in circles before I found the Salmon Weir Hostel, tucked away in a quiet street just round the corner from the centre streets. Once I had found it that first time it was not a problem to return, but you might want to take directions with you, as no-one seemed to know the name of the street. A small sign above a doorway indicated that I had finally reached the Salmon Weir. I rang the two bells, as requested and someone came to the door within seconds. The hostel is run by an Irish girl and her partner, but I only saw her once. The rest of the time the people on duty were Australians, passing the months by making money working at the hostel. I was shown around, and paid my first night. Although there were people milling around I could tell it wasn't overrun, so I decided to wait and see what it was like before comitting to any more time. I went into the small common room, took a seat and gave my usual charming smile. At first, everyone was really friendly, and we had the usual boring chit chat that you always get before the fun stuff - where are you from, where have you been travelling, how long are you staying. Then something a bit weird happened. I found that most of the people in the room had been living at the hostel for a few weeks or even months. As soon as I said I only had ten days in Ireland, and was just on holiday, the whole atmosphere changed. Three people got up and walked off together and the other ones started talking in their own languages (fair enough), or moved into the kitchen to speak. If I wasn't much mistaken I had just been completely dinghied. If I'm not much mistaken now, that spelling of dinghied is severely flawed. To cut a long story short I stayed in the Salmon Weir Hostel for only two nights before leaving Galway altogether. I found the place quite unfriendly, although I noticed people who came the same night and said they were lo
oking for work in Galway got a completely different reception. For somewhere to stay the Salmon Weir hostel is perfectly adequate. It is quite clean, there is free tea and coffee until 9pm, and at 13 Euros a night it doesn't break the bank. I imagine that in the summer when more tourists are about it can be a smashing friendly place where there is a great mix of cool people. But everyone's experience counts for something, and I'm afraid that mine wasn't very pleasant. The people in my 6-bed dorm had been at the hostel for four months, and after three or four failed attempts at making conversation I gave up. The beds are comfy, but quite soft and very squeaky. There isn't much room for anything else in the dorm, but it is adequate. My experience was that the Salmon Weir hostel is a great absorbtion centre for travellers looking to stop in Galway for a month or more. You will get advice on where to go, how to find a job, resources for long-stay visitors and a good laugh into the bargain. I have no doubt - and the evidence is all around - that many people have had a super time staying at the Salmon Weir. It is well situated very near the nightlife and shopping areas, but not enough to be disturbed in the middle of the night. There is a 2am curfew and the well-resourced kitchen closes at 9pm. However it rather spoilt the experience of Galway for me this time around. I met some smashing people in the pubs and even in the square during the day, but I'm afraid I felt thoroughly unwelcome at the Salmon Weir hostel. There are heaps of hostels in Galway, and while the Salmon Hostel has done well for itself with consumer advertising, the other hostels are just as adequate, and no more expensive. Two mornings after I first arrived I left Galway for the Aran Islands, where I had a much better hostel experience. Maybe I'll tell you about it one day.