Shortly after I moved home to Ireland in December 2015, I dashed off this post about things I love about Galway. I just rediscovered a more in-depth post I wrote on my old blog on the same topic, so I thought I would share it. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your favourite things about the Town of the Tribes.
Monday at the Galway Races: The Galway Races are the highlight of the city’s social calendar and Monday is the highlight of the races for Galwegians. 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.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 kids kicking a football or throwing frisbee, groups of students eating ice cream and rolling “cigarettes”, while envious office workers grab twenty minutes outside over lunch.
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.
The Saw Doctors: Together more than 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. A lot of their most popular songs are lively – maybe even a little raucous – but my favourites are the ballads they wrote about love.
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.
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.
Supermacs: What separates Supermacs from every other take-away? I don’t know. But they have the best chicken burgers in the world and the best taco chips. Inexplicably, Supermacs also tastes better in its home county of Galway than any other place in Ireland. [Edit: My Mac keeps auto-correcting Supermacs to Supremacy – both are basically correct)
Ladies Day at 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 Competition. Horses- what horses? Today is all about the style!
Galway Girl(s): Galway Girl is an incredibly popular song, and Galway girls are a very popular species. Known for having a sense of humour and ability to laugh at ourselves, the way we speak our minds, our good looks and of course, our modesty, Galway girls are a welcome addition to any night out.
Christmas Market: While summer in Eyre Square is all about ice cream and frisbee, winter in the Square brings with it the Christmas Market, ideal for picking up stocking-fillers and trinkets. Pick up local products like seaweed skin care products of delicious fudge. And of course after a good mosey around, there’s no better way to finish off the day than with a stop off at the beer tent– to keep the cold out.
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.
The Omniplex: This one might just be personal to me, but back in the day before the EYE opened and everything was in 3D, the Omniplex was where my secondary school friends and I took our first unsupervised trips into town. While the early days were innocent, in later years these trips involved quick trip to Lidl across the road with notoriously bad fake IDs. In we went to an over-18s film armed with a bottle of cheap paint-stripperish vodka to go with our large cokes.
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. Tens of thousands of people attend hundreds of performances over 14 days. The city comes to life with crafts, street theatre (even more than usual), drama and dance, confirming Galway’s place as the true capital of culture.
Fairytale of New York: The best Christmas song of all time was written about Galway Bay. When it gets to mid-November and you’re pissed off because shops have been playing Christmas songs since Halloween, this is the one that’ll bring a smile to your face and get you singing along.
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 a few minutes of free entertainment.
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 Salmon Weir Bridge stand still for what seems like hours on edge to get the catch.
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.
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 drink and dance and join in for the chorus. Sure you wouldn’t have it any other way.
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.
Claddagh: There are few Irish girls who don’t have a Claddagh ring, usually given to them by a loved one. 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.
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. It’s all but impossible to leave without buying something. The place is a book-lover’s dream.
The Rest of the West: Much as Galway has to offer in itself, the city is also a gateway to the rest of the West. Croagh Patrick, Donegal, Connemara, Achill Island, Rossespoint, Sligo town and the Burren are just a few of the most beautiful places in Ireland, each with their own charms, and they’re easily accessible from Galway.
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 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! Important note to family members: Please don’t take this obscure outburst of nostalgia about the bog as an offer to actually go there this summer!
Galway Bay FM: Back in the day before we all had iTunes plugged into every aspect of our lives (I’m talking 2003, people) a fundamental aspect of teen 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 cringe-inducing dedication like ‘That one goes out to ClaireBear from Jay 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!
The people: Ultimately, if you have to sum up what’s special about Galway, it comes down to the people. The city is home to Galwegians, students, artsy types, tourists, alcoholics, poets, musicians and many more. There is an atmosphere in the city that is difficult to describe – that’s what happens when you fill a tiny, historic city with people from all walks of life. If you don’t believe me… just come and see for yourself.
Have you been to Galway? What did you love most about it? If you are Galwegian, what are your favourite things about the place?
*Throwback! This post was first published on my old blog Oracular Spectacular in 2012. I’ve made some edits to it before reposting here.