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All kinds of people have been drawn to Galway's magical beauty, from writers J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats, to musicians John Lennon and 'Sting'. Visit Galway City, the plains in the East or the islands and mountains in the West. Wherever you go you'll find walking, golf, fishing, traditional music, theatre and crafts. Everyone finds something different and each leaves something of themselves behind to add to the beat of Ireland's cultural heart.
Galway is the place to be but, when you get there, where will you stay? There are many fine hotels in the city centre, with bright, clean rooms and friendly staff. Elsewhere, you can stay in the homely comfort of a bed and breakfast. Further afield, as you make your way out to Connemara and environs, you'll find ideal resting places to put up for the night, run by locals with a talent for hospitality and traditional brown bread. Rooms in a local hostelry provide all the welcome you need as you travel the byways of the county and explore the little villages and towns, each with its own particular charm.
There's nothing like discovering a rugged landscape on two wheels. The wind in your hair, the salt sea air, setting your own pace to take in the surrounding natural beauty. Galway is the place to do just that. Take a day on a bike, stopping off at a friendly local hostelry, from the epic coast of Roundstone to the quiet charm of Recess, and all points in between, therešs a path thatšs never been cycled before at least not by you. So therešs a world to explore. Hire a bike and travel the winding boreens. Bring a friend and enjoy the shared experience of getting close to nature at just the right speed to appreciate the wonder of it all.
Do a bunker, or two, or three. The quiet contemplation of the green, punctuated by the excitement of the ball rattling into the hole first time, golf is a way of life. And wherever in Galway you're staying, youčre sure to find it. Whether youčre a seasoned pro or a casual wielder of the iron, Galway offers you plenty of opportunities to practise becoming the next Padraig Harrington. From 18-hole championship island and links courses in Connemara to 18-hole parklands in Oughterard, Lough Rea and Portumna, if youčre going to shout 'Fore!', do it in Galway.
As every angler knows, the word 'reel' doesn't just mean a form of Irish dancing. And the age old battle between Man and the sea is never more evident than in Galway. The fishing tradition of its coastline and the islands are world famous. Today, many people still make a living that way. For you, however, things are a little more accessible, and more geared to your enjoyment. You'll find coarse angling and game angling all over the area. Corrib boasts the largest fishery in Europe, with salmon and wild brown trout, with excellent coarse angling on the Suck. Thrill to the pull on the line when something's biting. Take the strain as you engage with your quarry. Spend a day fishing for blue shark in Galway Bay or off the Connemara coast. And even if you don't catch anything, you can enjoy the stillness of the river, a world in itself with its own secrets and hidden pleasures.
Connemara ponies are the finest in the world. Some are descended from Arab stallions which escaped from the sinking Spanish Armada in 1588. Discover the simple pleasures of trekking through gloriously rugged terrain, galloping along a beach or idling through woodland, soaking up the atmospheric birdsong and the rustle of leaves. There are equestrian centres all around, at which you'll meet willing instructors who'll be your guides on spectacular treks through the heart of Connemara and beyond. Take the trail from Galway to Tipperary, around Lough Derg and the Slieve Aughty mountains. Saddle up and set out on the Burren trail on horseback you are never alone.
Look up. The clouds are like islands in the sky, reflecting the Aran islands off the coast of Galway where, for centuries, men and women have made their singular culture unique in Europe. Take a boat or a plane out to one of these islands and you'll be stepping back in time to another age. Where currachs covered in hide were launched on unforgiving waters. Where the Irish language is the spoken currency. And where an oral tradition of songs and stories handed lived experience down from one generation to the next. You'll find peace and relaxation on the islands. A space where you can be yourself. A world apart from the hustle of modern life. And when you leave, there'll be a place in your heart where you'll keep memories of a remarkable landscape and an unforgettable people.
The Connemara and Aran gaeltacht is a repository of folkloír and the love of language. Here, the Irish tongue is still spoken as a living language. And just as words are the beating heart of any culture, Irish as a way of life finds its most vibrant focus in the Gaeltacht. It's the perfect place to learn Irish or reinforce what you may have learned elsewhere. Quite simply, it expresses a different way of looking at the world and it might surprise you with just how special it really is. The people are friendly and unique, their rich heritage passed down from a time before Christianity. Our culture endures as long as there's a Gaeltacht. Go there and you'll discover a way of life like no other.
Traditional musicians from around the world come to Roundstone for authentic bodhrans made by skilled craftsmen. Rock stars spend quality time here for the landscape, the geniality and most of all the music. Galway City and County is a hotbed of musical activity. From the old masters singing ancient songs unaccompanied, to the young pretenders of the rock scene, there's music galore to be found here. If you're after a cultural experience, tracing the roots of Celtic song, or you just want to dance the night away, if it's played, it's here. And not forgetting ceilidh. Rince ~ pronounced rinka - the Irish for dance, is something altogether less slick and more heartfelt than the river dances you might be familiar with. But the emotions expressed in the movement of the body: a wordless evocation of the Celtic spirit that will stay with you forever.
One way of experiencing Galway's well deserved reputation for fresh food is to visit the Market adjacent to the 700-year old St Nicholas' Collegiate church on a Saturday morning. For centuries, traders have been selling fresh produce here. With some of the cleanest seas in Europe, Galway seafood is justly famous and no visit is complete without a lunch of oysters, brown bread and a pint of stout. From pub lunches to five star restaurants, you'll find delicious, wholesome foods, cooked with imagination and style.
There's nothing too formal about traditional music in Galway's pubs. In some places you'll find a band playing on a stage, in others you'll find regulars singing from their seats. Sessions can last all day and into the night and as people come and go, new instruments, new voices and new songs are added to the repertoire. Nobody is a stranger and everyone can play a part - as someone once said, 'If you have a song in your head, you're expected to share it'. The sound of the Uillean Pipes, the Bodhrán, the fiddle and the spoons make a soundtrack to the landscape around you - music is in the air.
Galway is one of Ireland's most cosmopolitan cities with a wealth of cafés and restaurants catering for all tastes and all budgets. With the harbour right in the city centre, fresh seafood is on almost every menu, including shellfish, smoked salmon and fresh salmon. Outside the city, you'll find restaurants in the most surprising places - a five star restaurant down a rocky 'boreen'; a seafood restaurant hidden in behind a pub; a world class wine list on a windswept hillside. Wherever you go you'll find a delicious menu, including traditional Irish cuisine such as Irish Stew, Bacon & Cabbage, Smoked Salmon and Oysters. You'll also find a true Galway welcome.
Irish pubs are famous but in Galway we're particularly proud of our huge range of hostelries. Perhaps it's because we've been welcoming merchants, sailors and travellers to our coasts for so long. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus stopped off in Galway, before heading off in search of the Indies, and we like to think that our forebears sent him on his way by drinking to his health. Every pub is different and each has its speciality - for some it's food, for others it's traditional music sessions. Each one you visit will make you feel so at home, you won't want to move on to the next.