Galway’s medieval city is surrounded by the Connemara landscape to the north, the River Shannon to the east, the hills of Clare to the south and the world famous Galway Bay and Aran Islands to the west. Galway is Ireland’s third largest city and claims to be the fasting growing city in Western Europe. It is a fine fishing location with the river Corrib, Lough Corrib and, of course, Galway Bay close at hand. Nearby Salthill has one of the finest beaches in Ireland and is a very popular resort. Galway is a thriving centre for theatre, music and culture and annual events including the Galway Arts Festival, the famous Galway Races in July and the International Oyster Festivals in September.
Galway’s famous Spanish Arch is located on the left bank of the Corrib, where Galway’s river meets the sea. The Spanish Arch was originally a 16th century bastion, which was added to Galway’s town walls to protect merchant ships from looting. At this time, it was known as Ceann an Bhalla (Head of the Wall). Its current name “Spanish Arch” refers to former merchant trade with Spain. In 1755, the arches were partially destroyed by the tidal wave generated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In recent times part of the Arch has been converted into the Galway City Museum.
St. Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship at the heart of Galway’s life.It is said that Christopher Columbus prayed here in 1477 before sailing away on one of his attempts to reach the New World. The early sections of the church date from 1320, although tradition tells us that St. Nicholas was built upon the ruins of an older structure, and part of the chancel’s south wall may incorporate some of this earlier material.
The Lynches were a wealthy family, many of whom served as Galway mayor. One of the mayors, James Lynch Fitzstephen, actually pronounced his own son guilty of the murder of a Spanish sailor who became involved with a female family member in 1493. Lynch hanged his son Walter himself when everyone else refused to participate. The term ‘Lynch Law’ arose from this unfortunate episode. The old prison on Market Street in Galway City displays a black marble plaque marking the actual spot of the execution. Formerly owned by one of the fourteen tribes which ruled the city centuries ago, this elegant now houses Allied Irish Bank. Despite this the interior is still extremely impressive with coats of arms, stone fireplaces and a separate exhibition room which opens from Monday to Wednesday and on Fridays.
Galway Cathedral is located on Nun’s Island, on the west bank of the River Corrib near Salmon Weir Bridge, and is one of the largest and most dominating buildings in Galway. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1958 and was completed in 1965. It is located on the site of the former city jail and features a dome at a height of 145ft. It was the last large church in Ireland to be made from stone, and features a huge octagonal dome that complements the skyline of the City of Galway. Inside the visitor will find the rose windows and wall paintings particularly impressive.
The Salmon Weir Bridge crosses the Corrib from the Cathedral on one side to the courthouse on the other. Many people gather on this bridge in summer to see the shoals of salmon make their way up the Corrib river to spawn There is a magnificent view of the Cathedral from the bridge itself, and the view remains impressive all the way down to Wolfe Tone Bridge. The bridge was originally granted by Henry III to the Earl of Ulster. The Franciscans later held the fisheries until the suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII, when they were given to the Lynch family. It is now the property of the state.
The National University of Ireland, Galway stands on the banks of the river Corrib. Its stone quadrangle is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. A ten minute walk from the city centre, the University plays an important role in the cultural life of Galway. It is the venue for many literary ,musical, and sporting events. The campus houses a museum, an art gallery, and a theatre, as well as cafes and restaurants.
Eyre Square was officially presented to the city in 1710 by Mayor Edward Eyre, from whom it took its name and is is the centre piece to Galway City. Originally surrounded with a wooden fence, it was enclosed with iron railings in the late 1700s. These were removed in the 1960s, and subsequently re-erected around St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. In 1965, the square was officially renamed “Kennedy Memorial Park” in honour of US President John F. Kennedy, who visited here shortly before his assassination in 1963.
The name of the Claddagh area is based on the Irish word “cladach”, meaning a stony beach. People have been gathering seafood and fishing from here for millennia. Throughout the centuries, the Claddagh people kept Galway City supplied with fish, which they sold on the square in front of the Spanish Arch. The area has been immortalized through its traditional jewellery, the Claddagh Ring, which is worn by people all over the world.
Kirwans Lane the finest medieval laneways in Galway, and is located in what is now referred to as the Latin Quarter of Galway contains many relics of 16th and 17th century architecture. It is at the centre of the area that was originally within the city walls, and is named after one of Galways fourteen “tribes” – the families who ruled the town for several centuries..
This window commemorates one of Galway’s most enduring legends. According to local tradition, the mayor of Galway, James Lynch FitzStephen, hanged (or lynched as the practice became known after this event) his son from the window of his home in 1493. Lynch’s son had murdered a Spanish man in the care of the family. Lynch’s Window stands in Market Street at the side of St. Nicholas’ Church.
Nora Barncale GalwayWife of James Joyces, Nora Barnacle House was the Barnacle family home from 1894-1940. It is now a small private museum, faithfully restored to its former character. It is open to the public during the summer months, with guides available to show you around. It contains many interesting photographs, objects and articles.
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