Walk 42: Galway City Centre: What a city!

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3 miles (4.83km)

Time to walk: Combined with a day in this great city so no time limits

Difficulty: Flat & all on hard paths

Parking: Around the city, but we caught the bus straight into the centre

Public toilets: Cafes, bars etc

Map of the route: We just picked up a local map, worked out what we wanted to see & devised a route

Map

So what can we tell you about wonderful, lively Galway?

The city’s name comes from the river Gaillimh (River Corrib) that forms the western boundary of the earliest settlement, which was called Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe (Fort at the mouth of the Gaillimh). The word Gaillimh means “stony” as in “stony river”

In common with many ancient cities, Galway has its own origin myth. According to legend, Galway is named after Gaillimh (Galvia), the daughter of a local chieftain, Breasail, who drowned in the River Corrib. The surrounding area became known as Áit Gaillimhe (Galway’s Place)

Galway City was formed from a small fishing village located in the area near the Spanish Arch called ‘The Claddagh’ where the River Corrib meets Galway Bay. It later became a walled town after the territory was captured by the Anglo Normans lead by Richard De Burgo. The town walls, some sections of which can be seen today near the Spanish Arch, were constructed circa 1270. A charter was granted in 1396 by Richard II transferring governing powers to 14 merchant families, known locally as the 14 tribes of Galway

The 14 tribes relished their independence, but retained their close links to the British crown. Galway’s strategic coastal location & natural harbour area resulted in a successful trade with both Portugal & Spain & the city prospered for centuries. However in 1651, with the arrival of Cromwell, the region entered a long period of decline. Other prominent sea ports emerged on the east coast, namely Dublin & Waterford & trade with Spain came almost at an end. Many years would pass before Galway would again enjoy such prosperity, but the legacy of the cities long & colourful history is evident in the character & style of the city

Today, as we’ll see, it’s a thriving, bohemian, cultural city. Along with being a popular seaside destination with beautiful beaches & long winding promenade, it also has a buzzing cosmopolitan city centre. The city is a joy to explore with its labyrinthine cobbled streets, colourful shop facades & busy cafe / bar culture. It’s well known for its many festivals throughout the year with huge crowds gathering for the annual Galway Arts Festival, Races & numerous other events

Can’t wait to explore so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk begins, as most do in a new city, at the Tourist Information Centre in Forster Street where we pick up street maps & plan the best route to take in everything we want to see

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Follow Forster Street down to Kennedy Park where, if you come into the city by bus, is the best place to get off

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2. Head across the street into the park itself…

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Originally called Eyre Square, the park was renamed in 1965 following a visit by John F. Kennedy on 29th June 1963 where he gave a speech, the first US president in office to do so during his term of office

There’s a few bits to look at here. Firstly the plaque commemorating JFK’s visit…

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There’s more mention of him in the Cathedral which we’ll visit later

3. Further along’s a rather strange structure – part of a door. This is The Browne Doorway…

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The Browne Doorway was removed from an old house in Lower Abbey Gate Street & it bears the names of Martin Browne, a member of one of the Tribes, & Mary Linch along with the date of 1627

4. Next door is a statue dedicated to the Galway Hooker (no, not that type!) which is a traditional fishing boat used in Galway Bay. The hooker was developed for the strong seas there. Traditionally, the boat is black (being coated in pitch) & the sails are a dark red-brown

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We saw one of these on the way to Galway – see picture below

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5. There’s a large statue near the bus stops…

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This is Liam Mellows who was an Irish republican & Sinn Féin politician. Born in England, he grew up in County Wexford & was active with the Irish Republican Brotherhood & Irish Volunteers, participating in the Easter Rising in County Galway & the War of Independence. Elected as a TD to the First Dáil, he rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty & was captured by pro-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War. Mellows was executed by Free State forces in 1922

6. The thing we really liked about this area though were the banners of the 14 Tribes – love the way this country keeps its tradition alive

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7. Let’s have a look at what else Galway has to offer so move down Williamsgate Street into William Street…

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…where there’s a cracking statue of Eduard & Oscar Wilde

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This fantastic statue was presented to Galway as a gift from Estonia upon them joining the European Union

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8. Our next stop is on the corner of the crossroads where William Street becomes Shop Street. The local AIB Bank is located in a fine building know as Lynch’s Castle

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This Town Castle is Galway’s best example of a fortified house, built by the prosperous Lynch family in the 16th century as protection from the raids of the chieftains of the 14 Tribes. Spanish decorative motifs are visible on its stones, along with decorative windows & the Lynch family coat of Arms

The Lynches were a wealthy family, many of whom served as Galway’s mayor. One of them, 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

Outside today was an amazing Australian musician

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There’s also some interesting businesses around…

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9. We’re now entering the part of Galway that everyone knows best – the Latin Quarter…the fabulous bar, restaurant & music scene…

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If you want to stick your head & arms through here you too could be a Leprachaun…

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10. Turn right down the alley…

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Looks a bit like Corrie doesn’t it! We’re looking for Lynch’s Window so, at the end turn left into Lombard Street & here it is…

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In the late 15th century a Galway Mayor named James Lynch sent his son on a voyage to Spain in order to collect a cargo of wine. Young Lynch was made captain of one of his father’s ships & entrusted with a large sum of money. However, due to reasons unknown, a large part of this money went missing. The Spanish merchant who supplied him sent his nephew to accompany Lynch on his return to Galway to receive payment

During the home voyage, Lynch became extremely worried knowing that his father would soon be made aware of the embezzlement. He thought up a plan to murder the young Spaniard & threw him overboard. On arrival in Galway the Mayor set him up in business.

However one of the sailors who had been on the voyage was taken seriously ill &, on his death bed, sent for Mayor Lynch. The dying man told the Mayor of the events which had taken place on board the ship. The Mayor, enraged by this act of murder, confronted his son who eventually admitted his guilt. The Mayor, who also acted as magistrate, convicted his own son & sentenced him to death

On the fateful morning the mayor reached an upper window overlooking the street &  fastened a rope around his son’s neck, secured the other end & pushed him from the window hanging him in full view of the crowd assembled below

It’s believed that the original Lynch house was located somewhere on Market Street. The Lynch memorial structure was built in the mid 19th century as a monument to the Lynch hanging. This large window is said to have come from the original Lynch house

Some people believe that the word Lynching originated with the story of the Lynch hanging of Galway in the late 15th century

11. Cross the road into Bowling Green & on the left’s Nora Barnacle’s House…

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The house of James Joyce & his wife was built in the 1800s. The smallest house in the street, its accommodation consists of two rooms & a tiny back yard. The ground floor room served as a kitchen, dining room, & often a bedroom. Cooking was done over an open fire, in pot ovens & on large griddles. Water was drawn from a pump across the street as the house did not receive its own supply until the 1940’s. The upstairs room was a communal bedroom. Small houses like this one sometimes served very large families & the sleeping arrangements were divided between the two rooms

At the turn of the century Nora lived here with her mother & six younger Barnacle children, until she left Galway in 1904 for Dublin

In 1987 the house was purchased by Mary and Sheila Gallagher who restored it & opened it to the public

James Joyce first met his mother-in-law Annie Barnacle in the small kitchen of the house when he & his son Giorgio visited in 1909. In 1912 the Joyces made a family visit to Galway & spent much of their three week holiday at the house. Nora, accompanied by Giorgio & Lucia, paid her final visit in 1922. Annie Barnacle continued to live here until her death in 1940

12. On the left’s the beautiful St Nicholas’ Church

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This place has so much history…

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We visited on a Sunday morning & asked to buy a coffee, but got a free ‘parishioners’ one

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13. So coffee done, let’s have a look around. The Collegiate Church of St Nicholas is the largest medieval church in Ireland still in use. It was built in 1320 on the site of a former chapel & is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra

Christopher Columbus almost certainly worshipped here in 1477

The guide leaflet’s great but let’s just look at the highlights…

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The Celtic Cross is a memorial to those who died in World War I…

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The Holy Water Stump dates back to around the 15th century & is very rare…

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The Chapel of Christ contains ‘The Crusader’s Tomb’ dating back to the 13th / 14th century which may have come from a nearby Knights Templar Chapel destroyed in 1324

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In the corner of this wing’s the Lynch Window Tomb bearing the coats & arms of the family along with the statues of two defaced angels…

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..they were defaced by the Cromwellian forces in 1652

14. There’s more columns etc to see, but we now need to move on, so head back out into the narrow alley outside the church – there’s always some kind of market here…

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This was a fab shop!

This was a fab shop!

And there’s more cheese further up the alley…

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15. Across the street at the top is Taaffes where we’ll come back to later…

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Turn right & you can stick your head & arms through yer man & become a Leprachaun!

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It was funny tho…

16. Turn left down High Street – it’s so colourful…

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…& on the corner’s a couple of German guys playing some traditional ‘non-irish’music

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17. We loved Galway & this part had such a good feel about it…

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How we wish Northampton Saints would draw a game against Connaught

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Fancy a Bodrum?

Fancy a Bodrum?

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In this part of Ireland the Aron jumper’s still popular…

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18. Eventually we reach a crossroads & head straight over into Quay Street

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19. This crossroads is a real dilemma as you can turn right & visit The Pie Maker – a tiny bar serving Pies!

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…or go left to visit The Dail pub, where we recommend the bacon, colcannon & cabbage (with a pint of the Guinness of course)

20. Straight ahead on the left though is Thomas Dillon, the original makers of the Claddagh Ring

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The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring given which represents love, loyalty & friendship

The design & customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, just outside the old city walls of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century

Ring

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21. High Street now becomes Quay Street as, guess what…we’re heading towards the Quay!

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This area’s also known as The Latin Quarter…

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22. At the end of this short street, it becomes suddenly modern!

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Cross over the road to have a look at the somewhat bizarre Christopher Columbus monument…

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…presented to Galway by the city of Genoa in 1992 to commemorate both the 500th anniversary of the voyage to the New World & the alleged visit of Columbus to Galway in 1477. It’s supposedly a winged bird although we couldn’t see it

23. Continue along this side of the river towards one of Galway’s treasures..the Spanish Arch

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The Spanish Arch built in 1584, stands on the left bank of the River Corrib, where Galway’s river meets the sea. The arch is the remainder of a 16th century bastion, added to the town’s walls to protect merchant ships from looting. It was known as Ceann an Bhalla (Head of the Wall)

The Arch features a wooden sculpture, called Madonna of the Quays, which was sculpted by the well known artist, Claire Sheridan, who lived in the adjacent building during the 50’s

Today, The Spanish Arch is home to the Galway City Museum, which nestles into one of its impressive walls

24. We paid a brief visit to the Galway City Museum – unfortunately we weren’t impressed

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25. Coming back out we walk across to the piece of land between the river & canal & take a photo of one of this city’s most photographed streets…The Long Walk

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26. Back to the main road, cross the bridge & turn right down Canal Walk…

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There’s another institution along here – Monroe’s

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27. Canal Walk’s going to take us all the way to our next stop…Galway University

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Follow it all the way to the junction with University Road

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28. Cross straight over & enter the Campus…

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To reach the old part turn left & follow the avenue of trees

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29. Galway University was founded in 1845 as Queen’s College, Galway. Alumni include Taoiseachs & Presidents of Ireland as well as numerous other prominent politicians & leading figures in Irish official life

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The oldest part of the university, the Aula Maxima (informally known as the Quadrangle) & designed by John Benjamin Keane, is a replica of Christ Church, Oxford

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More modern parts of the university sprang up in the 1970s & were designed by architects Scott Tallon Walker. The 1990s also saw considerable development, including the conversion of an old munitions factory into a student centre. 21st century developments include a state-of-the-art University Sports Centre

30. Come out of the university the same way we entered & turn left over the bridge towards the cathedral…

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Galway Cathedral is one of Europe’s youngest, large stone-built cathedrals, dedicated in 1965 to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven & St Nicholas. Construction began in 1958 on the site of the old city prison

In 1941 the jail was handed over to Bishop Michael Browne by the County Council as a site for the new cathedral. The jail was demolished, but it took a few more years until the foundation stone was laid

Let’s go & have a look inside

31. When you first enter the building be prepared to have your breath taken away…

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The architect of the cathedral was John J. Robinson who had previously designed many churches in Dublin & around the country. The architecture of the cathedral draws on many influences. The rose windows & mosaics, echo the broad tradition of Christian art

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The dome & pillars reflect a Renaissance style. The dome, at a height of 145 ft, is a prominent landmark on the city skyline

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The side altar with the Sacred Heart with Flames is stunning. Beside it is the flame that was lit when the cathedral was dedicated in 1965…

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The Mortuary Chapel on the left contains 3 mosaics – one of the Resurrection, one of Patrick Pearse, a leader of the 1916 uprising & the other of John F Kennedy. There’s an excellent film about the building of the cathedral in here too

Stand near the main altar & have a look back down to the other end. The floor is made of Portuguese marble & on the altar rests a slab of Carrara marble

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The cathedral pipe organ was originally built by the Liverpool firm of Rushworth & Dreaper in 1966 & renovated & greatly expanded by Irish organ-builder, Trevor Crowe between 2006 & 2007

32. Come out of the side of the cathedral & cross Salmon Weir Bridge…

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…turning right at the Court House along Newtown

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33. At the end of this stretch’s Sally Longs – the murals on the wall are fab…can you name them all?

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And that leads us back into the Latin Quarter & Taaffes where it’s time for a Guinness & a bit of jig…

So that’s the end of our Galway walk. What a fabulous city &, as a Northampton Saints fan…can we soon draw Connaught in a game please as we’d love to come back!

Go Walk!