A few weeks ago Ste and I popped over to Galway for a long weekend. I absolutely blame Ryanair’s emails that arrive in my inbox claiming hugely discounted flights which, upon investigation, are usually for dates or destinations you’d never consider. However, on this occasion, the chance of return flights to Shannon from Manchester for two for £30 was too good to pass up!
So we found ourselves at Shannon airport, hiring a little car for the weekend and driving the hour to Galway. I had booked us into the most wonderful AirBnB – an old pleasure boat moored in Galway harbour!
We spent half an hour exploring our accommodation (I’ll post more about the Laura Lucy soon) and making a quick coffee before heading out to see the town.
Being right on the harbour, our first adventure was to explore the harbour itself. We walked along the row of cute pastel cottages along one side in the photo above (behind which our boat was moored), and found the famous Spanish Arch. I have to confess, given it is one of Galway’s most famous landmarks and oft-mentioned in guidebooks and the like, I was a bit underwhelmed! It was small and just an arch really. We did note the restaurant just next to it, Nimmos, which we were planning on visiting for brunch the next morning (and I am so glad we did, you can read about it here). From there we went left over the River Corrib and around the other side of the harbour. We tried to take some selfies in front of the pretty cottages but our arms are clearly not long enough to fit in more than our giant heads! Still, I think this photo captures the relaxed and happy vibe of our day.
It was very blustery and cold and the river running out to sea was raging and making us feel very chilly indeed, so we walked back across the bridge and up along Quay Street into the centre of the Latin Quarter.
This street is lined with classic Irish pubs and pretty little shops and has a great atmosphere, even on a cold day there are people sat outside talking and laughing. We didn’t end up having a late night that day but I can imagine that this street is quite the place to party any night of the week – several of the pubs offer live music nearly every night, the craic is certainly good!
Having not had much in the way of breakfast we were more or less ready for an early lunch at this point, and we stopped in a lovely organic café in the centre of town, Providence Market Kitchen on St Augustine Street. I had a sandwich, but Ste ordered the special of the day, a lamb shank for €10. We weren’t expecting much for that price but it was huge and delicious and I was pretty darn jealous! The freshly made juices were also fabulous and the cakes looked pretty great too – I definitely recommend this place for a quick lunch stop.
After lunch we wandered through the street market set up around the church, in search of my next must-see destination – Sheridans Cheesemongers! We didn’t time it very well as I had planned on arriving there mid-afternoon with a bit of an appetite to pop up to their tasting room above the shop to try some of their cheeses paired with wines, but we were too full so contented ourselves with admiring a million varieties of cheese and sampling a couple of cheeky bits from the counter. I was a bit overwhelmed with the selection and didn’t buy any, thinking we would come back later on for some to take home with us, but we forgot! I shall just have to go back to Galway again to do Sheridans properly.
My next stop on my list of things to drag Ste to was the famous Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop on Middle Street. This place was my idea of heaven. Books packed into a warren of rooms stacked up to the rafters and jammed in under tables, with big comfy chairs around for perusing, and nearly every book you could possibly want to purchase. I could easily have spent hours in here but my long-suffering husband was looking thirsty so I restricted myself to ten minutes and one purchase, which I thought was very impressive!
As we left the shop it started absolutely hammering with rain so we did the logical thing when in Galway and took shelter in a pub, in perfect time to watch the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations. Or not, in our case! We couldn’t find anywhere to sit within watching distance of the screens (or in front of the several cosy peat fires burning around the pub sadly) so we took a quieter table to sample the Guinness and local Galway pale ale, called ‘Galway Hooker’! Ste laughed at this, but geek that I am, having read a book set in Galway the week before to get me in holiday mood (Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough) I knew that a hooker is actually the local fishing boat so the name wasn’t quite as risqué as you might expect!
Post-pint and a little more strolling down sidestreets, past the Cathedral and along the river, we decided to retire to the boat for a little rest before dinner (although stopped a while to listen to some of the many musicians braving the periodic downpours).
Since Galway is a fishing port, we asked the landlady of our AirBnB for the best seafood place in town, and she recommended Oscars Seafood Bistro. We booked ourselves a table earlier in the day (just as well, it was packed), at the same time as checking they did a meat option for me (allergic to fish and seafood alas!). Ste was in his element, ordering oysters followed by mussels, and I had the most unbelievable steak. It is a rare thing to find a seafood restaurant that also does meat fantastically well so I was delighted. It was a lovely place – the staff were very helpful and friendly, the ambience was great, and the food divine. Their chef has written his own seafood cookbook ‘bible’, a stunning book which I would most definitely have bought if I was a fish eater!
We had planned to visit the The Salt House on Raven Terrace on the way home which apparently has the best selection of real ales in Galway, but we were too tired, and I was excited to hop into the giant bed on our boat and be rocked to sleep by the waves!
Although we only really spent about 8 hours exploring Galway, I feel we saw the best of it, yet we didn’t get bored at any point. It was the perfect amount of time really. The next day, after brunch, we were off in our hire car to explore the Wild Atlantic Way – the west coastline of Ireland. Post on that next week!
My Galway Highlights:
- Harbour area
- Sheridans Cheesemongers
- Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop
- Irish pubs
- Great food (Oscars and Nimmos)
Have you been to Galway? Did we miss anything great? (Happy for all excuses to go back!)