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Galway

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Galway is a city in western Ireland in the province of Connacht. It is the county town of Galway, named after the county. The city lies on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. Galway is the sixth largest city on the island of Ireland and fourth largest in the Republic of Ireland. It had a 2022 census population of 83,456. Close to an earlier settlement, Galway grew around a fortress built by the King of Connacht in 1124.

The city at the time mainly controlled by a group of merchant families, the Galway tribes, and became a trading port. After a period of decline since the 21st century, the city is a tourist destination. Known for playing host to many events, celebrations and festivals including the Galway Arts Festival. In 2018 Galway was named a European Gastronomic Region. The city was European Capital of Culture in 2020 along with Rijeka, Croatia.

Galway City

Where does Galway City get its name?

The name of the city comes up from the Irish name Gaillimh. It formed the western boundary of the oldest settlement Dún Gaillimhe “Fort Gaillimh”. Historically the name was anglicized as Galliv or Gallive, closer to the Irish pronunciation. The Latin name of the city is Galvia. Locals who live in the city are commonly known as Galwegians. Another nickname for the city is the “Tribe City”. This was due to the fourteen merchant families called “Galway Tribes” who ruled the city in its Hiberno-Norman period.

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What is Galway, Ireland known for?

Galway is famous as the festival capital of Ireland, hosting an average of 122 festivals and events per year.

History of Galway

Dún Gaillimhe (“Fortress at the mouth of the Gaillimh”) was built on the site of an earlier settlement. Completed in 1124 by the King of Connacht and High King of Ireland Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (1088-1156). The castle was a naval base from which his fleet operated. A new settlement grew up around them. During the Norman invasion of Connacht in the 1230s, Dún Gaillimhe was conquered by Richard Mor de Burgh, who had led the invasion. When the De Burghs were finally Gaelicized, the city’s merchants, the Galway tribes, lobbied for greater control of the walled city.

This led to them gaining full control of the city. The English crown granted them status of mayors in December 1484. Galway and its Irish neighbors had difficult relations. A plaque above the city’s western gate, completed by Mayor Thomas Óge Martyn in 1562, read: “From the Fierce O’Flahertys may God protect us. A decree banned native Irish (as opposed to for Hiberno-Normandcitizens of Galway) unrestricted access to Galway. It stated that “neither O’ nor Mac may strut or strut through the streets of Galway without permission”.

During medieval times

Galway was ruled in medieval times by an oligarchy of fourteen merchant families. Twelve reported being of Norman descent and two of Irish descent. These were the “Tribes of Galway”. The city prospered on international trade. It was the main Irish port for trade with Spain and France in the Middle Ages. The most famous reminder of those days is ceann an bhalla (“the end of the wall”), now known as the Spanish Arch. Built during the mayorship of William Martin(1519–20). In 1477, Christopher Columbus visited Galway and may have stopped on a voyage to Faroe Islands or Iceland.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Galway remained loyal to the English Crown for the most part, even during the Gaelic Revival, perhaps for reasons of survival. In 1642, however, the city had allied itself with the Kilkenny Catholic Confederation during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. During the resulting Cromwellianconquest of Ireland, Cromwellian forces captured the city after a nine-month siege. In the late 17th century the city supported the Jacobites in the Williamite War in Ireland. It was conquered by the Williamites shortly after span after a brief siege Battle of Aughrim in 1691. This ruined the great families of Galway. The city later suffered even more from the Great Famine of 1845-1852.

Places to visit in Galway

Lynch’s Castle

Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a medieval terraced house, built in the 16th century by the wealthy Lynch family. The castle is now a branch of the Allied Irish Banks.

St . Nicholas’ Collegiate Church

St . Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is the largest medieval church in Ireland still in daily use. This Church of Ireland church founded in 1320 and expanded over the next two centuries.

Galway Cathedral

Galway Cathedral, known as the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, consecrated and built in 1965 with limestone. It is eclectic in style, with a Renaissance-style dome, columns and semicircular arches, and a Romanesque Renaissance portico dominating the main facade, which is an unusual feature in the construction of a modern Irish church.

Galway Cathedral

University of Galway

The original square building of the University of Galway, built in 1849 (during the Great Famine or An Gorta Mór) as one of the three colleges of Queen’s University of Ireland (jointly with Queen’s University Belfast and University College Cork). The university holds the UNESCO archive of spoken material on the Celtic languages.

University of Galway

The Hardiman

The Hardiman, originally the Railway Hotel, built in 1845 by the Great Southern Railway Company. Also known over the years as the Great Southern Hotel and later the Meyrick Hotel, it is on the southern edge of Eyre Square and is the oldest working hotel in the city.

The Hardiman Hotel Galway
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Menlo Castle

The remains of Menlo Castle is located outside of town on the east bank of the River Corrib. It was one of the ancestral homes of the Blake family, one of the Galway tribes from c. 1600-1910. Also The frontage of the family’s terraced house (“Blake’s Castle”) still exists next to Jury’s Hotel at the end of Quay Street.

Eglinton Canal

Eglinton Canal, named for Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, a former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, joins the River Corrib to Sea. It flows just over a kilometer from the University to the Claddagh.

The Claddagh

The Claddagh is the oldest part of Galway, but little or nothing remains of its former thatched town. On a side altar of the parish church of St Mary’s on the Hill stands the late medieval statue of Our Lady of Galway. The bay’s ancient blessing ritual takes place on the Sunday closest to the feast of the Assumption.

Browne’s Gate”, originally on Lower Abbeygate Street, now stands at the north end of Eyre Square Entrance to House of the Browne family, one of the fourteen tribes of Galway.

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Last updated May 29, 2023


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