Galway, the largest county in Connacht, is celebrated in song and story throughout the world and takes centre stage on Ireland's western seaboard. A spectacularly beautiful county, it is a medley of contrasts - the wildest and remotest of countryside teamed with one of Europe's most vibrant and popular cities. Drawn as if by a magnet, visitors come again and again, captivated by this most special of Irish counties.
Galway City at the mouth of Galway Bay is both a picturesque and lively city with a wonderful avant-garde culture and a fascinating mixture of locally owned speciality shops, often featuring locally made crafts. Indeed local handcrafts are a feature of the entire region including hand knits, pottery, glass, jewellery and woodwork.
The city has many relics of its medieval past and is worth taking time to explore. It has changed considerably over the last number of years and features a fascinating juxtaposition of new and ancient architecture. The centre of the city is conveniently compact enough to ramble around comfortably.
As you would expect, Galway has a huge range of activities for the holidaymaker to enjoy. Golfers will find themselves spoilt for choice between excellent links and parkland courses, the equal of any in the world but without the sting of exorbitant green fees. Horse riding and trekking is another popular way to unwind in this the native county of the Connemara pony. Walking trails to suit all tastes are available both around the city and in the countryside. Hill walkers will find many fine routes in Connemara and the Twelve Bens and the scenery is unsurpassable. So much coastline is a good indicator of the variety of watersports available.
Fishing is always a popular option in Galway - every visitor to the city will have visited the famous Salmon Weir Bridge. Coarse fishing, river angling and sea angling are also available locally.
Anyone who knows the song 'Galway Bay' will be familiar with the Claddagh, previously a fishing village of thatched cottages, now an area just outside the city centre. Here is the birthplace of the world famous Claddagh ring, a souvenir many bring home, just to keep a little piece of Galway with them always.
Thoor Ballylee ... a tower set by a stream's edge W.B. Yeats, Nobel Prize winner, poet and senator bought this ancient Norman Tower and adjoining cottages in 1916 for the princely sum of Â£35. He had admired it many times on visits to his patron, Lady Gregory in nearby Coole Park. This castle was to be his Tower, his inspiration and his retreat. His collection of poems "The Tower" contains several poems written at or about Thoor Ballylee. The Tower had been lovingly restored and looks much this same as it did in the 1920's when the Yeats family lived there.
Today, visitors can tour the tower guided by an audio visual presentation on the history of Yeats' life and the tower (Irish, English, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish) in each room. In addition there are beautiful gardens and a picnic area, Ballylee Mill, a craft shop, Bureau de Change and tourist information.
Another castle associated with Yeats is Dunguaire Castle, which was the venue for the literary revivalists. Today, the bardic tradition is reflected in the nightly Medieval Banquet. The entertainment celebrates the richness of Ireland's literary and musical past and evokes the colourful characters who are so much a part of the castle's history.