I was only in Galway for a couple of days. I had a flight back to Manchester from Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, but I had the morning to have a bit of a wander around the city. The weather was a real mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but wrapped up warm I managed to have a decent walk around, even getting to a few places I hadn’t previously seen. Here’s a few photos.
Last Monday in Galway was a busy day. I met a friend for coffee first thing before heading over to NUI Galway late morning to prepare for my workshop in the afternoon. It seemed to go well.
In the evening I’d arranged to meet my old friend Veronica who was born and bred in the city and lives in Salthill. We always meet up when I’m over and go out for a meal. We both love seafood so usually go to one of the many great seafood restaurants in the area. This time Veronica had booked us a table at O’Grady’s on the pier at Barna, a few miles west of the city.
We had a most excellent seafood meal and I started, as usual, with a plate of oysters. Veronica said she didn’t want a starter but might pinch one of my oysters. In the end, they were so tempting she stole two!
As the name suggests, the restaurant is situated next to the pier on the harbour. Unfortunately, being late January it was too dark for me to take in the coastal scenery (I really have to go back during the summer!). But I could see the pier. It looked familiar and, indeed, it was as it features in the final scenes of the film starring Brendan Gleeson set in Connemarra – The Guard
Last Sunday I travelled over to Galway on the west coast of Ireland for what has become an annual trip to the “City of the Tribes” to run a workshop at the University. It’s a great opportunity to see some friends who live there and mooch around what is probably my favourite Irish City.
Only problem is that due to having to fit into the course timetable my visits have all been in the winter – normally February, but this year I was there a little earlier in the year. I really must make an effort to get over there when the days are longer so I can see this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way at its best. (I’ve promised my friend Veronica that I definitely will!)
I took the plane from my least favourite airport to Dublin and then caught the express coach over to Galway. It was windy leaving Manchester which meant a bumpytake off in the Aer Lingus twin engined turboprop. But the short flight wasn’t too bad. It was cold and sunny with blue skies in Dublin, but as we travelled west on the coach I could see clouds in the distance. By the time we arrived in Galway it was cold and grey and starting to rain. I checked into my hotel, and then set out for a mooch. It was just after 4 p.m and there was about an hour and a half to go before it would be dark so I wrapped up warm, and wandered across Eyre Square and down Shop Street and Quay Street down to the small harbour at the Claddagh (the streets in Galway do exactly “what they say on the tin”, by the way).
I stopped and took in the view over to the picturesque row of houses known as the Long Walk and then decided to brave the weather and take a walk along the coast to the seaside suburb of Salthill.
After walking to the end of the turbulent Corrib river, where it enters Galway Bay, I turned west and set out along the path that skirts the coast, passing Mutton Ireland and on towards Salthill. A little further on I diverted off the path to take a look at the Famine Ship Memorial in the Celia Griffin Memorial Park, Gratton Beach.
As I carried on towards Salthill I passed a plaque, engraved with a poem – ‘The One-Armed Crucifixion’ -by Paul Durcan, accompanied by an engraving by John Behan. It’s part of the Galway Poetry Trail which I’d used as the basis of a walk around Galway last year, but I hadn’t come across this particular plaque as I hadn’t wandered out this far.
There were a couple of more plaques further on along the coast road and I must have passed them, but wasn’t paying attention and missed them. Rather negligent of me, but there’s always next year!
Reaching Salthill I carried on along the coastal path, passing the Aquariam and various other seaside attractions in the small resort, until I reached the sea diving platform. It was dark by now so I couldn’t see too much and little point in trying to take photos! I wandered over close to the sea to listen to the waves breaking, and was startled by someone appearing from out of the sea. A brave soul, the water must have been freezing. I stopped for a little while peering into the dark and contemplating life and the universe as you do before turning round and retracing my steps back to the City.
Reaching the city centre it was time to get something to eat. In the past I’ve treated myself to fish and chips at McDonaghs chippie (it is the seaside, after all). But I’m trying to be good and lose a couple of kg, so resisted. Instead, I had a home made noodle dish in Xian Street Food, a rather nice little Chinese fast food place that had opened on Quay Street since my last visit.
Afterwards I continued wandering, taking the path along the Corrib as far as the Cathedral before cutting back across to my Hotel on Eyre Square where I settled down in front of the TV to catch the latest episode of Les Miserables on the BBC. (Yes, I know I was in Ireland but the hotels usually have the main UK TV channels).
It had been a long day so it was time to turn in for the night. Another busy day to look forward to on Monday.
Walking around Galway you might notice a series of plaques at various strategic locations, each of which has a poem inscribed on it, usually with a theme relating to the city. Together they comprise the Galway Poetry Trail which has been created in conjunction with the the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, an annual literature festival that’s been held in Galway since 1985.
During my latest visit I tried to find some time to visit some of the plaques. A number of the poems are by well known authors, including Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and W B Yeats, but others are by poets I didn’t know, so following the trail introduced me to their work. Here’s a few of them.
This one, featuring the poem Bright City by Moya Cannon is on the bridge overlooking the harbour and the Cladagh, to which it refers.
It’s a little tricky to read from the photo, so here it is
I follow the light down the canal path,
across the road and on to the Claddagh.
In a blast of morning light which has turned
canal, river and estuary to mercury,
even the cars on the Long Walk are transfigured.
Five swans beat their way in across the bay,
heavy, sounding their own clarion,
as though carrying the world’s beauty
in on their strong white backs this Saturday morning.”
Here’s one by Gerry Hanbury on the wall of a pub on the corner of Quay Street
The Tribune by Gerald Dawe can be found on the wall of the building belonging to the very newspaper it refers to
Monday evening during my short stay in Galway, I went out for a meal with a friend who lives in the town to Morans Oyster Cottage, a seafood restaurant in Kilcolgan, a short drive from the city.
For the first course, we both treated ourselves to a “taster plate” of Native and Pacific oysters. They’d come fresh from the Clarenbridge oyster bed, a short distance away. Delicious!
There were photographs on the wall of famous visitors who’d visited the restaurant, including a certain Seamus Heaney, who’d left his calling card
a hand written note of his poem, Oysters.
A pity about the reflections in the photo which makes one of the words (starlight) illegible – but if you want, you can read the poem here
A treat in more than one way!
I arrived home from my day in London quite late on Friday evening. I had a day at home before setting off again to Ireland on a cold, sleety, windy Sunday morning. I flew from Manchester to Dublin, then took the coach to Galway where I was working the next day.
It was cold when I arrived and the weather was really odd – alternating between blue skies and snow flurries. After checking into my hotel I had about an hour before it went dark, so went for a quick stroll before going for a bite to eat.
The harbour was only a short distance from my hotel, so I wandered over and stopped to take in the classic view of the Long Walk
I treated myself to a fish and chip supper at McDonagh’s on Quay Street (busy as usual)
Then waked off my meal by taking a stroll around the town, returning to my hotel to watch TV before turning in for the night.
I lived at the edge of the town
like a streetlamp whose light bulb
no one ever replaces.
Cobwebs held the walls together,
and sweat our clasped hands.
I hid my teddy bear
in holes in crudely built stone walls
saving him from dreams.
returning like a bee that
always returns to the previous flower.
It was a time of peace when I left home:
on the letter a stamp with an old abandoned house.
and voids have clung beneath me
like snow that doesn’t know if it belongs
to the earth or to the air.
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
My last morning in Galway, I had a few hours before I needed to catch a coach back to Dublin airport. It was a fine day so I decided to take a walk out along the harbour to the bay and over towards Mutton Island – a small island about 1 km off shore and connected to the mainland by a causeway.
The island occupies a strategic position and so, not surprisingly at one time there was a fort built to protect the entrance to Galway harbour. That’s long gone. Today there’s a lighthouse and a sewage treatment plant.
I walked through town and then down to the harbour walking along the quays on the Claddagh side.
Then across the South Park , taking the path along that cut across to the shore. The tide was out.
I reached the causeway that goes across tot he island. I decided I had enough time to walk across to the island. Unfortunately access isn’t allowed due to most of the island being taken up with the sewage treatment works. But there were several people walking along to the end of the causeway and back, so I decided I’d do the same
There were good views down the bay over to Salthill
and across the bay to the Burren.
The sea to the west of the causeway, protected by the structure, was calm and I spotted a couple of swans swimming on the water.
Heading back along the causeway Galway city was visible with some dark rain clouds on the horizon.
Luckily they kept away from the town so no fear of getting wet as I walked back towards town and then back to my hotel.
I picked up my bags and walked the short distance to the coach station ready to set off back to Dublin.
A good end to an enjoyable short stay in what is probably my favourite town in Ireland.
St Nicholas’ Collegiate church is a Medieval Protestant church right in the centre of Galway. It’s dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers and also children (i.e. good old Father Christmas!). Founded in 1320, Christopher Columbus allegedly visited Galway and worshipped in the church in 1477. It’s the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship
One notable feature of the exterior of the building is that there are only 3 clocks on the 4 sides of the belfry – there isn’t one on the south side. Local legend has it that the this was because most of the people living on that side of town were Catholics. The Catholics then coined the saying that the Protestants “couldn’t even give them the time of day.”
Inside it’s a fairly typical Gothic church with pointed arches
and stained glass in the windows
A couple of fonts
And statues decapitated and mutilated by Cromwell’s troops.