When I woke up I was all alone
With a broken heart and a ticket home
And I ask you now, tell me what would you do
If her hair was black and her eyes were blue
I’ve travelled around I’ve been all over this world
Boys, I ain’t never seen nothin’ like a Galway girl
Late September, Sunday night.
Flying into the tiny airport of Knock in County Mayo, I jumped on the 2hr public bus to Galway with 4 days to explore the West of Ireland.
As we drove past the farms and villages, almost every house was flying the Mayo flag of green and red with bunting decorating the traditional pubs and shop fronts.
At the front of the bus, the driver was blaring out the action from Ireland’s biggest sporting occasion, the All Ireland Final in Gaelic Football.
A mix between football and rugby, County Mayo and Dublin were doing battle for the title. I caught the last 20 minutes of the game as I arrived into Galway, with Mayo thrillingly equalising in the last minute to force a replay (which they sadly lost 2 weeks later.)
The Galway streets buzzed with ecstatic Mayo fans, celebrating into the night.
I instantly fell for Galway’s small town charm.
I had that giddy excitement that comes from stepping off a plane into a new place, eyes scanning every little backstreet, reading all the notices in shop windows to get a feel for the place.
In the late autumn sun, I wandered down Shop Street, High Street and Quay Street, all alive with buskers playing everything from traditional Irish to pop and classical vibes. Little flags lined the streets declaring Galway’s recent success in winning the 2020 European Capital of Culture.
The main streets feed on to the waterfront of the River Corrib and down to the Spanish Arch, which once protected the cities quays from 1584.
I loved the chilled vibe: couples intertwined, groups of students sharing stories from the weekend and old friends catching up.
On my first night, I joined the hostel social to an Irish restaurant and then on to Taaffes on Shop Street.
The pub was heaving, dim lighting with photos of past music sessions lining the walls.
At the back of the pub, a guitarist and accordionist played traditional Irish music with a handful of drunken Mayo fans dancing merrily away.
On my last night in Galway, I treated myself to dinner at Kai, tucked in the west side of Galway and specialising in a daily changing menu of local, seasonal produce. Huge homemade jars of pickles and chutneys lined the walls, with a row of pumpkins perched on the window ledge for a seasonal touch.
I opt for the autumn vibes of chanterelle mushrooms paired with creamy burrata (mozzarella with added cream) and heritage tomatoes followed by West Coast crab with cucumber and lavash.
Heading back over the Corrib, I wandered from pub to pub to check out Galway’s famous live traditional Irish music, each place having a slightly different feel.
Ultimately, it was Tigh Neachtain that won me over.
Dating back to 1894, the pub is a labyrinth of little nooks and crannies to hide away with a pint, books on Ireland and beyond lining its walls and a selection of 130 different whiskeys. A duo played old Bob Dylan songs on a violin and guitar in the far corner.
It was a chilled affair, but a fitting finale.
On my final morning in Galway, I strolled along the River Corrib and up to the cathedral, humming with commuters.
On my way back, I made a beeline for the backstreets adjoining the main street and stumbled across poetry street art by acclaimed Irish artist Finbar247 (who also did the riot of colour behind the busker on the photo near the top).
I used Galway as a base to explore the surrounding area and as I flew in late afternoon and left early morning, I didn’t manage to get a whole day in Galway so sadly missed out on exploring the museum and churches (and most disappointingly missing out on Sheridan’s Cheesemongers!).
As I boarded the bus back to Knock, I expressed my sadness to be leaving so soon to the driver. He smiled and winked “You will return here again, for sure”.
And I hope he will prove to be right.
Arriving in Galway //I flew to West of Ireland Knock Airport with Ryanair from East Midlands for an unbelievable £20 return (hand luggage only, booked a month in advance). Ryanair also serve Shannon and Dublin.
Bus Eireann run a public bus from Knock (2hrs; €18 return booked online)
Sleeping // Galway City Hostel – right next to the bus station, nightly events such as the €2 dinner, amazing showers and homemade Irish soda bread for breakfast, winner. From €17 a night (cheaper hostels are available, I fancied a treat!)
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