I told you I was going to be pretty hyped about Ireland in my next posts. Therefore, I couldn´t miss the chance to share with you my trip to Galway.
I love Northern Ireland. I really do, but after several months there I was wishing to get to know more of the south and Galway seemed like the perfect option. It may or may not had something to do with Ed Sheeran’s new song (which I’ll post so you can listen to it while you keep reading). In any case, my roommate, Nynke, managed to convince our boss to give us two days off and we started planning to hit the road during the weekend.
My boyfriend agreed to drive us as long as we paid for the fuel and joined him for pizza at some point. So at 6:00 am on a Friday we had Nynke knocking like a crazy maniac at our door because we forgot to set the alarm and 20 minutes later we were on our way down south. I’ll tell you everything about what to do in Galway, I promise. But I you should definitely have a look at the other stops we made on the road.
Since we had a long journey ahead of us, we decided to stop at several spots on the way and W.B. Yeats’ Grave was the first one. W.B. Yeats was an Irish poet who acted as a pillar of the Irish Literary Revival. He is buried in a small graveyard behind a church, and even though the place is tiny, the view is amazing.
The day was pretty eerie. Also, the fact that we were on a cemetery only cooperated to make our visit extra creepy, but still enjoyable.
This second stop was completely random, since we were passing by the spot when my boyfriend suddenly remembered that I love Celtic history and decided to show us the place.
Queen Maeve was known as the Warrior Queen of Connacht and, as most queens in history (god knows why) had a fame of being evil. Among some of the glorious things she did, I found out that she started a war over a bull, named all of her sons “Maine”, because a prophecy said that a child of hers will kill her enemy Conchobar and, apparently, was killed by a piece of cheese. I call bulls**t on most of these, but I guess we will never know the truth.
Anyways, the thing is that her tomb is at the top of Sligo Hill and it’s quite the hike to get there. With Nynke cursing and blaming Conor every five minutes or so, we made it to her grave.
The place is covered in thousands of rocks from different sizes, to ensure that she keeps buried there. Everything was all right until Nynke took a stone from the grave and a crazy rain started to pour over us and we had to run back to the car.
Conor and I, enjoying the Irish weather. Photo by Nynke Bouma @cbirticus #outdoors #nature #rain #mist #galway #galwaygirl #photooftheday #irishweather #sligo #mytinyatlas #WhereToFindMe #wanderlusting #wanderlusting #travelgirl #solotravel #solotraveler #femalesolotraveler #trip #travel #travelbug #traveler #travelling #traveling #travelblogger #travelblog #travelbloggerlife #travelbloggers #travelblogging #abmtravelbug #traveldiary #lovetotravel
Later on I found out that it is good luck to bring a stone up the mountain to place on the large cairn, but that it is bad luck to remove a stone, so now thanks to my roommate we are doomed forever. Ireland is cool, huh?
I must confess that I’m a huge Downtown Abbey fan, so when I found out that there was another Manor not far from our destination, I had to drag the other two with me.
Kylemore Abbey is in the heart of Connemara. It has served as an aristocratic house, a convent and a boarding school. Inside its terrain there is a lake, a chapel and a Victorian Garden with a teahouse. You can admire its beautiful exterior for free and snap some shots, but if you want to go inside you need to pay a fee, €13.00 per adult and €9.00 for students. There is also a 10% discount if you book online.
If I am completely and utterly honest, I don’t think it is completely worth it. The interior of the house it is pretty, but not absolutely breath-taking. The chapel and the gardens are very pretty, but if you are not into Victorian architecture you can totally get by without paying for the entrance and just enjoying the view and the gift shop.
What to do in Galway: The town centre
The Latin Quarter
If you want to know what to do in Galway, The Latin Quarter is definitely the answer. Similar to Grafton Street in Dublin, this place is the heart of the city. Not only you can find the coolest pubs and bars in here, there are also plenty street performers: musicians, Irish dancers, jugglers… A bit of everything to keep anyone entertained. I would say that Galway has a more artsy/bohemian vibe than Dublin and it is much more relaxed.
Don´t miss the chance to walk along the street, grab a bite and enjoy whatever is happening. What to do in Galway might have many answers, but The Latin Quarter can’t be missed!
My travel group and I have a sweet tooth, so when we saw Auntie Nellie’s shop we couldn’t resist to have a look… And spend more than planned. Conor bought some Harry Potter inspired Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and I got myself a chocolate leprechaun. Nynke decided to wait for the good stuff and opted for an ice cream.
If you are having some sugary cravings and are looking for what to do in Galway away from the tourist crowds, Auntie Nellie’s is your place. It has a lovely vintage, old school vibe and a wide selection of sweets to choose. Treat yourself a little bit!
Oscar Wilde Statue
It is no secret that I’m a huge Oscar Wilde fan. I had previously visited his statue in Dublin, so when I found this one in the middle of Galway I was pleasantly surprised. I was looking for what to do in Galway for a long time and I never saw it mentioned anyway! But maybe I’m just a huge booknerd.
My pal Oscar was accompanied by Eduard Vilde, whose work I’m not so familiar with. However, we clearly had fun posing for the pictures, as you can see. Seriously, if you are planning to go to Ireland and you haven’t read anything by Wilde, I’d strongly suggest that you pick up one of his books (The Canterville Ghost is a personal recommendation).
Ok, so we had a good time eating sweets and posing for pictures, but we were in Galway, pubs surrounded us and we wanted to drink something!
It is not so easy to decide what to do in Galway, since there are plenty of options available. Nevertheless,The King’s Head seemed like a logical choice because it had a nice crowd and we could hear some music coming from the inside. We were starving after a whole day of homemade sandwiches and energy bars, so we ran to the restaurant.
The food there is not particularly cheap, but the truth is that it was very tasty. Conor had a steak, I went for a halloumi salad and Nynke ordered the biggest lamb shank I’ve ever seen, so Conor had to help her finish it. We added a few ciders to the order and a pint of the house ale, which was delicious. The live music started at 11:00, but we decided to visit a different pub to keep it interesting. Nevertheless, The King’s Arms was definitely my favourite place of the night.
The Spanish Arch
When I was looking for what to do in Galway, every article mentioned The Spanish Arch as a must-see place. So, after our dinner at The King’s Head we headed to this new pub to have a look.
The truth is that the ambiance was great. It was very animated; the live music had a cool mix between modern songs and traditional Irish tunes. There were two different counters to order drinks. We headed to the one in the back, where the bar tender was super friendly. She said that Nynke and I couldn’t live Ireland without having a baby Guinness. And nope, you may be thinking it is a small-sized Guinness, but it is actually a shot made of Kahlua and Baileys, which makes it look kind of like a mini stout.
We loved it! Maybe a little bit too much, if I may say, but it was sweet and yummy and almost like an alcoholic dessert. Most of the night was amazing. Conor talked to the band and they played Galway Girl for us (the original version, not the Ed Sheeran’s one).
We were having an awesome time until Nynke decided to get us some gin and tonics from the other counter. She asked for regular G&T, but when the bill came they charged us almost €20.00 for a couple of them! We had ordered the same drink in the back counter and the price had been around €6.00 per glass. I tried to confront the bartender, but he just told me that the prices in the front bar were more expensive. It still doesn’t make sense to me.
The mood was a bit down after that, so we called it a night around 1:30 and decided to get a final kebab before returning to out hostel. That experiences with the Gin & Tonics really spoiled the image of an amazing place. Honestly, if I ever return to Galway I think I’d look for some other place and give it a try.
If you are looking for what to do in Galway, but you want to keep it more casual, search no more! After our night out and a not-so-yummy breakfast at the hostel (read further for more information), we decided to tone it down and have some specialty tea at Cupán Tae.
I didn’t know anything about this place before going. However, it looked so adorable and granny-like with its lace mantelpieces and vintage china that I couldn’t resist. They had a lovely dessert table full with cakes and pastries. Also, a very wide tea menu with every flavour you could imagine. Granted, it wasn’t cheap, but the flavour was amazing and they even brought us some small timers to keep track of our infusions.
Nynke and I ordered the Christmas Tea (who cares if it was May?). However, my roommate went further and added a nice piece of cake to go with her drink.
Cupán Tae also has a small shop where they sell loose tea and some other accessories, like teapots and strainers. So, you know, basically it was paradise to me!
Some extra tips for the road trip in Ireland
We left Galway at noon. But, instead returning to Belfast straight away, we decided to take a little detour and have a look at The Cliffs of Moher. It may not be exactly in the city, but if you are looking for what to do in Galway and you are already there, the detour is totally worth it. This place is one of the most popular natural spots in Ireland. And it’s not far away from Galway!
If you are not familiar with The Cliffs of Moher, let me give you a bit of an insight:
Since it is undoubtedly a beautiful place, it has served as a location for multiple films, Harry Potter included. I was aware of its existence because once I read a book about an old man who wanted to spit from there in order to complete his bucket list. But that’s a completely different story.
It took a long way to get there, and the road included several curves and turns, which made me kind of dizzy (and I never get carsick), but the scenic route was beautiful. And once we got there, the queue to get into the car park was crazy. We must have been waiting for 45 minutes before actually entering the place, so I’d really recommend getting there early. The ticket prices are not that bad, €6.00 for adults and €4.50 for students and seniors.
Once inside the visitors’ area, you can access to an exhibition and a movie screening. You can also find several tourists shops and some restaurants and ice cream parlours. The walk around the cliffs should take you about one and a half hours. Nevertheless, we didn’t walk through all of the pedestrians’ path, since we wanted to return to Belfast at a decent hour. However, we really enjoyed the views and got a closer look at the place where Dumbledore and Harry were Horrocrux hunting. Although we suspect that they used a CGI rock for the take.
Random stops at the motorway
I can’t talk about what to do in Galway without mentioning the road to get there. I do not need to say that Ireland has breath-taking landscapes. Therefore, a road trip is the perfect way to enjoy it. Since the scenery got more and more beautifully dramatic, we made several stops on our way to the south and just snapped a few shots before continuing our journey. Don’t be afraid! Just pull over the side of the road, take some Instagram-worthy pics or just bask at the gorgeousness of the view.
OK, this doesn’t necessarily answer the question of what to do in Galway, but I couldn’t leave it out! The journey back home was incredibly long. It might have had something to do with the fact that Conor took a 2-hour deviation in order to get a box of Orchard Thieves Cider in a Tesco in the middle of nowhere, but I’ll tell you about that in other occasion. The point is that when we arrived to Belfast we were exhausted and, more than anything, famished.
As we promised Conor, we were going to eat pizza before the end of our trip. And not any pizza, but the largest one in Northern Ireland. Little Wing Pizzeria offers 24” pizzas! How could we miss that? However, the place closed at 10:00 pm that day and when we finally made it to Belfast, it was 9:40. Ergo, we literally had to run to the restaurant and endure the dirty looks the waiters gave us. We deserved them, to be fair.
After barely looking at the menu, we ordered a half pepperoni, half vegetarian pizza and three milkshakes. I’m still feeling guilty, but it was so worth it!
Indeed, it was the largest pizza in Ireland. Just look at Nynke’s face against that cheesy delight! I don’t know if I’m embarrassed or proud to say that we ate that bastard until the last crumb. But after a day of deprivation, I have no regrets! That was, definitely, the perfect closure for our road trip!
Where (not) to stay in Galway
We were on a budget, so we opted to stay in this low-cost hostel called Snoozles. If I’m completely honest here, we basically picked it because it sounded adorable. And yeah, now I learnt that it is a very poor reason to judge a hostel.
If there is a plus side, it is the location. When you are looking for what to do in Galway, most of the attractions are in the town centre and Snoozles was within walking distance. But there it ends.
The staff was nice, but the parking was not included and they told us that we could get a discount at a local car park. However, they never told us we needed a seal and we had to pay extra. Also, the place could have been cleaner. I have been staying in plenty of hostels during the last year and this place could have done it better. The bedside lamps didn’t work, the room was way to small for six people and the breakfast was frankly mediocre.
Luckily, we didn’t spend there too much time, but for sure I won’t be back to Snoozles anytime soon!