Discover Galway, European Capital of Culture 2020


Galway city is a thriving city on Ireland's west coast. It sits in the middle of an area bounded by the Atlantic ocean on one side and the mountains of Connemara on the other. 

The nickname "City of the Tribes" was given due to the fourteen merchant families' dominance, whose activities were behind Galway's founding as a commercial centre. 
Today Galway enjoys a reputation as a centre for lively festivals and events.

The Galway Arts Festival held annually. In 2018, the city was named the European Region of Gastronomy and was the European Capital of Culture in 2020. Stay in Galway or Ashford Castle Hotel on a private tour of Ireland.

European Capital of Culture

A brief history of Galway

The middle ages
The settlement grew around a fort built in 1124 by the King of Connacht at the River Corrib's mouth. It withstood several attacks in 1132 and 1149 until finally being taken over by the Norman invasion led by Richard Mor de Burgh in 1232. Under the de Burghs, the town prospered, and, for almost a century, life for the citizens of Galway was peaceful.

The city walls
Over time, the de Burghs family became more Gaelic in their attitude and customs. The English-oriented merchants of the town resisted. Galway sought independence from the de Burghs influence and, in 1396, was granted a charter (permission) from the crown to build a defensive wall. Over time the city was awarded a full municipal charter in 1484 and mayoral status, which gave them complete control over their city.

The 15th-Century
The middle ages (a period lasting from the 5th to the 15th century) was a time of prosperity. Ruled by an oligarchy of fourteen merchant families, Galway became the premier Irish port for trade with Spain and France and the Western Isles and Scotland. By the middle of the 15th century, Galway was recognised as a beautiful and well-run town. However, relations with their Irish neighbours could be difficult. Keen to retain their Anglo-Irish individuality, the major passed a bylaw that prohibited any citizens from selling land or property within the town to Irishman without gaining a licence.

The Irish Rebellion of 1641 was to prove a watershed for the fortunes of Galway. The rebellion sought to end anti-catholic discrimination and avoid a takeover by an English administration. One of the outcomes of the English civil war (held in defiance of Charles I) was the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Galway was captured after a nine-month siege - the battles ruined the merchant or "tribe families" of Galway. The city went into severe decline, a situation made even worse by the potato famines of 1845 -1852.

Recovery wasn't to happen for Galway until the mid-1990s, when vigorous economic growth returned.

Highlights of Galway

Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral, built on the old city prison site, is one of the city's largest and most impressive buildings.

The Lynch's Castle
The Lynch's Castle is a medieval townhouse built in the 16th century by an influential Galway family and one of the fourteen tribes. In 1433 James Lynch Fitzstephen, as mayor of Galway, was required to hang his son, who was convicted of murdering a Spanish Sailor.

Galway City Museum
Galway City Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Galway's medieval heritage and Irish artists.

Menlo Castle
Menlo Castle is a picturesque ruin and one of the ancestral homes of the influential Blake family. It sits on the banks of the River Corrib.

The Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch built-in 1584 as an extension of the 12th Century town wall. It was a garrison for the soldiers keeping watch in the town.

Connemara National Park
Just a short distance away is the Connemara National Park, 2,000 hectares of the stunning scenery of mountains, bogs, heathlands, and forests.

Touring and accommodation
Cork is featured in our Classic Ireland tour. However, we can always customise your journey to reflect any specific interests or requirements you may have. 

Galway is one hour thirty minutes away from the spectacular 700ft high Cliffs of Moher and can be combined with a day tour to the incredible landscape of the Burren. Head north and tour the Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey Gardens. Shannon airport is one hour from Galway and Dublin airport three hours drive. 

Stay either in Galway City or a short hop away at the iconic Ashford Castle Hotel, with many activities available on the estate. Stay south of Galway at sublime Adare Manor Hotel, another high-end hotel with several restaurants, golf and spa - both hotels are world-class.

Galway Fun

European Capital of Culture

  • Private Guided 'Cultural' Tour
  • European City of Culture
  • Plethora of Music Pubs
  • Short hop to Connemara National Park

Help us make your trip exceptional

Our UK and EU office based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.

Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.

We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.

We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.

Contact information

From the UK: +44(0)20 8669 3666

FREE from Canada or the USA: 1-888-472-1799

Email: [email protected]

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