While Dublin pulled well over it’s weight in nightlife craic (an Irish term for fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation), I’d been told by more than one Irishman along my brief stint in the capital city, that equal, perhaps even more glory might be found a bus ride away in Galway. Galway is located on the precipice of the stunning western peninsula.
The western coastline of Ireland is truly spectacular with its dramatic, rocky seashore, hidden inlets and stunning cliffs. It is a photographer’s sanctuary and a beauty-lover’s bliss. And the jewel in the western shore’s crown is the spirited, charming town of Galway.
It should be kept in mind that the rarity of a sunny day in Ireland, perhaps even in summer, is often welcomed with ecstatic dismay, an explosion of revelry and jovial camaraderie that permeates the normally overcast streets. As Irish luck would have it, I arrived in Galway on a brilliant, sunny afternoon, and serendipity seemed to be the order of the day.
Galway is cosier, tidier and a little more ‘small town’ than Dublin, and it offers a more intimate, yet no less exciting approach to the Irish night out. You definitely want to go to Galway to unwind, charm the soul and soak up the unique west coast craic. Here, you will find rich characters with delightful stories to share, a bevy of live music and, as is staple anywhere in Ireland, a swarm of terrific pubs in which to swill pint after pint of authentic Irish brews. Immerse yourself in a variety of stouts, ales, or lagers…make that a Kilkenny, or Guinness, or perhaps the odd Black and Tan for an obligatory nightcap, if the night should happen to end.
Settling into town upon arrival, I discovered a variety of fine hostel options littered about. We checked in at ‘Kinlay House Hostel’ for a couple of nights, and later ventured on to a cosier little place in the heart of the bar district called ‘Barnacles’, located right by the impressive Spanish Arch. Both were comfortable, reasonable options with a social, friendly vibe. A collection of bars snake along the cobble-brick lined mall of Quay St, so be warned if you’re hoping to get a good night’s sleep in this nook of town.
Serendipity seemed to be in abundance for this trip, as I’d sprung into town right in time for the annual Galway Arts Festival. The town is swamped with punters and artists of all persuasions; buskers line the festive main drag – by night, multiplying tenfold and providing spontaneous, crowd-swarming entertainment. Fire breathers, tightrope walkers and chainsaw jugglers vie for performance space, setting the heart of the town ablaze (not literally) with captivating showmanship. Whether it was the influence of the arts festival or not, Galway seemed to exude a creative sensitivity and cultural panache, which frequently borders on the electric.
We ventured out of the centre of town one night, finding the fine ‘Roisin Dubh’ for traditional and modern live music, fine craic, not to mention excellent, creamy pints of Guinness.
But the heart is where the home is, and more often than not we spent our time extracting the vibrance of the Quay and High Street locale. Wandering towards the nearby Salmon weir bridge by the shoreline, we soaked up the rare summer sun at water’s edge, the sound of gulls, the scent of sea and the unmistakable warmth of the Irish west coast.