Explore Ireland for Its Natural Beauty
As Ireland’s capital and largest city, Dublin is a natural starting point for a visit to the Emerald Isle. But after you’ve experienced its charms, head west to explore Ireland’s breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way.
Both Killarney and Galway offer a perfect base for day trips around the region. From Killarney, you can see the lush green countryside along the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula. From Galway, it’s easy to visit the rugged hills of Connemara and look out toward the Atlantic Ocean from the Cliffs of Moher. Wherever you go, you’ll find picturesque small towns, lovely water views and rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep.
During your western Ireland tour, spend a day or two walking around Galway. A city of about 80,000, it’s home to the National University of Ireland Galway, which gives it a lively, youthful atmosphere. And Galway is compact enough that you can easily see the city’s main attractions on foot.
One of those attractions is the soaring, Renaissance-style Galway Cathedral. Opened in 1965, it’s the last great stone cathedral built in Europe. In contrast, the small St. Nicholas Church dates from the 14th century and was once visited by Christopher Columbus. Be sure to visit the Galway City Museum, which looks at the city’s place in Irish history—from medieval times to its role in the Easter Rising of 1916 that helped launch Ireland on the road to independence. Stop by bustling Eyre Square, in the city center, where President John F. Kennedy addressed a large and adoring crowd in June 1963. And walk along the River Corrib, where you’ll see fishermen trying to hook a salmon.
The heart of Galway is its Latin Quarter, a pedestrian thoroughfare that links the River Corrib to Eyre Square. It’s home to historic landmarks like the Hall of the Red Earl, a small archaeological site from the 13th century, as well as dozens of shops, restaurants, and pubs.
You’ll find a traditional fare, like roast lamb or Guinness stew, as well as fresh local fish and international cuisine, like Spanish tapas with an Irish twist. The Latin Quarter’s stores will satisfy all of your Irish lace, crystal and woolen needs, from tablecloths and vases to sweaters and socks. Be sure to venture onto the side streets, too. You’re sure to find a unique souvenir at some of the smaller shops that specialize in local arts and crafts. Literature is another famous Irish export. Discover works by the country’s finest authors at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, one of Ireland’s best-loved independent bookstores.
Of course, no trip to Ireland would be complete without heading to a pub to hear music played on traditional instruments. While in many places the performances don’t start until late in the evening, some of Galway’s best-known establishments offer two sessions, including an early one around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., perfect if you need to be up early the next morning to continue your travels.