Many of Galway's top attractions are outdoors and free of charge. In the center of town, for example, on Shop Street, is Lynch's Castle, dating from 1490 and renovated in the 19th century. It's now a branch of the Allied Irish Bank, and you can walk in and look around. The stern exterior is watched over by a handful of amusing gargoyles.
Close to the city docks, you can still see the area where Spanish merchants unloaded cargo from their galleons. The Spanish Arch was one of four arches built in 1594, and the Spanish Parade is a small open square, which, like Eyre Square, is great for people-watching.
The Tragic Tale of Lynch's Widow
One block away from Eyre Square on Market Street, the Lynch Memorial Window sits in a wall above a built-up Gothic doorway. It commemorates the tragic story of the 16th-century Galway mayor James Lynch FitzStephen, who condemned his own son to death for the murder of a Spanish merchant. After finding no one to carry out the deed, he executed the boy himself. The act destroyed him and he retreated into a life of seclusion.
On the main road inland from Galway City, heading south and east, are a number of attractions perfectly geared for families: the well-preserved medieval town of Athenry, the giant fish tanks of the Galway Atlantaquaria, and ye-olde-tyme-funne feasting at Dunguaire Castle. Meanwhile, more literary types may be interested in a string of sites related to one of Ireland’s greatest poets, W.B. Yeats.
Heading west out of Galway City, the R336 coast road makes for a lovely scenic drive, snaking along the edge of Galway Bay. The first major stop on the headland is the beach resort of Salthill (Bóthar na Trá), a summer magnet for Irish families (think the Jersey shore in the U.S., or Blackpool in England). It has a boardwalk and a fine beach, plus lots of bars, fast food, amusement rides, and game arcades, a good respite if you’ve got kids (as long as you don’t mind the crowds). Farther along the R336 are some charming historic towns including Gaelic-speaking Spiddal (An Spidéal). The road continues as far as Inverin (Indreabhán), then turns northward, with signposts for Rossaveal (Ros an Mhíl), ferry port to the Aran Islands. Continuing north on R336, you can branch off on R340 to visit Ros Muc, site of the Padraig Pearse Cottage ★.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.