I’m extremely lucky to be living only 40 minutes away from the cute little city of Galway. Yes I just described a city as cute 😜. But not only is this city cute, it’s a city rich in history and culture. Having already checked out the foodie side of Galway I thought it was time to experience the city’s history. I took a walking tour of the city recently with Walking Tours Galway.
Stop 1: Eyre Square
Galway City started off as a fort in 1124. Over time a small settlement grew up around this fort. During the Middle Ages 14 merchant families ruled Galway. These were known as “The Tribes of Galway”. Christopher Columbus visited Galway in 1477, possibly stopping off on one of his voyages. Eyre Square was originally an open space during the Middle Ages outside of the town gate, known as The Green. Here markets took place. In 1710 the plot of land was officially presented to the city by Mayor Edward Eyre, whom the square is named after. In 1963 John F. Kennedy visited Galway City and made a speech in the square on 29th June 1963. The square was renamed “John F. Kennedy Memorial Park” in his honour in 1965. Despite this the square is still widely known as Eyre Square.
Stop 2: Browne’s Doorway (Eyre Square)
Browne’s doorway dates from 1627 and is the doorway belonging to the mansion of Dominic Browne and his wife Maria Lynch. The feature consists of a ground floor doorway and a first floor Oriel window. The doorway was relocated from it’s original place in Abbeygate Street to Eyre Square in 1905 by Local Authority.
Stop 3: Lynch’s Castle (Shop Street)
Lynch’s Castle was once home to one of the most powerful families in Galway, the Lynch Family. It was built during the 14th century but most of what can be seen today dates from around 1600. The Lynch Family’s Coat of Arms can still be seen today as well as a carving of a what is supposed to be a monkey holding a baby. Legend has it that a fire occurred in the castle while the Lynch family were living there. The castle was evacuated but the family forgot about the sleeping baby. Of course the family had a pet monkey who went back into the burning castle and rescued the baby. The castle is now home to Allied Irish Bank and is the only complete secular medieval building left standing in Galway.
Stop 4: Lynch’s Window (Market Street)
Lynch’s Window is a memorial to the hanging of William Lynch in 1454, son of James Lynch Mayor of Galway. Legend has it that a Spanish merchant called Gomez, who was trading with the Lynch family took a shining to William’s fiancée. William became jealous and murdered Gomez. To be seen to do justice, as mayor of Galway James hung his own son. However, if you look at the plaque underneath the window, the wall wasn’t built until 1854. Some historians maintain that is where the term “to lynch” comes from.
Stop: 5: St. Nicholas Church (Junction of Mainguard Street and Lombard Street)
St. Nicholas Church is a Church of Ireland church (Anglican/Episcopal) and dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of children and mariners. There is some disagreement as to when the building of the church began but it was definitely finished by 1320. Walking through the church you might notice headless and handless carved figures. Cromwell and his troops are blamed for this when they used the church as a stable for their horses after the siege of Galway in 1652. The church is opened all day, every day and everyone is welcome.
Stop: 6: The Spanish Arch (Near the banks of the River Corrib)
The Spanish Arch was built in 1584. It was originally an extension of the city walls, added to protect merchant ships from looting. At the time it was known as Ceann an Bhalla, which means Head of the Wall. Despite the name of the arch, there is no proven association between the Spanish in Galway and the building of the arch.
Need To Know
Walking Tours Galway is run by Galway City native Liam Silke. Liam has a group of Fáilte Ireland certified tour guides working for him. Tours run every day at 11.30 am, meeting at the Tourist Information Office on Forster Street. There needs to be a minimum of two people for the tours to run and it’s €10 per adult. You can just turn up at the Tourist Information Office or book your place on the website and Liam will email you back with the details.