The West of Ireland is full of history and wonder like no other place on earth. The rocky terrain of the Burren and the glorious ocean views from the rolling hills of coastal County Galway exhibit the vast range of geography this little country has to offer. The city of Galway, settled along the shores of the great Atlantic Ocean boasts over 800 years of history. Though the scenery may change greatly between these two neighboring counties, you can rest assured that they both hold a bit of magic and mystery. See Ireland as the Irish intended. Go West!
As you arrive in the heart of Connacht, Galway City, you will find yourself immersed in all that is Irish. As the third largest city in Ireland, Galway boasts a population of about 70,000 people. Though this may seem small by American standards, this compact city is as colorful and diverse as they come.
It's no wonder why Galway is referred to as "The City of Tribes." Take a walk down Shop Street. This cobblestone pedestrian-only street welcomes you as you leisurely stroll in and out of countless shops. Stores full of authentic Irish crafts, jewelry, and clothing are situated next to colorful pubs, bakeries, and music shops, creating a cosmopolitan wealth of culture.
Not far from Galway City is coastal Salt Hill. Taste the fresh sea air on your lips as you walk along the Salt Hill promenade. Maybe you'll be as lucky as Mundy and find a Galway girl to share the walk with you! Feel free to wade in the crisp Atlantic or even take the plunge off the high dive. Visit the fabulous aquarium boasting sea creatures native to the Emerald Isle, as well as from all parts of the world. Order the freshest catch of the day or rich, hearty, homemade Guinness stew at one of many great restaurants that Salt Hill has to offer. After dinner, watch the sun set over Galway Bay.
If you're looking to get away from the city life, see what the West of Ireland has to offer in County Clare. Take a trip south through the rocky and vast Burren, leading to the iconic Cliffs of Moher. These 700-foot high cliffs look out over the vast waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Seagulls fly effortlessly over waves that crash into the jagged rock. A mile up the road from the Cliffs, you find yourself at St. Bridget's Well overlooking the coastal village of Liscannor. St. Bridget's Well has been a destination for those on pilgrimage for hundreds of years. Within the cavern, you'll find prayer cards, rosaries, and keepsakes left in memory of those who have died.
If you're looking to really get away from it all, a short journey via ferry boat across Galway Bay takes you to the Aran Islands, perhaps the most unspoiled part of Ireland. Arriving on Inis Mór, the largest of all three islands, you take a step back in time. Rent a bike or take advantage of a horse drawn carriage tour of the island. As part of the Gaeltacht, the primary language spoken on the islands is Irish Gaelic, preserving the legacy and heart of the Irish people. Visit Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric fortress that stands on a cliff 100 meters above the Atlantic. Stay the night in a beautiful B&B situated on the shoreline, and fall asleep to the sound of gentile waves as they beak on the coastline. Rise early the next morning to get a glimpse of the Sea Lion colony that has inhibited the tiny island's coast for hundreds of years before you make your way back to the mainland.
So what are you waiting for? Take your trip to the West of Ireland. Remember the wise words of Austin O'Malley, "An Irish man can be worried by the consensus that there is nothing to worry about."