It was a Tuesday evening, I had just checked into a hostel in Galway and I was enjoying my first “luxurious” dinner in Ireland (i.e. bread and cheese-no money for a real meal!) when I heard three guys discussing about the town: “There’s nothing to do really, except go to pubs and drink, do you know?” was the phrase that caught my attention. To my surprise the rest of the people merely nodded indifferently. I just received my first challenge, I thought. And there I was, planning nothing for the following weekend, just staying in town to prove these guys wrong. And it was not a difficult task.
First Stop: Lough Atalaia
Saturday morning, really early and the town is still sleeping. I am off on my bike to visit an old friend, “Lough Atalaia”, a small salt water lake with a tiny opening to the sea. This is the perfect spot to see the sun rising above Renmore, transforming the lake into a golden pallette. On the North West part of the lake one can find Saint Augustine’s well, one of only two surviving holy wells in the vicinity of Galway, known to the locals for its healing power, especially for people with eye problems. Depending on the tide you might find the well submersed in the water, but the sight worth’s a visit for people who seek a calm place to walk or wander around. If you have an eye for birds, this is an area for you as you may spot redshanks, oystercatchers, lapwings and kingfishers even during the winter.
Second stop: Farmer’s market
After enjoying a marvelous sunrise I decided to head back to town and check the famous farmer’s market. Taking place every Saturday and Sunday at Churchyard St. and Market St., the farmer’s market is the place to go if you want to buy local or organic veggies and fruit, delicious cheese, bread and pastry, traditional jewelry and artsy souvenirs. Don’t make the mistake to eat before reaching the market: you will miss on trying crepes, pies, Indian street food and a variety of sweet delicacies. After walking around the stands three or four times I finally made up my mind and decided to treat myself with an orange juice and a warm brownie. I enjoyed my sugary meal while talking to a sweet lady that sells organic bread and walking around the old church. A few minutes later, I had a bag full of groceries.
Third stop: The promenade
My heavy backpack did not stop me from moving further down to the docks and head west for a walk at the longest seaside promenade in Ireland. On clear days one can see all the mountains surrounding Galway bay, including the Burren and Connemara, while sometimes even the famous Aran islands can be visible. The combination of the mountain view and the clouds created a rather dramatic scenery that I was trying to capture with my camera when an old man stopped me. “Do ya know what they say? When you see the Clare, it’s a sign of rain. When you can’t see it, it’s because it’s raining”. I smiled widely and forgot about my camera. I would just keep the Irish expression and the shining smile of this kind old man.
Last stop: Barna Woods
After a lovely walk under the sun I headed west, a little bit further out of Galway, to Barna Woods, which took me roughly thirty minutes, on a calm bike ride along the shore. For those who don’t have a bike (well, you should get one!), there’s a bus that goes in and out of town every twenty minutes. The woods will welcome you with a beautiful combination of colors. as mixed vegetation of native tree species like oak, ash and alder, and non-native ones like beech and sycamore, create a wonderful landscape. Wandering around the woods, one can find tons of wild life including birds, flowers and if lucky enough, small mammals. There are a number of sites with historical interest too, like an old well and remnants of the old village. The site even though it is considered an urban woodland, it has high ecological significance because of the biodiversity that it encloses. I had the chance to spend quite a bit of time spotting wildflowers, mushrooms and birds, and despite the fact that I was not lucky enough to see foxes or other mammals, I had a gorgeous lunch and the sweetest dessert of the world made by fresh wild raspberries, specially offered by the woods.
I took my time in the gorgeous forest and later in the evening I hit the road to go back before it would be too dark to cycle among the crazy Irish drivers. After a pint (or two) with some nice company, I returned at the hostel and met the same people that I had heard talking about the “boring” town, earlier in the morning. I’d like to dedicate this small post to them, for motivating me to go out and explore this great town. I wish all the places were as “boring” as Galway.