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From Emerald City to Emerald Isle: Galway, Ireland June 2014

Scenes of Galway: River Corrib
Scenes of Galway: River Corrib

On a recent trip across the pond (as the Brits love to say), I visited another “jewel” ... Ireland. Like Seattle, the island of Eire is called emerald for good reason, it rains a lot. This known, it seems the timing of my trip experienced a low of precip, and a high of sunshine and temps in the 70s.

Full-size map of Ireland showing counties and main towns and cities

Seattle, one of the first sister cities to Galway City, shares some commonalities with the Emerald City, naturally one related to water. It is green for a reason – it rains. Our precipitation matches with an average 45 inches per year. We are located on a bay (Elliott), they on a river, the River Corrib, between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. Native American tribes fill our history (Duwamish & Puyallup are two), while their history is with Tribesmen, referring to the 14 merchant families leading the city during the Norman period. Their nickname is “City of the Tribes.”

Galway is located midpoint on the west coast of Ireland, due west from Dublin, which is located on Ireland’s east coast. Known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart, Galway features several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Tulca Festival of Visual Arts in November and Galway Early Music Festival, featuring European music from the 12th to 18th century. They boast an Arts Festival, International Oyster Festival, and a Galway African Film Festival. All year long there is plenty to do in Galway. Take a 90-minute drive from the city and you may enjoy a Hooker Festival. A hooker is a traditional fishing boat, known as a Galway Hooker, and built for strong seas. Also like Seattle, several well-known musicians came to prominence in Galway, as well as poets and novelists. Sports of all interest are found in Galway, including football, basketball, golf, hockey, and soccer. The Galway Races are known throughout the world, which has grown to an annual 7-day horse racing event. Galway is perfect to be Seattle’s match.

Unlike Seattle, Galway has an extensive history dating back to 1484, when the city charter was awarded; however inhabitants are known to have been in the area since around 5000 BC. Though population of Galway is small, it is rated Ireland’s 4th most populated city with a total of 75,529 city residents (2011 census) – about the same size as Bellingham or Kennewick (2010 census). Touring the area, you will encounter many well- and not so well-maintained earthen castles still standing and will remain standing until they revert back into the land. Worthy of preservation, these buildings are treated similar to buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the finest examples of medieval houses in Ireland, located in Galway, is Lynch Castle on Shop Street, which now is a branch of Allied Irish Banks.

My impression of Galway and Ireland as a whole, is that it is country of grand vistas (the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, the Giant’s Causeway), and the heritage and people are a grander sidebar, making it a top of the bucket list destination. Éire go Brách! [Translation: Ireland until eternity!]

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