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Galway Family Vacaiton Ideas in Ireland Include Arts, Oysters, and the Ring.Galway Bay Ireland  Want to experience, cozy pubs, energizing live music, local stories, and laughter plus see rolling countryside and beautiful rocky cliffs framing the coast? Want to hike into the mist or bike an ancient island pathway? Taste oysters and scrumptious ginger bread? Go to Galway.

Galway is an ancient city, but as a university town its medieval streets now support shops, pubs and theatres - my kind of place. The city feels youthful and the residents (at least the ones met) are slightly quirky.

Galway is an Irish version of California’s Sausalito or Nova Scotia’s, Hailfax but with more rain. Hugging the harbor, every street has a story and around every corner there is a discovery to be made. No need for a car just park and walk. Main street downtown is the best for shopping and eating while Quay Street is the best bet for pubs. The city is comfortable for families with youngsters because it has a small town feeling and ideal for families with older kids because it is a university town with terrific music venues nightly. Need to know: It rains almost daily in the west but no one really cares. Actually the rain is a bonus becuase it provides an opportunity to slow down, duck inside, and enjoy living in the moment, something Americans often find difficult to do. 
Walk the Prom. For the best pictures (proof of your trip to Galway) follow the promenade that begins at the Arches and runs along the bay to the community of Salthill. The idea is to walk to the diving boards (about 30 minutes) and kick the wall for good luck before turning around and finding a pub for refreshments. Need to know: During the summer months catch Trad on the Prom – energizing traditional Irish dance program with the energy of Riverdance.Gallway Hookers on the Bay  

See how things were. Galway City Museum located behind the Spanish Arch, showcases important aspects of the history and heritage of city and the region. Basically the city’s treasures are on display. The two most meaningful – the statue of Padraic Ó Conaire, and a Galway hooker, the ‘Máirtín Oliver’ built for the Museum. Young children who know the story of the Claddagh ring will feel a connection with Claddagh village display on the second floor.

Music and good food go hand in hand. I have two favorite spots for music plus traditional Irish cuisine. The first is The King’s Head.  Like almost every place in Ireland there is a story to be told (I keep repeating myself, true.). The pub is connected in a creepy way to the 1649 beheading of King Charles I of England. That gruesome fact aside, their cod and chips is very tasty and King’s Head has a well deserved reputation for live music. It is crazy fun and the stage makes all the difference in the experience.GalwayMusicians Fiddle

No to be missed, The Quays (another super pub) also offers affordable Irish cuisine and live music in the atmosphere of a French medieval church complete with stained glass, Gothic arches, carvings and pews (really!). The brown bread is home-baked and served with popular pub choices - egg & mayonnaise salad or salmon mayonnaise salad. Mayonnaise you are thinking – yup. It’s an Irish thing. The music venues range from Rock n’ Roll and country western Irish-style to retro ‘70s.

Go for the ring. County Galway is the home of the famous Irish Claddagh ring so if you are in the market to buy one for yourself or a loved one this is the place. As any local will tell you, the word claddagh means stony beach in spoken Irish.  Cladach, the origin of the ring lore, was once a fishing village just outside the old city walls where the Corrib River meets Galway Bay. Today it is part of Galway City Centre defined by the Dominican Church of St Mary on the Hill just across the river from the Spanish Arch. For perspective, Cladach was founded prior to the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century. The Claddagh ring is associated with an array of traditions both romantic and heartfelt. Recognized the world over, the design consists of two clasped hands holding a crowned heart, and symbolizes love, friendship and loyalty. 

Visit St. Nicholas. It is common knowledge that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, merchants, sailors, scholars and virgins. In the heart of Galway's City Centre, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas dating from the early 1300s still remains active. Unlike many of the ruins scattered across the countryside, this location has changed faith five times (surviving Cromwell’s evil).  It is the largest medieval church still in use in Ireland today. Bonus points: One of the more fascinating items the church is the 13th century Crusader's Tomb said to be connected with the Knights Templar.

Sip Galway Hooker. The city has a local beer - chemical-free, pale ale available at most West Side pubs. The name hooker honors the iconic fishing boats found along the coast. Need to know: In Ireland pubs remain family friendly places for a quick meal, tea, coffee or a brew. Generally children are welcome in pubs when with parents. Pub owners are required to apply for a children’s certificate which allows children younger than 14 to be in the pub with an adult and almost all have the permit. Young children normally have to leave by 9pm.  Galway City Centre

About Galway. I will not bore you with guidebook details however it is the third largest city in Ireland with a population of about 70,000. The size makes it easy to get all the benefits of staying in a big city with easy access to the beautiful countryside . The city is spunky not just beacuse it is on the seaside (although the air may have something to do with it ) but because it is a university town with plenty of positive energy. Annual festivals include St. Patrick’s Festival & Day Parade, Galway Film Fleadh, the Galway Arts Festival, and the Oyster Festival.

Planning Details and Things to Do with Family

Ireland West Tourism Information Centre. Stop here to encounter the unmistakeable Galway smile followed by a welcomng phrase. It is a reliable spot to arrange tours, book ferry crossings, and exchange money. On Foster Street. +353 91 537700 or

Trad on the Prom. During the summer months at Salthill Hotel 087 238 8489 or 

Galway City Museum. Spanish Parade, Galway City Centre. +353 (0)91 532460 or

The Kings Head Pub & Restaurant. 15 High St. Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland. + 353 91 566630

The Quays Pub.  Located on Quay Street at Chapel Lane. +353 91 568 347

Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas. On Market Street. +353 91 564648. Admission by donation.

The Malt House. This is the spot for warm ginger bread and ever so delicious lemon curd. Just ask and they will tell you who grew the mushrooms. Olde Malt Mall, 15 High Street, Galway. +353 91 567866 or www.themalthouse.ieGalway Claddagh Ring Book

Claddagh: The Tale of the Ring. This beautifully-illustrated and engaging children's book tells the story of the first Claddagh ring. Download a PDF sample and read more about the book at

Claddagh ring.  Visit T. Dillon & Sons, the oldest and most renowned Claddagh jewelry shop and museum in Galway.

O’Connel’s Pub. Everyone who has been to Galway has a favorite pub and pub story to match. We stopped at this pub because I have a friend whose surname is O’Connel. There was no connection to my friend but the atmosphere – friendly patrons, ornate ceiling, tiled floors and dark pub wood provided an authentic vintage pub experience. 8 Eyre Square, Galway City, +353 (0)91 563634.

Find the perfect home away from home. Our FTF rule is to rent from a company based in our vacation destination. Locals always have the inside track certainly an advantage when organizing a family holiday and if you need assistance while on vacation there will be no time zone barrier. Our go to resource in Ireland is Trident Holiday Homes. Based in Ireland (our first requirement) they offer a wide array of self-catering family holiday homes throughout the country plus Northern Ireland. Bonus points: Many of their vacation home locations offer onsite facilities for the children including playgrounds, tennis courts, crazy golf, swimming pools, summer Kids Clubs, and often are within easy reach of the beach, waters sports, and riding stables. Trident Holiday Homes E8, Network Enterprise Park Kilcoole Co.Wicklow Ireland. +353 (0)1 201 8440 or

Authentic Ireland Vacation Planning Resource. Discover Ireland provides free vacation planning kits. Simply contact them online at or call from USA or Canada toll-free 1-800 SHAMROCK (1-800-742-6762).

Content and comments provided by Jule Nelson-Duac and images courtesy of Fáilte Images of Claddagh ring book provided by publisher. Original trip taken in 2011 and article updated copyright 2013.