Both Brett and I love traveling through Europe by train so when it came time to go from Dublin to Galway, train was our preferred method. It’s an easy two and a half hour ride through the middle of Ireland. Lots of countryside, sheep, faerie mounds and we even saw a rainbow or two on our journey.
Galway is small enough that when you arrive at the train station, you’re fairly close to wherever you might be staying. I highly recommend staying at the Eyre Square Hotel. We absolutely loved our time there and look forward to staying with them again. Extra bonus — this hotel is probably 150 steps from the exit of the train station. They have lovely rooms, an elevator and a delicious breakfast available each morning.
When we planned our trip to Ireland, we went over the Thanksgiving holiday to maximize our vacation days. We would both do this again in a heartbeat. Thanksgiving in Ireland was very different but we had a great time. Obviously, it’s not actually Thanksgiving there but if you were looking for a turkey dinner, most of the restaurants in Galway made sure “American Thanksgiving” was on the menu that night.
Another bonus of going over Thanksgiving, was being in Ireland for the start of the Christmas Market season. When I discovered we would be in Galway for their Christmas Market, I was beyond excited. I’m still not sure there is anything more magical than European Christmas Markets. Between the food, the holiday shopping tents and the Christmas Lights, it’s just a special thing to experience.
Along with it’s Christmas Market, Galway is a good landing spot for exploring the west side of Ireland. A visit to the Aran Islands should be on your day trip list.
The Aran islands are just off the west coast of Ireland. Inishmore (or Inis Mór) is the largest of the island chain. It is easily accessible by a bus/ferry combination leaving from Eyre Square in Galway. When we arrived on Inishmore our ferry was greeted by several locals with vans, ready to give visitors day tours of the island. Because we were visiting in November, our time was cut a bit short due to daylight and the return ferry schedule, so we opted to use one of the local guides for the day. If you go this route, have Euro available and talk with several guides to see where they are going and which tour fits what you might want to see.
We choose a guide heading toward the Ring of Aran. Our van of six was cozy but our guide was great. He pointed out spots along the way to our destinations. Our main stop was the base of the walk to Dún Aonghasa. Originally constructed around 1100 B.C., Dún Aonghasa is the largest of the prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands. We were dropped off at the visitor’s center down below and given a couple hours to explore. The cost to walk to the fort is five Euro and well worth it. The walk is a gentle uphill climb that takes you past the famous stone walls of the Aran Islands up to the fort, perched on the top of a cliff. The last hundred steps are on a bit of rocky terrain, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes for this walk.
At the top, we explored the ruins of the fort and had incredible views of Galway Bay.
Exploring Dún Aonghasa, Inishmore, Ireland (Photo credit: Erin Moore)
When you return to the base, take some time to wander through the couple craft stores. We found a few things made on the islands to bring home with us.
Walking either the entire Ring of Aran or the South of the Island walk would probably take three to five hours each. So if you really want to enjoy the island, I recommend looking into a Bed and Breakfast for a night so you have a couple days on Inishmore.
While you’re there, also make time to stop into the Aran Islands Sweater Market for some shopping and plan to have a meal at Joe Watties.
NOTE: Listen carefully to the ferry announcements and schedules, depending on the time of year, there may only be one ferry returning to the mainland at the end of the day, make sure you don’t miss it!