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The vibrant Western Ireland city of Galway, known as the ‘City of the Tribes’, is the gateway to the scenic beauty of County Galway and a popular weekend break destination. Its watery location off Galway Bay’s River Corrib estuary near Lough Corrib sees mild, damp weather, resulting in the vivid green hues of the Irish countryside. The best way to explore the rugged coastline, with its tiny deserted bays and charming typically-Irish agricultural villages, is by hire car, as local bus services don’t cover the more remote delights.
Who to Book With
Since the closure of Galway Airport to passenger traffic, Shannon Airport is the closest arrivals hub for Galway. The Irish company Argus Rent-a-Car and Budget Car Rental Ireland have offices in Galway city, while Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europcar, as well as local car hire firm Dooley, are all represented at Shannon Airport, 56 miles from Galway. However, booking online in advance of arrive will secure you the best rates.
Best time to go
Spring, summer and autumn are the best times to visit Galway, although at any time, an umbrella is an essential accompaniment. July sees the annual Arts Festival in Eyre Square, and the city’s beaches are at their busiest in the summer months. Booking your chosen car in advance online will save money that’s better spent on delicious pub meals and pints of Guinness.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents must be shown at the car collection point:
- A valid UK or EU driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Your passport, ID card or other official photo ID
- The credit card used when making your reservation
- A print-out of your rental confirmation
The narrow streets of the city centre see huge congestion during rush hours and weekends, making driving a strain and parking very difficult, as well as expensive. Choosing a Galway hotel with a large car park is the best idea, as the old quarter is easily explored on foot or by public transport. Although Irish country roads twist, turn and are often shared with farm vehicles and animals, there are few cars on the roads and the views are spectacular. Seat belts are compulsory, and warning triangles should be carried. Road signs are metric, with motorway speed limits set at 120kph, open roads at 100kph and urban roads at 50kph. Drink driving is taken very seriously, so don’t risk it.
Exploring the historic city centre is best done on foot, as traffic here can be horrendously heavy. Buses serve the city centre and suburbs, and taxis are convenient, if somewhat expensive. Details of bus routes and fares are found on the City Direct website.
Galway Rail Station serves an express train route to Dublin, but there are no local rail services. From Dublin, however, connections can be made to all the major cities across Ireland.
On-street taxi ranks are scattered around the city centre, and cabs can be ordered by phone from licensed offices. All cabs are metered, and fixed fares apply to many routes, including longer sightseeing journeys outside the city. The charge from Shannon Airport averages around £60, with Citytaxis offering a reliable service.
Galway’s public bus services are operated by a number of companies, with City Direct running buses number 411 through to 414 from the city centre to the suburbs and beyond. Fixed fares for short journeys around town average at around £1.50, with time taken dependent on traffic conditions.
The medieval Spanish Arch, the 14th century Lynch’s Castle and St Nicholas of Myra’s Collegiate Church are must-sees attractions here. Eyre Square, the city’s heart, is also perfect for people-watching. Pubs and restaurants in the old city are the places to enjoy fresh Atlantic seafood meals and glasses of Ireland’s famous black stouts. Traditional Irish music and dance is everywhere.
Lough Corrib - The drive from Galway City around the shores of Lough Corrib takes you through charming Moycullen and on to Oughterard, with its bustling market, Maam, Cornamora and several more typically-Irish villages. A short detour as you approach Oughterard brings you to ancient Aughanure Castle, while the latter half of the route winds through mountains and over moorlands.
Bearna to Lettermore - This drive crosses County Galway’s cultural hub, rich in legends, folklore and Irish heritage. Views of Aran Island can be enjoyed from the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, while bogs, lakes and valleys range into the distance on the landside.
Galway’s coast road - This is another of the scenic drives for which the region is famed. It winds along the dramatic Atlantic coastline, dotted with tiny bays and fishing villages and a rocky landscape to the right. Head for Carraroe town, perched on a peninsula jutting out into the ocean.