Galway and the Aran Islands for First-Timers

Trundle around Galway Bay on the wild Atlantic way

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Base yourself in the bohemian city of Galway, and explore one of the county’s most intriguing highlights from there. From the city of tribes, you can wind around Galway Bay and visit some pretty seaside towns before taking a ferry to the ancient Aran Islands. Then it’s back to the bright city lights where any number of exciting events could be taking place – that’s the charm of Galway.


Known as the city of tribes, Galway was once ruled by 14 tribe families who made the city an industrial and financial success. Their legacy has continued as Galway remains a thriving town with a university, cathedral and plenty of historical attractions.

Galway’s event calendar lasts year round; it’s the city that never sleeps on Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way.’ Literary festivals, horse racing festivals and music festivals happen throughout the year, making life seem like one long party to locals.

Galway’s location puts it in prime position for some amazing day trips, such as the fascinating Aran Islands. You can see the sights and get back to Quay Street in time for dinner, a pint of local craft beer and a live trad session.


Driving west around Galway Bay, passing through Salthill and Spiddal, will bring you into the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Galway. Rossaveal is a Gaeltacht village with a strong fishing heritage. Its Irish name “Ros an Mhíl” roughly translates as peninsula of the whale/sea monster.

It’s also the main ferry port to access the Aran Islands. Slightly north of the village is a Martello Tower. Built in the 19th century to watch out for potential French invaders, from here you can see the passage you need to take to get to the islands by sea.

Aran Islands

The three Aran Islands sit in Galway Bay and represent all that is true of the West of Ireland. Aran jumpers (sweaters) are made on Inis Meáin (Inishmaan). Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa in Irish) is a prehistoric defensive fort on Inis Mór (Inishmore). Inis Oírr (Inisheer) has a similar limestone landscape to the Burren. All three are worth a visit in their own right.

Always check the day’s forecast and with the ferry company as sailings can be affected by the weather. Aer Arann also flies if you’re prone to sea-sickness.

Return to Galway City

Stop off in Spiddal, where hundreds of students gather every summer to improve their Irish language skills. Ceardlann, the craft and design village, is a great spot for authentic Irish-made gifts and the café’s cakes are simply mouthwatering.

This itinerary is compliments of Tourism Ireland.

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