With a captivating history that dates all the way back to the middle ages, the atmospheric city of Galway has been attracting travellers for hundreds of years. Step back in time to the era of the Khans and the crusades and discover fingerprints of medieval Galway all over the city, from ancient archaeological sites to medieval churches. Just 45 minutes by car from the historic environs of our own Ashford Castle estate, a trip to Galway is a must for history buffs and inquisitive travellers alike.
Medieval City Walls
Medieval Galway was a walled city back in the day, and though the entire wall has not quite stood the test of time, some sections still remain. To see the largest surviving part of the medieval wall, head over to Galway’s Eyre Square shopping centre, where you’ll find the original walls incorporated into the new structure. Historically significant and conveniently located, surely there’s no better excuse to indulge in some retail therapy?
St. Nicholas’ Church
Not only is St. Nicholas’ Church the largest medieval parish church in the whole country, but this is also said to be one of the spots that Christopher Columbus visited during his trip to Galway in 1477. Dedicated to Santa Clause (or, rather, St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of children and mariners), the church is beautiful inside and out, with vivid stained glass windows and carvings of mermaids adorning the exterior. When inside, take a look at the floor – some say you can still see the scratches made by horses’ hooves in the 17th century, back when Cromwell’s soldiers used the church as a stable.
Built as a home for the Lynchs, one of medieval Galway’s most important merchant families, the house in its current form has been added to and rebuilt over the centuries. The gargoyles and coat of arms found all over this impressive stone town house (now an AIB Bank) would have demonstrated the original family’s power, prestige and wealth to visitors and, more importantly, to their neighbours. Lynch’s Castle is also right at the (rather grisly) heart of a Galway legend: one of the medieval Lynchs, in his capacity as Mayor, condemned his own son to death for committing murder and then had him hung from the window. Not quite the traditional fairy tale castle, then.
Hall of the Red Earl
Standing strong for several centuries, the original 13th century castle of the de Burgo family became a ruin back in the mists of time, before disappearing from the city altogether – that is, until 1997 when the remains of the castle’s Great Hall were accidentally discovered during building works. These medieval ruins (the oldest in the city) have since been preserved and visitors can now explore the Hall of the Red Earl on Druid Lane to pay homage to the very beginnings of the city itself (entrance to the site, however, is free).
The Hall of the Red Earl is also the jumping off point for the free medieval Galway walking tours run by the Galway Civic Trust, a great way to take in all the sites with an experienced local guide.
Galway City Museum
A fantastic option come rain or shine, the Galway City Museum offers an immersive way to learn about the heritage and history of the city. The museum has an entire exhibition devoted to medieval Galway, entitled “Galway Within the Walls”, which illuminates the city’s mysterious past. While you’re there, make sure to see the Spanish Arch, located just minutes from the museum on Spanish Parade. Thought to be a 16th century extension of the old medieval walls, this is the perfect place to wrap up your tour of medieval Galway.
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