The inspiration behind Steve Earle’s modern classic “Galway Girl” (or, for those who missed it, Ed Sheeran’s 2017 version), this west coast city is fast becoming a rival to the capital Dublin as one of Ireland’s top places to live.
Galway’s teeming cobbled streets are a short walk from untouched, seaweed-rich beaches and wild countryside, giving Galwegians the best of two worlds.
Scenery and seaweed
Galway’s coastal location offers views towards the beautifully desolate Aran Islands, as well as scenic walks along the world’s longest coastal route, the Wild Atlantic Way. A meander along the 2,500km path could take in Galway’s Salthill Promenade, made famous by the original “Galway Girl” lyric, “And I knew right then I’d be takin’ a whirl/’Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl”.
A “whirl” on the region’s beaches is also good for your health. Breathing in the iodine from Galway’s seaweed-rich coastline has been shown to have physiological benefits. A two-decade study by University College Dublin and NUI Galway found that continued exposure to seaweed helps to avoid iodine deficiency, a vital mineral for children’s brain development and regulating the thyroid. In fact, the research discovered the Carna region of Galway was the country’s iodine “hotspot”.
Emerging housing market
The west Ireland property market has finally woken up. Though the city’s post-crisis economic recovery initially lagged behind the rest of the country, Galway house prices rose 4.9 per cent in the first half of 2017, according to estate agents Sherry Fitzgerald, faster than any other Irish city outside Dublin. Yet the city still represents decent value: two-bedroom apartments averaged €155,000 at the end of 2017, compared with €240,000 in the capital.
City of festivals
From the traces of old Ireland in its traditional music to the more contemporary annual international arts festival, Galway has a thriving and competitive arts scene. Set to be the European capital of culture in 2020, Galway attracts serious talent, including theatrical heavyweights. This March, Cillian Murphy, the lead in the BBC gangster blockbuster Peaky Blinders, is set to star in the premiere of Grief is the Thing with Feathers, based on Max Porter’s novel, at Galway’s Black Box theatre before it transfers to Dublin.
Days at the races
Galway is host to Ireland’s version of Ascot, the UK’s high-society horse-race meeting: the Galway Races Summer Festival runs from the end of July into August. This year’s 49-race schedule should attract some 250,000 enthusiasts from around the world, as owners compete for a total of €2m in prize money.
Foraged fine dining
Galway Bay is famous for its oysters, and the city hosts the world’s longest-running oyster festival on the last weekend of September every year. Though proud of its gastronomic history, Galway also has a burgeoning contemporary food scene: Kai Cafe + Restaurant is an organic eatery run by husband-and-wife team David and Jessica Murphy, while Ard Bia at Nimmos (ard bia is Irish for high food) serves organic and foraged produce in the city’s 18th-century Custom House.
Galway is also home to Glenlo Abbey Hotel’s Pullman Restaurant. Following its €2m renovation, diners can look out over Lough Corrib lake from their seats in one of two original Orient Express carriages, which have travelled as far as St Petersburg.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Madrugadaverde/Dreamstime; Rihardzz/Dreamstime; Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty Images; Barry Murphy