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Galway historic sites and visitor attractions

Eyre Square
The natural place to embark on any tour or exploration of Galway City is at Eyre Square (pronounced Air Square by locals). The square is the central transport hub of the city while at its centre is the green recreational area known as Kennedy Park, in honour of President John F. Kennedy who was made a freeman of the city here on the 29th of June 1963. Standing guard at the top of the square is the Brown Doorway, remnant of a 17th century merchant townhouse which was moved here in 1905. Nearby is the Quincentennial fountain erected in 1984 to mark the 500th anniversary of the incorporation of Galway with city and mayoral status. The fountain is adorned with a rusted metal structure representing the brown sails of a Galway Hooker, a traditional style sailing boat associated with Galway Bay. During the summer months the top of the square is embellished with a line of colourful flags depicting the 14 tribes of Galway, an oligarchy of wealthy merchant families who once dominated the political, economic and religious life of the town.

 
Old Town Wall
A surviving section of the formidable old town wall complete with twin watchtowers has been incorporated into the Eyre Square shopping centre just west of Kennedy Park. Dating to the late 13th century, this is the longest and most impressive section of the surviving medieval wall. Although little trace remains today, major fortifications including projecting bastions were added to the east wall in the mid 17th century.

 
Bohermore Cemetery
East of Eyre Square is the vast walled cemetery of Bohermore. The Victorian cemetery was opened in 1880 and caters for both the Catholic and Protestant faiths with twin mortuary chapels and a caretaker's lodge. The eastern churchyard was reserved for the Protestant faith while the western side was retained for Catholic use. The largest internment at the cemetery is that of the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines disaster of the 14th of August 1958 and is located on the left just inside the main gates. William Joyce, Hitler's wartime broadcaster known as 'Lord Haw Haw', was buried at Bohermore in 1976, his grave marked by a simple white cross.

 
Lynch's Castle
Standing at the junction of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street is a classic medieval tower house named Lynch's Castle. The Lynch's were the most prominent of the tribal merchant families producing no fewer than 82 mayors between 1485 and 1654. The castle exterior is adorned with many elaborate decorations and sculptures including grotesque gargoyles (water spouts) and several coats of arms. The rectangular stone panel on Shop Street may date the building to the late 15th century as it bears the royal arms of Henry VII (1485-1509) and it is thought to have been carved as an expression of loyalty to the new Tudor King. Lynch's castle is now used as a local branch of Allied Irish Bank.

 
Lynch Memorial Window
On Market Street at the edge of St. Nicholas Church Graveyard stands a unique city landmark known as the Lynch Memorial Window. What appears at first glance to be the remains of a genuine medieval house is in fact a 19th century purpose built facade containing a mixture of medieval architectural features. In 1854 Warden Peter Daly, Vicar of St. Nicholas Church, had the Lynch Memorial erected to perpetuate an old Galway legend said to have taken place at this ancient site. The principal focal point of the monument is the Lynch window itself which is situated just above an ominous stone plaque containing skull and crossbones. It was here according to legend that the term Lynching began with the first and original Lynch hanging.

 
St Nicholas Collegiate Church
The Church of St. Nicholas was established in the year 1320 on the site of an earlier chapel built by the original Norman settlers of Galway in the early 13th century. Elevated to collegiate (self governing) status in 1485, the church was further extended during the 16th century with the addition of much highly ornate sculpture. The building is dedicated to St. Nicholas who was commonly revered as the patron saint of sailors during the middle ages. Indeed Christopher Columbus himself is known to have worshipped here in February 1477 while anchored at port during an expedition to Iceland. Since 1691 the church has been under the jurisdiction of the Protestant clergy and today serves as an Anglican Parish Church.

 
Hall of the Red Earl
The Hall of the Red Earl is the earliest surviving settlement structure within the medieval walls of Galway and is one of the city's most significant archaeological landmarks. The hall was originally a church-like structure with large round headed windows and was a key municipal building used to collect taxes, dispense justice and host banquets. The remains of the 13th century hall were uncovered in 1997 and what can be seen today are the buttressed walls, the central row of octagonal columns, a medieval cobbled laneway and large cruciform feature used for ironworks in the 16th century. During the excavations more than 1,100 artefacts including clay pipes, a gold cufflink and an incomplete human skull were uncovered.

 
Blakes Tower
Blakes Castle stands at the southern end of Quay Street and is a typical late medieval tower house built by minor nobility. The castle was originally home to the Blakes, one of the 14 tribal merchant families, however due to the turmoil of the mid 17th century the building was forfeited and granted to the Morgan family. In 1686 the stone tower was leased to the Grand Jury of Galway and became the County Jail for 125 years. Later in the early 19th century the old tower became part of the famous Burkes Whiskey Distillery and in the 1990s it was restored and converted into a popular restaurant. The most interesting feature of the tower is the projecting murder hole situated at roof level in the centre of the facade. Designed as a defensive feature directly above the main doorway, it enabled defenders to pour hot tar or drop missiles upon would-be assailants below.

 
Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch was built in 1584 as an extension to the south-west corner of the town wall in order to give protection to shipping within the old medieval port of Galway. Originally the structure had four closed arches (though only the outermost two survive) facing towards the harbour and was known by locals as Ceann Na Bhalla, meaning the walls head. The old harbour remained in use until about 1840 when the present docks were constructed just south of the former walled town. In later years the old quays were filled in and the open ground converted into a fish market which was to thrive until the early 20th century.

 
Forthill Cemetery
Forthill Cemetery is situated on the site of an Augustinian Friary which was founded outside the walled town in the year 1500. In 1602 the monastery was walled in and transformed into a bastion fort, however, both structures were later demolished during the Cromwellian invasion of Galway in the mid 17th century. Given its earlier ecclesiastical associations the site gradually evolved into a local burial ground and in 1852 the graveyard was further extended to the south. Set in the east boundary wall of the graveyard is a stone plaque which commemorates 300 unfortunate Spanish sailors who were executed here by hanging in 1588.

 
Galway City Museum
The Galway City Museum is a spacious modern building on the banks of the River Corrib overlooking the Spanish Arch. The museum houses a variety of permanent and touring exhibitions dealing with archaeology, local history, arts and crafts. Permanent exhibitions include, route to the past (prehistoric Galway), Galway within the walls (medieval Galway), cinema and the arts in Galway along with Galway, wars of empire. The museum also hosts a calendar of events and an educational outreach programme.

 
Claddagh Village
Situated on the western shore of the River Corrib is the little fishing village known as the Claddagh. This was once a thriving Irish settlement outside the walled town, which not only had its own native language and customs but even had its very own elected king. The Claddagh is also famous for its unique ring which consists of a pair of hands clasping a heart and topped with a crown. The hands stand for friendship, the heart conveys love and loyalty is shown by the crown up above.

 
Salthill Seaside Village
Salthill is a traditional seaside suburb situated two miles west of city centre on the shore of Galway bay. Bordered by the longest promenade in Ireland, Salthill is one of the most popular family resorts in the country. Beginning as a 19th century Victorian resort Salthill began to attract substantial numbers of visitors to avail of the curative water in its bathhouses and the refreshing sea air. The practice of walking the prom and kicking the wall at Blackrock also began during this period and is now part and parcel of the Salthill experience. Today Salthill offers many attractions including Leisureland entertainment centre, Atlantic Aquarium and O Connor famous pub.

 
Catholic Cathedral
Standing at the western end of the Salmon Weir Bridge is the imposing Catholic Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the most prominent landmark on the city skyline. Designed by John J. Robinson in classical Renaissance style, the cathedral has a traditional cruciform shape with a central dome and two bell-towers flanking its northern entrance. Officially opened in 1965, the cathedral was built from local Galway limestone and its roof and dome covered in traditional copper. Inside, the coffered ceiling is crafted from American cedarwood, the flooring paved with green Connemara marble and the pews craved from West African Mahogany.

 
University Quadrangle
Just north of the cathedral is the leafy campus of N.U.I.G (National University of Ireland Galway) and the old University Quadrangle. Designed by Joseph B. Keane in Tudor/Gothic style, the quadrangle with its clock tower was modelled on Christchurch College in Oxford. Queens College Galway officially opened its doors with 68 students in October 1849 and since then the University has expanded considerably with a modern full-time student population of 16,000.