(16 Sep 2005)Why go?
Located on Ireland's rugged west coast
delivers on the promise of Irishness, usually defined as friendly conversation, music and good craic. Visitors and locals congregate on the pub-lined High Street/Quay Street thoroughfare, creating a sense of everyone being at the same party.The journey
Euromanx (0870 787 78790870 787 7879
) operates twice-daily services from London City airport, with return fares including taxes starting at £108. Taxis to the centre cost £12.
(Prices are for a double room with breakfast in October.)
£140 Radisson Hotel & Spa, Lough Atalia Road (00353 91 53830000353 91 538300
). The helipad across the road sees plenty of action during race week. Events are organised to coincide with the festivals, while the award-winning Spirit One Spa and Atrium Bar & Lounge lure customers year round.
£70 Imperial Hotel, Eyre Square (00353 91 56303300353 91 563033
). The hotel's selling point - its central location - is less compelling because of protracted building works in the square. None the less, rooms are large and service is friendly.
£36 Sleepzone, Bothan na mBan, Wood Quay (00353 91 56699900353 91 566999
This stylish hostel has 36 en-suite rooms. It offers free internet access and has a TV room and well-equipped communal kitchen.
(Prices are per person for a three-course meal, excluding drinks.)
£35 Kirwan's Lane, Kirwan's Lane, Off Cross Street and Quay Street (00353 91 56826600353 91 568266
International cuisine and bold versions of traditional dishes are created from local ingredients in this bistro. Fish is their forte. Try Carna Bay prawns with lime zest and quail egg.
£23 McDonagh's Seafood Bar, 22 Quay Street (00353 91 56500100353 91 565001
Long queues form nightly in this family-run restaurant. McDonagh's buys whole catches from local fishermen, ensuring both range and freshness.
£12 Couch Potatas, Upper Abbeygate Street (00353 91 56166400353 91 561664
In between trendy shops, this cheerful cafe offers imaginative variations on the baked potato. Meat and vegetable fillings in rich sauces elevate the humble spud to new heights.The big night out
At the smart new Galway Park Greyhound Track, tourists, locals and the occasional hen party augment their betting with dinner in Master's restaurant overlooking the race circuit. Racing begins at 8pm and there is live music until late in the upstairs bar. Galway Park Greyhound Track, College Road (00353 91 56227300353 91 562273
The classic sight
The Spanish Arch on the left bank of the River Corrib is all that remains of a 16th-century bastion added to the city walls to protect merchant ships from looting. The arch is home to the City Museum, a folk museum detailing Galway's fishing past and medieval history. On warm days sunbathers and buskers congregate outside.
The alternative sight
Tigh Neachtains pub on Cross Street was once the town house of the MP Richard Martin (1754-1834), who was nicknamed "Humanity Dick" because of his involvement in the anti-cruelty laws that led to the founding of the RSPCA. Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross Street (00353 91 56882000353 91 568820
Four hundred different flowers, 372 species of butterflies, 19 of bee, 700 people and 12 teachers have a safe home on Inishmore, the biggest of Galway's Aran Islands. People come here in search of language lessons, native flora and the real Ireland. Even in high season it's possible to set off on foot and find solitude and peace. Fly with Aer Arann (00353 91 59303400353 91 593034
, www.aerarann.ie) for £35 return.The shops
£976 buys a Gloria Estelles cerise embossed-silk suit trimmed with Swarovski buttons from Treasure Chest at 31-33 William Street (00353 91 56386200353 91 563862
, www.treasurechest.ie), the place to head for your races "rigout".
£17 buys a mini Durrus cow's milk cheese from West Cork plus a bottle of Kellerei Kaltern Pinot Grigio Soll to accompany it from Sheridans Cheesemongers, 14-16 Churchyard Street (00353 91 56482900353 91 564829
, www.sheridans cheesemongers.com).
£11 buys a handmade bowl decorated with fuchsias from one of Judy Greene's West Coast-inspired ranges of pottery. Judy Greene Pottery, Kirwan's Lane, Off Cross Street and Quay Street, (00353 91 56175300353 91 561753
, www.judy greenepottery.com
Footprint Ireland (Footprint, £13.99) covers the county well and Georgina Campbell's Ireland (Georgina Campbell Guides, £14.99) for restaurants. E-mail info@ irelandwest.ie
for brochures.What's on when
You can still catch the Galway International Oyster Festival (September 22-25, www.galwayoysterfest.com
One of Europe's oldest horse fairs, the Ballinasloe Fair, will run from October 1 to 9 (www.ballinasloe.com
Tickets for the Angels & Devils New Year's Eve fancy dress ball at the Radisson SAS hotel cost €124(£87) and guests are already booking rooms for next year's Galway Races Summer Festival meeting, which runs from July 25 to 31.