This sublime Connemara estate-turned-Benedictine Abbey is just over 100 years old, though it feels a lot older. It was the height of luxury at the time of its construction and in a relatively quiet, isolated corner of Ireland. A local legend about the Abbey includes a mythical white horse that shows up at the shores of the lake every seven years. According to some, the next appearance is expected in 2018.
Almost hanging over a 100-metre cliff edge on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, Dún Aonghasa is thought to be at least 2000 years old. It consists of four concentric circles, their walls sometimes as much as 4 metres thick. Yet for all its obvious defensive might, the fort is thought to have been largely ceremonial. This stark, rural spot looks like it belongs in Game of Thrones.
Dún Aonghasa, Kilmurvy, Inishmore, Co. Galway, Ireland, +353 9961008
The Fisheries Watchtower Museum
An oddly defiant building perched in a seemingly precarious position overlooking the Corrib, the Fisheries Watchtower originally monitored fish stocks and illegal fishing in the area. It boasts gorgeous views of the surrounding waterways. It’s now a tiny but fascinating museum, and still looks distinctly out of place perched on its outlook.
Wolfe Tone Bridge, Galway, Ireland, +353 91564 946
St Nicholas Collegiate Church
A 14th century church near the banks of the Corrib in the heart of Galway city, the name ‘St Nicholas’ is a reference to the Patron Saint of children (modern day Santa Claus). The external walls of St Nicholas contain the unlikely combination of two mermaids, a lion, a dragon, gargoyles and a number of human heads.
A rare example of Galway doing modern buildings in a genuinely memorable way, the library at GMIT sits at the landward end of Galway Bay. It reflects the sails out in the bay, and is one of the first symbols of the city on the road in from Dublin.
GMIT Library, Old Dublin Road, Galway, Ireland, +353 91753 161
Lynch’s Castle might have become a bank, but its bizarre fortified exterior is one of Galway’s most memorable sites. It’s complete with gargoyles, and was the scene of an infamous hanging: Mayor James Lynch was forced to hang his own son after he murdered a visiting Spaniard who winked at his girlfriend.
The Spanish Arch
This 16th-century symbol of Galway is now a favourite place for a drink, and to watch kayakers ride the waves as the Corrib makes its way out to sea. The Spanish Arch was built to protect the city’s quays from invasion, and now stands as a stark, chunky reminder of the city’s long history.
A ‘show mine’ that plays tribute to the days of mining in Connemara, West Galway, a trip to Glengowla brings you below ground to explore the dangerous extraction methods of 19th-century silver and lead mining. As well as the roughshod mining buildings and cave below, Glengowla is now home to an open farm, which is popular with local families.
Asford Castle is famous as the site of Pierce Brosnan’s wedding to Keely Shay Smith. It’s in the tiny, rustic village of Cong, on the border between Galway and Mayo, and dates from the 13th century. Now, it is now one of Ireland’s most high-end hotels. Expect to shell out a small fortune to stay here, but the gorgeous grounds are well worth a stroll around, and the non-rich and famous can probably stretch to a coffee for a glance at the decadent interior.
Said to be the most modern stone cathedral in Europe, Galway Cathedral is not so much a classical feature of the city as a monstrous architectural mishmash that intrigues with its new-does-old novelty. It also contains a surreal tribute to John F Kennedy.