On the west coast of Ireland, Galway city sits on the River Corrib and is small compared to other cities. It is a young and vibrant place, yet ancient and historic. It is generally agreed that Galway was named after the river, which was known until relatively recently as the Galway River rather than the Corrib River.

When you go on a Guided Tour of Connemara you might hear a lot of different opinions as to where Connemara actually starts and finishes. We contribute to the theory that you are in Connemara once you cross the Corrib and the Corrib River runs through Galway we are happy to include Galway in Connemara,

Although its population is only about 80,000 it has a young vibrant population and is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe.

The Irish name for the river is 'Gaillimh', but the precise meaning of this is disputed. One version has it that Gaillimh was the name of the daughter of an Iron-age chieftain who was drowned in the river. Recent finds of stone implements suggest that there has been human habitation at the site since neolithic (New Stone Age) times, about five thousand years ago.

A dún (or fort) was built at some time, and there was probably a settlement of fishermen at what is known as The Claddagh from early times. The Vikings visited the area in 927A.D. and ravaged the local monasteries, but, curiously, failed to establish a town as they did in other places. This is odd, given that the river and lake gave access by the water well into the Province of Connaught.

City of the Tribes

You will find many references to "The City of the Tribes"    The Tribes of Galway were wealthy merchant families who prospered from trade with continental Europe; they also dominated Galway's municipal government, the Kirwans being the wealthiest members of the tribes were considered Old English gentry, and distinguished themselves from the Gaelic peoples who lived in the hinterland of the city. However, the feared suppression of their common faith joined both sides together as Irish Catholics after the Irish Rebellion of 1641 (indeed for many Irish was a second or even first language). During the Irish Confederate Wars (1641-1653), Galway took the side of the Confederate Catholics of Ireland, and as a result, the Tribes were punished following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The town was besieged and after the surrender of Galway in April 1652, the Tribes had to face the confiscation of their property by the New Model Army. The Galway Corporation was taken over in October 1654 by English Parliamentarians and, despite a measure of power during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685) and the War of the Two Kings (1689-91), the Tribes had lost their power within the city. Because of the uncertain response to this dilemma by the merchant families, Cromwell's forces referred to them by the derogatory name, "The Tribes of Galway", which they themselves later adopted as a mark of defiance. Galway's urban elite enjoyed a measure of their power restored during the reign of the King Charles II (1660-1685) and his successor James II. However, Jacobite defeat in the War of the Two Kings (1689-91), marked the end of the Tribes' once overwhelming influence on the life of the city - which passed to its small Protestant population.

(Photo, above, shows the colorful pendants displaying the names and crests of the Tribes of Galway which are a permanent display at Eyre Square in the centre of the City)

The first known member of Lynch family to have settled in the city was William "le Petit" de Linch in 1185; the Lynch family remained the premier Tribal family until well into the 19th century. They dominated the office of mayor from 1485 to 1654, Peirce Lynch being the first to be appointed. Captain James "Spanish" Blake (fl.1588-1635) was an agent for the English secret service during the Nine Years War (Ireland) (1594-1603) and was said to have been responsible for the assassination of Red Hugh O'Donnell in Spain in 1602 (although this is doubtful). Richard Kirwan (1733-1812), president of the Royal Irish Academy from 1791, was awarded the Copley Medal for contributions to analytical chemistry. Joseph W. Kirwan, President of Queen's University, Galway. Richard Martin, humanity Dick",  (1754-1834) was a long-time advocate of Catholic Emancipation and a founder of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Lord Killanin (1914-99), sixth president of the International Olympic Committee 1972-80, was a descendant of the Morris tribe. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, (1928-1967), Argentine-born Latin American revolutionary, was a descendant of the Lynch tribe through his father, Ernesto Rafael Guevara Lynch (1900-1987). In 2000, Angela Lynch became the 84th Lynch to serve as Mayor of Galway since 1485. All the surnames of the Tribes are still to be found in Galway City and County, although Athy, Font, Deane and Skerret are rare.

The Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh rings distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to Claddagh Ring the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). The expression which was associated with these symbols in the giving of the ring was: "With my two hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my loyalty." Yet, the expression, "Let love and friendship reign forever" can be found as another meaning for the symbols.

The way that a Claddagh ring is worn on the hand is usually intended to convey the wearer's romantic availability, or lack thereof. The ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward to show that the wearer is not romantically linked but is looking for love. When turned inwards, it is shown that the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been "captured". Noting that the heart is pointing down the hand and into the veins which lead to the wearer's heart. The ring worn on the left hand with the heart facing outward shows the wearer is engaged; turned inward indicates the wearer is married.

Possible origins:

The Claddagh ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called "Fede Rings" The name "fede" comes from the Italian phrase "mani in fede" ("hands in trust" or "hands in faith"). These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped right hands was a popular design style.

There are many legends about the origins of the ring.

One tale is about Margaret Joyce (Claddagh Ring), a woman of The Tribes of Galway. She married a Spanish merchant named Domingo de Rona. She went with him to Spain, but he died and left her a large sum of money. She returned to Ireland and, in 1596, married Oliver Óg French, the mayor of Galway. With the money she inherited from her first marriage, she funded the construction of bridges in Connacht. All this out of charity, so one day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward.

Another story tells of a prince who fell in love with a common maid. To convince her father his feelings were genuine and he had no intentions of "using" the girl, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.

One legend that may be closer to historical truth is of a man named Richard Joyce, another member of the Joyce clan and a native of Galway. He left his town to work in the West Indies, intending to marry his love when he returned. However, his ship was captured and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. In Algiers, with his new master, he was trained in his craft. When William III became king, he demanded the Moors release all British prisoners. As a result, Robert Joyce was set free. The goldsmith had such a great amount of respect for Robert Joyce that he offered Joyce his daughter and half his wealth if Joyce stayed, but he refused his offer and returned home to marry his love who awaited his return. During his time with the Moors, he forged a ring as a symbol of his love for her. Upon his return, he presented her with the ring and they were married.

The Irish Potato Famine (1845 - 1849) caused many to emigrate from Ireland, and the Claddagh ring spread along with the emigrants to the United States and elsewhere. Now the design is worn worldwide. These rings are often considered heirlooms, and passed on from mother to daughter as well as between friends and lovers.

Galway is renowned for its festivals, street entertainers, song and dance. The Macnas Parade which takes place during Galway's Arts Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year. You can click on the YouTube link below to get a flavor of the festival parade.

YouTube Video          By mario cinematic (Macnas)          Duration  2:24

YouTube Video          By  KamilFilms          Duration  5:53

YouTube Video          By  JARH Film Droner  Duration  4:11

YouTube Video          By  Chris Studio          Duration  2:28

YouTube Video          By The West Awake          Duration  1:55

"I called Jim at Ireland West Tours looking specifically for a day touring around Galway to do photography. The minute I mentioned this to Jim, he started talking about light and times of day and I knew I was on to the right person! I trusted Jim with the places he recommended and he did not let me down!"

Jan M., Drogheda, Ireland


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Satisfying the customer 

Over the years we have had several compliments on our drivers from many of our satisfied customers. Click on the link to "Tripadvisor" below to read, in full, the reviews of some of our many happy customers.

"We have travelled quite a bit and taken many tours. This tour is top notch and Jim is a master tour guide. And yes, we fed gorgeous Connemara ponies and adorable donkeys. It's incredible value, makes a great use of your time and is like hanging out with an old friend."

Mfarquar, Massachusetts, USA


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