While Galway city is undoubtedly a gem, filled with colour, gorgeous buildings, culture, friendly people and lots of "craic agus ceol", the county of the same name has much to offer. It would be a shame to travel to the West of Ireland without exploring some of the beautiful towns and charming villages of County Galway. I spent numerous childhood holidays in the West of Ireland. In fact we had a little cute Irish cottage overlooking Killary Harbour.
Here are 18 of my suggestions of charming villages and beautiful towns in County Galway for you to visit.
(In another feature, I've written about Galway's most beautiful places ...and shared some interesting legends as well!)
Located 1.5 km outside of Galway city, is the seaside town of Salthill which has been a resort as long back as the 1930's. These days it is like a beach extension of Galway city, situated on the coast road that takes you into the fabulously dramatic scenery of Connemara. Its original name in Irish was Bóthar na Trá which translates into the Road by the Sea.
Salthill By Freeskyline
Salthill's beach is a collection of a number of small beaches, some of which are sandy while others are pebble beaches. These beaches are separated by grassy and rocky outcrops. During the 1950s and 1960s, land was reclaimed from the Atlantic sea in order to develop the promenade that you can visit today. This long promenade is a lovely spot, popular with strollers, walkers and runners. In terms of spending time on the beaches in Salthill, there are lifeguards on duty during the summer season, which runs from the middle of May until the end of September.
The views from Salthill are varied and wonderful. As you glance to the left you'll see Galway City, and to the right you can see the Aran Islands. The beautiful Burren of County Clare can be seen across Galway Bay and off into the west, the mountains and bogs of Connemara beckon. Salthill has continued to grow and develop over the years, changing what was once upon a time a small fishing village into a bustling, modern seaside resort.
With superb views over to the beautiful Burren in County Clare on a clear day, Barna is a great choice for nature lovers, walkers and families. This picturesque fishing village is located a mere 8 km out of Galway city and 11 km from Spiddal, in an Irish speaking (Gaeltacht) area of Connemara.
Barna Galway Bay sunset by By Jacek Rogoz
Close to Barna pier is the blue flag beach, Silverstrand; a sandy beach with shallow water at low tide, perfect for young families. Silverstrand Beach looks out directly over Galway Bay, affording wonderful vistas of the Atlantic. The beach is not suitable for young children during high tide. You can find parking alongside the promenade.
Barna has a good selection of bars and good restaurants. A visit to Barna wouldn't be complete without a walk in the Barna Woods.
It is worth a trip to Spiddal to see the sunset lighting up the hills of the beautiful Burren over on the opposite shores of Galway Bay. An Spidéal as it is often referred to, as it is one of Ireland's most important Gaeltachts (Irish speaking areas), is 19 km from Galway city.
Sunset at Spiddal Beach By Andriy Tabachuk
If you're Irish or have watched Irish television, Spiddal will already be familiar to you because it is used as the set for the well known Irish soap, Ros na Rún. With idyllic sea views, a lovely sandy beach and a wonderful collection of craft workshops, An Spidéal is an amazing place to visit whether you're travelling solo, or as part of a family, couple or group.
View of the colourful art shops and cafe in Ceardlann Spiddal Craft Village Galway County, Ireland By Eleni Mavrandoni
In summertime it's really buzzing as lots of students stay in Spiddal to learn Irish. Personally I spent a year learning Irish in An Rinn (Ring, Co. Waterford), but a summer school in a Gaeltacht area for Irish teenagers is almost like a rite of passage.
As well as a lovely picnic area, Spiddal is home to lots of typical Irish pubs, charming restaurants and shops. Make sure to catch at least one night of Irish traditional music!!
Fadó, fadó .....a long, long time ago (in Irish), the locals of Carraroe lived beside the sea for convenience, as the sea was their source of food and earning a living. Later when the construction of roads began in the area, the local people began to build houses by the roads...and it was this that led to the building of Carraroe village as you can see it today.
The two attractions of Carraroe are its beautiful Blue Flag beach and the fact that Carraroe is the epicentre of the revival and preservation of the wonderful native Irish boats, known as Galway Hookers.
Galway beautiful villages Carraroe coral beach By Stefano Vale
The coral shingle beach, Trá an Dóilin, is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Around you'll find plenty of little rock pools, as well as being a good place for snorkeling and scuba diving. The festival of the Galway Hookers (Féile an Dóilín) takes place in June, making it a very special time to visit.
Situated in an area of wonderful, outstanding natural beauty, Roundstone is a picturesque, charming fishing village located a little south of Clifden. Overlooked by some of Connermara's distant mountain ranges, the town's harbour can be found almost in Roundstone's centre.
Houses in the harbour of Roundstone Connemara, Ireland by Michael Steden
The drama of the Atlantic coast plays a daily part in life here and while traditionally it was fishing that sustained the locals for numerous centuries, these days tourism is of great importance to the economy.
Amongst its many charms is its still active harbour, founded by Alexander Nimmo, a Scottish engineer, during the 1820s. These days its character is still very much alive and kicking, with a range of boats that are as diverse and bizarre as one could possibly imagine. Colourful hulls stretch out in front of your eyes in the early morning as they depart in search of their catch of the day. Traditional currachs sail past large trawlers in the Atlantic Ocean, coming and going to the village whose name is derived from the Irish: Cloch na Ron, which means Rock of the Seals.
The town has a good selection of gorgeous craft shops, cafés and bars. Some of the restaurants and bars have outdoor seating areas, so if the weather allows you can drink and eat outside, enjoying the beautiful views and ambience.
Roundstone white sandy beach By Lucky Team Studio
Roundstone village is a great base to explore the local lake-strewn, ice-age scoured bog. Due to the area's geology, there are numerous wild flowers which are rarely found in Ireland, that can be discovered...making this part of County Galway a botantist's dream.
Roundstone was claimed by the famous actor Peter O'Toole to be his birthplace, although official records show that his birth was registered in Yorkshire city. His father was a bookmaker from Galway, and O'Toole, who was incredibly proud of his Irish roots, would later have a house in a magnificent setting on Galway's Sky Road.
Having been introduced to Connemara by Peter O'Toole, Sting had a house in Roundstone for a number of years. Rumour has it that threats from the provisional IRA drove him out eventually, but no one can be sure. Read more about Sting's connection with Connermara is the Galway Most Beautiful Places feature.
Located 14 km from Roundstone is Ballyconneely, a ribbon development blessed with beautiful beaches nearby, some that even have coral strands, such as Mannin Bay.
As the entrance to the Errismore Peninsula, Ballyconneely is the perfect base for nature lovers who will be delighted with the surrounding countryside, that is wonderfully tranquil and unspoilt.
Mannin Bay Ballyconneely flock of sheep By Noradoa
It's a great area also for golf and pony trekking. In fact, Ballyconneely is where you can find one of Ireland's most picturesque and best golf courses, The Connemara Championship Golf Links.
Did you know that it was only a few kilometres away from Ballyconneely where the first non-stop transatlantic flight came to an end...in Derrygimbla Bog? Alcock and Arthur landed there on 14th June 1919.
Also not long ago, new evidence came to light that there was an early coastal settlement in the Ballyconneely area, that can be traced back around 5000 years.