Crashing Atlantic waves provide an iconic vista at Galway Bay, in the west of Ireland. Located between Galway and Burren, this large bay is home to the Aran Islands archipelago, which offers some of the most surreal scenery in Western Europe. With their limestone karst cliffs and rugged rocky hills, the islands provide an adventurous getaway from mainland Ireland.
The gateway to Galway Bay is the small city of Galway, known as the “City of the Tribes”. Colourful terraced houses dominate its pedestrianised centre, and there are countless pubs and cafes to discover. A promenade leads out from the city to Salthill, a coastal suburb with a stunning beach. The Aran Islands have a tiny population, and the experience is all about escaping into nature. Hiking trails lead past prehistoric fortresses to evocative cliffs and untouched beaches. Inishmore is the largest and most visited of the three islands.
Most ferries to the Aran Islands leave from Connemara, a short bus journey from Galway. There are many daily departures through summer, but just two a day in the winter. It’s also possible to take a ferry from Doolin, further up the coast, or fly from Connemara to Inishmore by light aircraft. Shannon Airport is the main international gateway to the west of Ireland, and there are regular buses from outside the terminal to Galway, taking just over 90 minutes. Ireland is a relatively small country and it’s possible to drive to Galway Bay from Dublin in just over two hours.
Galway Bay is one of the proudest areas in Ireland and one of the few where Irish Gaelic remains the de facto language of the population. Almost everyone can also speak English.