LOCATIONS IN DETAIL
Galway (Irish: Gaillimh)
Alums at Dun Aengus, a ring fort on the Aran Islands
Galway is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland with a population of 72,414. It is known as Ireland's Cultural Heart (Croí Cultúrtha na hÉireann). Situated on the west coast of Ireland on the Corrib River and Galway Bay, it is the gateway to Connemara, a beautiful area on the west coast which is a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area). Galway City is rich in history and in its center is a pedestrian mall, closed to traffic, which makes visiting shops, restaurants and pubs very pleasant. Known as the "City of the Tribes" because of the 14 affluent families who ruled during the Middle Ages, this thriving city is the most westerly in Europe and enjoys a strong artistic heritage and a flourishing art, music, theatre and film scene. Galway is a vibrant city in which one almost always hears music being played when strolling the streets and the people are friendly and welcoming. Galway and the National University of Ireland (NUI Galway) are the home of the Colleges' Irish Studies Program in the fall and spring semesters each year.
Westport (Irish: Cathair na Mart)
Croagh Patrick, pilgrimage site, outside of Wesport in
Westport is a picturesque town of 5,475, located on the Carrowbeg River on the west coast of Ireland in County Mayo. A planned town, one of the few in Ireland, it was designed by James Wyatt as a place to live for the workers and tenants of Westport House. Lord Sligo of Westport House commissioned the design and building of the town. Westport is the gateway to Achill Island which affords many beautiful coastal views and the highest sea cliffs in Europe (664 meters) located at Croaghaun. Clare Island, in Clew Bay, near Westport, was the port of Grace O'Malley (Irish: Grainne Ni Mhaille c. 1530-c.1603) known as the Pirate Queen of Connaught (the western province of Ireland). Her exploits are legendary in Irish folklore. The famous mountain Croagh Patrick, one of Europe's best known places of pilgrimage, presents a striking backdrop to the town. This mountain, 10 km west of Westport, provides a tough ascent for thousands of pilgrims each year, many of whom climb barefoot in memory of St. Patrick, who spent forty days and forty nights fasting on the summit more than 1,500 years ago. County Mayo is the ancestral home of Patrick (Irish: Padraig) McGuire in Midfield thirty miles east of Westport.
Sligo (Irish: sligeach, meaning "shelly place")
Pat on top of a passage tomb on a hilltop near Sligo
Sligo is located on the western coast of Ireland, north of County Mayo and surrounded by ancient monuments and beautiful scenery. It is Yeats country and W.B. Yeats is buried in a quiet churchyard in Drumcliff under Benbulben, a hill that rises up behind Sligo. The hills around Sligo echo the past, and ancient sites are visible on the hilltops around the city, the biggest of which is Queen Maeve's Cairn at Knocknarea. The Irish story tells of a warrior queen named Maeve (Irish: Medb) who sent vast armies to capture Ulster and seize the magic bull of Cooley. (Ask our guide to fill in the details and we guarantee you will get a good story.) The population of Sligo City is 19,402.
Donegal (Irish: Dun na nGall, meaning "fort of the foreigners")
A Donegal bay
Donegal is so named because of the Viking presence in the ninth century. Later, it was the main seat of the O'Donnell family who controlled this part of Ireland before the 17th Century. Their castle built in the 15th Century is just off the main street of the town, which has a population of only 2,339. An area in the center of Donegal Town called the Diamond is often used for gatherings such as concerts, poetry readings, cultural events, and political rallies. Surrounding the Diamond are interesting shops, restaurants and pubs. Donegal County is the largest county in the Province of Ulster (in land area) but was excluded from Northern Ireland because of the preponderance of Catholics. The county is known for its fishing and beaches as well as beautiful coastal scenery.
Derry, (Irish: Doire, meaning oakwood)
The bogside from the Derry walls
Derry, as it is known in the Republic of Ireland and Londonderry, and as it is referred to in Northern Ireland, is a walled city which was the focus of much of the "troubles" in Ireland. It still has its share on the 12th of July when the "Orangemen" march on the city walls to celebrate the victory of William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne (1690) when the English defeated the Irish forces and began their colonization of the island. The Irish, mostly Catholic, lived down in the Bogside, and the English, mostly Protestant, lived up within the city walls. Now the Catholics are within the walls and the Protestants have moved across the River Foyle. In the Bogside are large murals depicting events in the Irish struggle for freedom. The two sides are now living mostly separately and peacefully in their own areas except for two days of the year. On Halloween the city has a huge costume party and everyone gets along because no one knows who the other is. On the 12th of July when the Orangemen (Protestants) march on the city walls, a lot of the Catholics leave town to avoid trouble. Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland with a population of 107,300 (the population of the city of Belfast is 295,000).