LOCATIONS IN DETAIL

Galway (Irish: Gaillimh)

Dun Aengus

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

Croagh Patrick, pilgrimage site, outside of Wesport in
County Mayo

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")

Hilltop near Sligo

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.

Derry, (Irish: Doire, meaning oakwood)

Derry

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).

Belfast

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and its largest city. The population of the metropolitan area of Belfast is 671,000 and the population of Northern Ireland is 1.8 million. Belfast was one of the industrial centers of the United Kingdom and its main industry was shipbuilding. Now the industry is gone and 40% of the work force is employed by the government. Before the Good Friday Peace Agreement Belfast was a divided city but tensions have eased and it is a safe and interesting city to visit.

Dublin

Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland (population 4.8 million). The population of the metropolitan area of Dublin is 2.2 million. Dublin was founded by the Vikings who began invading the coast of Ireland in 795 AD. After the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170 it became the center for British rule of Ireland. The area around Dublin was called the Pale and the rest of Ireland was “beyond the Pale.” It is a modern world city now with plenty to see and do.

Dingle

A beautiful coastal view on Dingle

Dingle

Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula have everything: beautiful scenery, the largest concentration of archeological sites in the world, Gaeltacht area where Irish is spoken as a first language, unique pubs where you can purchase things like clothes and hardware while you have a pint, friendly, welcoming people and a resident bottlenose dolphin named Fungie who has made the Dingle harbor his home since 1984.

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