After all that outdoor exercise, we felt free to indulge in plenty of Galway’s inventive cuisine. At Ard Bia, a sophisticated restaurant tucked into a historic waterfront building, we savored tiny local mussels steamed in Irish cider followed by meltingly tender lamb; our dessert, a ginger and blackberry steamed pudding with sea salt ice cream, was so delicious that we had to come back for a second helping with coffee on our last night .
We happily slurped the small, succulent local oysters– in season from September-May—at the Kirwan’s Lane Seafood Bar, which also serves a greaseless, tempura-like version of fish and chips. Over on the artsy West side of the river, we enjoyed our dinner of flavorful West Coast crab and juicy roast pork at Kai Café, polishing off our poached plums with cardamom custard just in time to stroll down the street to Crane Bar for the nightly 9:30 show. (If you’d prefer your trad music before dinner, the downtown pub Tig Coili puts on a 6:30 pm session).
Galway makes a perfect launch pad for day trips to nearby scenic wonders: take a drive northwest to the mountains of Connemara or a ferry to Inis Mór, the largest Aran island. But we opted for overnight stays in both places, which allowed us to explore. In Connemara, we hiked the hilltops of Connemara National Park and the lakeside trails at the beautiful Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, where breakfast was fabulous and so was the seafood at the Fisherman’s Pub. And on Inis Mór, we stayed at the inviting Kilmurvey House B & B, justly celebrated for its home cooking; you’ll never feel the same about mundane oatmeal after you’ve breakfasted on porridge with cream and a drop of whisky.
The choicest hand-knit Aran scarves and sweaters were sold by the crafts shops just outside the garden gate. And best of all, the inn was located right next to the dramatic ruined fort of Dun Aengus, one of the finest prehistoric sites in Europe, where we could take as much time as we wanted to marvel at the awesome battlements built on cliffs that plunge 300 feet to the sea.
That night, our host drove us to the community center, where the brilliant Druid troupe—which regularly leaves its Galway base to tour throughout Ireland as well as abroad–was staging Tom Murphy’s “Conversations on a Homecoming,” about a disillusioned group of Irish pub regulars in the 1970’s. Outside, a gathering storm raged and howled—as they so often do on these islands. But inside the snug auditorium, we all sat, quiet as could be, enthralled by the hilarious, heartbreaking scenes unfolding before us—spellbound, once again, by the magic of Galway.
To read more about the region, see “Family Fishing Trip: Ireland’s Rivers, Streams and Loughs” and “Ask the Locals: Southwestern Ireland”
Text and photos by Lynn Langway for PeterGreenberg.com. Lynn Langway is an award-winning editor, writer and journalism teacher. Visit her on the Web at www.lynnlangway.com.
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