A journey from Galway to Salthill

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Salthill Sunset Salthill Sunset

A journey to Galway with Sunset in Sailthill

A long day today saw me in Galway, known as the City of the Tribes it lays claim to being the festival city of Ireland. Almost every visitor to Ireland talks about Galway in such ways that it makes you wonder why all Irish people don’t move there.

Home to many a brilliant festival including the Galway Film Fleadh, the Oyster Festival and the Galway Arts Festival amongst others; with a thriving social scene with some of the best pubs in Ireland Galway has always had a reputation for being the liveliest city in Ireland.

Situated in the west of Ireland, straight across from Dublin it takes around three hours by car. And yes, I know it is possible to do it quicker, two hours if you travel first thing in the morning. But when you reach Galway you will realise that about half an hour will be taken up just getting from the edge of this small city to your hotel. It is a traffic nightmare, and getting to Galway cross country is not much better. Some of the roads in the county are not suitable for rapid progress with potholes, uneven surfaces, twists and turns, tractors and narrow lanes preventing you from getting close to the legal speed limit. Have you ever driven in and around Galway, do you agree?

If you are in Galway only for a day then you could use the Park and Ride from Galway Airport, or better still just take the bus from Dublin. I would recommend Citylink, it is a non-stop service from Dublin Airport via Dublin City to Galway that takes three hours and there is free wifi on board the bus. It costs around €11 single, but driving will rack up close to €8 in tolls if you are coming from Dublin Airport. Add fuel costs and it is easy to see that the bus is a sensible option unless you want to go into the countryside.

In the past two years the local authority has removed most of the roundabouts on the ring road and in the city, replacing them with traffic lights. From my experience this just means that traffic is gridlocked in a slightly different place to where it was gridlocked before and it still takes as long to traverse Galway as it used to.

In the Claddagh I look around and search for some swans but only two here today. One looks as healthy as I have ever seen a swan preening its bright white feathers, the other looks healthy as well but makes a beeline for me as I approach the edge of the quay. That means it is used to getting food, typically bread, from humans.

There used to be dozens of swans in this part of Galway, and it was famous for the numbers but in recent years they became afflicted by pink feather flamingo syndrome and there are only about 25% of the original population left. 

A sign posted by the Galway/Claddagh Swan Rescue beside the quay reads:

“DO NOT FEED WHITE OR MOULDED BREAD

It causes Pink Feather Flamingo Syndrome.

Swans become Hypothermic, are Not Waterproof & some DIE”

I do remember reading about swans on Dublin’s Grand Canal also suffering from a strange affliction where their feathers turned pink, much like the colour of that strange mould you see on white bread, not the blue mould obviously! So this is probably the same fungus that has been affecting the Claddagh swans.

From this I take it that brown bread is okay, wholemeal with grains for extra roughage is probably best. But on a serious note, the scene with the Long Walk in the background, beyond the River Corrib and the swans floating around in the Claddagh is just not the same when it is filled with seagulls and pigeons rather than the elegantly majestic mute swans. In fact there are so many pigeons and seagulls here in the Claddagh today that frame after frame is filled with a flying beak and a pair of wings.

All of a sudden dozens of beaks and hundreds of wings descend around me as a man appears with some bread and is happily feeding the flying frenzy. I spot a loaf of Brennan’s bread, that’s white bread – a pan loaf; it comes in a yellow packet and goes well with a Saturday morning fry up. Luckily for the swans, this bread is only for the pocket-sized avian residents of the Claddagh today.

Feeding birds in The Claddagh, Galway

Happily the bread that he has brought for the swans is brown bread and looks fresh enough to eat and I wonder if the white bread is a diversion to feed up the seagulls so that the swans can have the brown bread in peace. What do you think?

I have a meeting to get to so I walk on and we meet up at Eyre Square which is currently getting its Christmas lights put up around the Browne Doorway - an edifice that I have previously called the Lynch Window. Well that’s the City of the Tribes for you, everything is named after the families who were important here including the former roundabouts. Eyre Square, I notice is also getting a Continental style Christmas market.

Four ladies walking through Galway

We go to Java’s where I have my usual, a double espresso and my friend has a hot chocolate. Now it is time to say it, I am jealous of people who drink tea, hot chocolate or cappuccino because these are long drinks and can be savoured. I do like the former two but I also like a good espresso and there is only one way to drink an espresso and that is fast. Find out if it Java’s makes it into my favourite coffee shops in Ireland here.

Afterwards I end up chatting to a lady who notices my northern accent straight away and says “It’s so good to hear a fellow northerner”. It turns out she is from Donegal and I’m from Antrim, of course I knew the second piece of information, you probably didn’t.

“Are you living in Galway?” she enquires; I explain what I’m doing in the city and after a while we revert to talking about accents, she tells me that people often say to her ‘you haven’t lost your Donegal accent’ to which she always replies “Why would I? I’m proud of it!” A short but interesting chat and I am on my way to Salthill, a destination for me for some early morning photography a few weeks ago. 

A lovely few moments a little before the sun sets on the Atlantic, looking out from Galway Bay is my main image on this post. Light breaks through the clouds and as I look at my watch I realise that I am late for a meeting. I do not like to be late for meetings but this is worth a few paces in the wrong direction to capture. A quick sprint gets me to my meeting fashionably late.

After the meeting I have a nice pot of tea in the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill, in order to warm my hands and relax with something that takes less than a few seconds to drink. Tea is of course a popular drink to be having in Ireland and is better in some places than others. Here it was mighty fine, more than one teabag in the pot is always a good sign, as is a big pot and the Galway Bay Hotel scores well on both points.

On my return I edit some images, which I do after every outing with the camera no matter how tired I am.

Mobile internet in the Irish countryside, well it exists in pockets. Usually you will have good reception on top of hills, unless you are surrounded by taller hills, and in towns. In lower points and in areas containing those “No Mast Here” signs you won’t be getting 4G or 3G but you might be lucky to get 2G if you stand much like your older brother made you stand in the 1980s with the TV aerial held aloft in your outstretched arm, usually in the hallway.

I wrote this in an hour, it has taken me two hours to get it uploaded, but I don’t mind. It’s a good time to sit in front of a warm fire and let technology do its thing while it is balanced on a window ledge precariously.

Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

https://darrenmcloughlin.com

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