During the Middle Ages, Galway (Irish: "Gaillimh") was ruled by an oligarchy of fourteen merchant families. Their names were Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, Darcy, Deane, Ffont, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris, and Skerritt. These were the "tribes" of Galway. The city thrived on international trade, and in the Middle Ages, it was the principal Irish port for trade with Spain and France. The most famous reminder of those days is ceann an bhalla ("the head of the wall"), now known as the Spanish Arch.

 

Galway City has many relics of its medieval past and is worth taking time to explore. It has changed considerably over the last number of years and is a young and vibrant place, yet ancient and historic with a mix of new and ancient architecture. The centre of the city is conveniently compact enough to ramble around comfortably.

The Claddagh Ring originated in the fishing village situated near the "shore" or "Claddagh" of Galway Bay. The Claddagh outside the City Walls, and further separated by the River Corrib, was an exclusive community of fisher-folk forbidden to use spade or hoe and ruled by a periodically-elected "King" whose sole distinguishing mark was his right to use a white sail on his fishing hooker. The ring shows two hands holding a heart which wears a crown. This motif is explained in the phrase: "Let Love and Friendship reign", and ideal poesy for a wedding ring used by a small community for over four hundred years. This distinctive design is associated with one of the Tribes of Galway, the Joyce family.

Galway, the European Capital of Culture 2020, is a vibrant city worth a visit for its cultural and historical attractions as well as being a centre for Arts & Entertainment. If that doesnt whet your appeitite, the variety of restaurants and pubs located around the city will suit all taste buds. Or just sit outside one of the many public houses and sip a pint of the Black Stuff while watching the world walk by.