Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best Galway day trip. Like most people born in the 1980s, I was raised to love the romantic swashbuckling film The Princess Bride. Is it possible for me to go a day without quoting that magical movie? Inconceivable! And one of my favorite scenes is the movie is when Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and their host of oddball acquaintances scale the demented Cliffs of Insanity.
So I certainly couldn’t turn down the chance to head to try maybe the best Galway day trip and see the actual Cliffs of Moher, which is where those scenes from The Princess Bride were filmed.
Hurry up and follow me on this Galway day trip because we’ve so much to do. I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!
Best Galway Day Trip
Where To Stay?
Like any cozy Irish city, Galway is a great place to choose a bed and breakfast. And I strongly recommend the Sunrise Lodge B&B. The friendly couple that runs the bed and breakfast will give you tons of great tips about the best things to do in Galway. Plus their breakfasts are delicious!
Best Galway Day Trip
What to Pack
Ireland, as you may have heard, is on the rainy side. That’s why it’s so green! So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Eire.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or UK plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Galway Day Trip
Morning: Explore Around Galway
The easiest way for a non-driver like me to see the Cliffs of Moher is to take one of the many bus tours of the verdant West Irish countryside. I chose the Galway Tour Company’s Cliffs of Moher Tour because they had excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, and the price was very affordable.
This Galway day trip doesn’t only stop at the Cliffs of Moher. It will also take you around many other fascinating sights from castles to burial mounds. There may even be a little Guinness and stew thrown in. Allow me to share what I learned with…
approximately top 5: Galway day trip
1) Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle was built in the 16th century for traditional castle reasons. (Meaning that it was a fancy home for some rich people.) In the 20th century, it was purchased by Oliver St. John Gogarty as a hangout spot for his chic literary friends and himself. (Gogarty was later immortalized by James Joyce, whose character Buck Mulligan in Ulysses is based on Gogarty.
I must say, if I were a starving Irish writer, I’d definitely want to make friends with Gogarty to get access to this sweet pad. Writing from a tower room in this castle seems a lot easier than writing in a sad Dublin alley covered in whiskey.
Nowadays there are craftspeople working in the castle, and you’ll get just enough time on the tour to stop in a buy something like a pair of earrings, if you wish. There’s no pressure to make a purchase.
2) Limestone Cowboy
County Clare, the next county over from County Galway, is known for its limestone, which is straight up three million years old. What do you get a geological formation for its three millionth birthday anyway? Socks seem insufficient. This limestone covered landscape is also known as The Burren. It’s now a protected landscape.
In earlier times, the Irish tried to remove the limestone to turn it to farmland. However, since joining the European Union, Western Ireland stopped farming, according to our guide. (I’m going to say his name is Liam even though I don’t think that was really his name.)
The EU limits the amount of produce that Ireland can produce and the country has better farmland in other areas. Liam didn’t seem to bothered by this restriction. I guess as long as the English aren’t taking all their produce and only leaving Ireland the potatoes, the Irish don’t care too much about the EUs restrictions.
Poulnabrone is also known as the Portal Tomb. It dates back to somewhere between 4200 and 2900 BC. Can’t we narrow that number down a wee bit, Tomb Scientists? A 1300 year possible time frame seems to leave a lot to be desired. Four corpses were discovered in this tomb, and scientists were able to get a time frame by carbon dating their corpses. All the more reason to get their ages more accurate! I’d be very offended if someone thought I were a thousand years older than I actually were.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the prehistoric Irish population. But some speculate the sun was important to their religion because the entrance to the tomb faced east toward the sun. In my experience, Irish people need to know where the sun is at all times so it doesn’t horribly burn them. At least that’s what my Irish-American mother always said.
We’ve almost hit the Old Irish Building trifecta. We saw a castle, a tomb, and so now it’s time for an aged, aged church. This church above, Kilfenora, dates all the way back to the 11th century. It’s famous for its elaborate Celtic crosses. Kilfenora used to be a Catholic Church, but now it’s part of the Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion. So technically it’s a Protestant Church.
When you wander around the cemetery, you’ll see the name O’Brien on many a headstone. Liam said that the O’Brien clan had always been powerful in the area. One of the most famous O’Briens was named Red Mary. She married one of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers, but soon began to regret it, as he was a roaring drunk. So she murdered him and got away with it. They say she ended up having about 25 husbands and murdering quite a few of them. At a certain point, wouldn’t people just stop marrying her? I think I’d look askance at any gentleman who had more than one wife die under strange circumstances. I wouldn’t wait for him to rack up 25 bodies!
5) Lunch at Gus O’Connors
The lunch stop for most big bus tours is disappointing tourist fare. One just has to suck it up and remind oneself that we are here for the sights, not the eats. But on this Galway day trip we were fortunate to get lunch at Gus O’Connors in the small town of Doolin. This pub has been open since 1832 and the food is really tasty pub grub! Also the service is so fast that I practically received the order a nanosecond after I was done giving it to the waiter.
Speaking of your waiter, it’s a fact you’ll make him sad if you don’t get a Guinness with your lunch. Everyone knows Guinness tastes better in Ireland! That’s just science.
6) Wilde Irish Chocolate
Because the service at Gus O’Connors is so speedy, there will definitely be enough time to stop at Wilde Irish Chocolate and pick up dessert. (Shout out to the really nice and large family who invited me to skip them because I was obviously going to take a lot less time than they were.) Handmade chocolate is the only thing I know that puts a smile on my face faster than a Guinness. I got a chocolate covered cookie which was enough to satisfy the world’s pointiest sweet tooth.
24 Hours in Galway Day Trip
Afternoon: You See! The Cliffs of Moher!
After lunch, we finally get to the main attraction. It’s the majestic Cliffs of Moher. You’ll have a couple of hours to wander around and take photos. There is also an opportunity to see the museum dedicated to the Cliffs of Moher in the Visitor Center. (Are there any other cliffs in the world that have their own museum? I bet Cliff Notes and Cliff Robertson don’t get one!) I strongly suggest spending some time in the museum so you can learn more than…
Three fun Facts: Cliffs of Moher Edition
1) The Cliffs of Moher are hella popular
The Cliffs of Moher, unlike Cliff Robertson, have their own website. The site proudly proclaims that the Cliffs are the top tourist attraction in Ireland. Do they decide that by number of yearly visitors? By visitor satisfaction? Or by the number of people who declare themselves to be rabid Princess Bride fanatics at customs?
No matter how the popularity is measured, it’s easy to believe that the Cliffs of Moher would attract people from all over the world. After all, these sublime rock formations are over 350 million years old! (I can hear the Cliffs of Moher in the distance protesting, “I’m actually only 349 million years old!” and then bursting into sobs.) They’re also about 5 miles long, so unless you’re Usain Bolt, you’re not going to be able to see the whole length of the Cliffs on this particular trip. (And if you are Usain Bolt, thank you for reading this blog! Feel free to Tweet it to your millions of followers!)
2) Selfie Takers Beware
As I hope you can see from my photos, the Cliffs of Moher are a fantastic location to practice your picture taking skills. There are clearly marked paths all over the cliffs telling you where you should and shouldn’t walk. It can be frustrating trying to take the perfect shot when you’re surrounded by tourists on the Official Path. I feel your pain.
But you’re the one who could be feeling the pain if you stray from the walkway. More than one person has died at the Cliffs of Moher from leaving the official path and trying to take a cool picture. IT IS NOT WORTH IT! Safety before Instagram likes, as my grandmother always used to say.
3) County Clare Eco Tourism
When I first arrived at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, I was so excited because I thought it was a hobbit hole. This was finally the Princess Bride/Lord of the Rings cross-over I had been waiting for! But sadly no hobbits were involved in the making of this Visitor Centre. It was built into the ground in order to be as much a part of the environment as possible. If you’re interested in learning more about ecotourism in County Clare, check out the Burren Ecotourism Network website.
The Cliffs of Moher are a Special Protected Area because of the number of special seabird species that live there. You’ve got your Chough, your Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot Razorbill and Puffin. Except for Puffin, those bird names all sound like Shakespearean insults to me. (“Dost thou call me a Guillemot Razorbill, thou Kittiwake?) But actually all of those are real bird names.
24 Hours in Galway Day Trip
Evening: Dinner at La Collina
If you’re anything like me, Internet Stranger, you’ll always choose to stay in a bed and breakfast over a chain hotel. Many of the bed and breakfast in Galway are in the Salthill neighborhood by the sea. Salthill isn’t exactly stuffed with restaurants, but I did find one hidden Italian gem: La Collina. All of their pasta is home made, and I can never turn down home made pasta. La Collina is almost as popular as the Cliffs of Moher, so you’ll usually need a reservation. But I was only one person, so it was easy for me to get a table fairly quickly without one.
I decided to take advantage of being in a seaside city like Galway and ordered the seafood pasta. This came with sweet Galway mussels, clams, and shrimp. It was like eating the whole ocean except instead of seaweed, it was full of hand-cut carbohydrates. (I know in Italy you’re not supposed to put Parmesan on seafood pasta. But the waiter offered, and it was delicious. I regret nothing.)
24 Hour Treasure: Famine Ship Memorial
When you’re finished at La Collina, join the locals by strolling along the beach. You’ll find plenty of Galwayniacs perambulating with their dogs or their plump babies.
Don’t miss the Famine Ship Memorial. It’s dedicated to the Irish people who had to leave the country during the potato famine of the 1840s and 50s. One of the stones in the memorial is dedicated to Celia Griffith, a six year old girl from Galway who died of starvation. Seeing how relatively well-off Ireland is today, it’s easy to forget that not so long ago children were dying of hunger in these very streets.
But before you can be overwhelmed by gloomy thoughts, don’t forget to look up! You might just see a rainbow in the distance. Be sure to chase it, catch the leprechaun who is hiding at the end, and trick the leprechaun into giving you his gold.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Galway Day Trip!
What would you do on a Galway day trip? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Galway right now? Did the leprechaun give you his gold? And is a Princess Bride/Lord of the Rings crossover inconceivable? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Galway. If you have another day in Galway after this Galway day trip, try this itinerary.