Your guide to the Claddagh: Very old village in the heart of modern Galway

With its own King.

Your Neighbourhood is a series of local area guides from TheJournal.ie, presented by KBC. We’re bringing you the best of city neighbourhoods combined with the latest property data.

THE CLADDAGH IS one of the oldest areas of Galway city. In fact, it’s one of the oldest inhabited villages in Ireland – people have used this spot at the mouth of the Corrib as a fishing harbour for thousands of years.

Until the 20th century, Claddagh was totally separate from the city of Galway – a traditional village of thatched cottages, with Irish as a spoken language. It drew tourists to see the fishing boats that supplied the market in the city. (Maria Edgeworth described the fish being “flapped in one’s face”.)

In the 1920s, however, it was decided that the old cottages were unsafe to live in. By 1930 they were all gone, to be replaced by the mostly modern homes that line the area now.

Today’s neighbourhood sits just a few steps from the city centre proper. Cross the Corrib on the Wolfe Tone bridge and you have the Claddagh on your left, and to your right the West End area of mostly independent shops, cafes and bars. 

Take me there! OK, here you are on the quay facing south west into the Claddagh.

So what’s the big draw? The Claddagh’s history gives it a village atmosphere that it retains to this day. It’s quiet, composed exclusively of residential streets, with a sea promenade all around. But at the same time, it’s only a few steps away from the heart of the city – from the pubs of the West End to the shops of Eyre Square.

What do people love about it? It’s a village in the city, says resident Thomas Cox. 

Living in the Claddagh for me is the equivalent of living in a village where everyone knows you yet you are only a stone’s throw away from city centre life. Whether it’s taking a stroll down by the swans at the Claddagh Hall or dropping by Katie’s Cottage for a cup of tea and a scone. 

And… what do people NOT love about it? The beach could use more development, says Thomas – and parking and traffic are issues that come up. 

What’s sad is that the council don’t recognise the potential of the beach we have at the end of South Park, it’s not recognised as one of Galway’s beaches despite being on our doorstep. Parking and traffic are other pet hates and its difficult to get sustained assistance from the city fathers to solve this especially given the historic nature of Claddagh assistance to the City of the Tribes – which included the demolition of the Claddagh Church so the city could be saved from attack. 

What’s the story with house prices? Daft.ie doesn’t track prices in Claddagh and the West End of Galway city specifically. But it’s not too hard to triangulate between neighbouring areas. As of the second quarter of this year, average asking prices in the city were at €264,065, while in Salthill they were higher at €344,082. 

How long will it take me to the city centre? Er, about four minutes across the Wolfe Tone bridge.

A walk all the way across the Claddagh and the city centre, from the Famine Ship memorial in Salthill to Eyre Square, will take about 20 minutes.

Where should I get lunch? Walk on over to the cafes in Galway’s West End. Top pick has to be Kai, an always-busy joint that serves wonderful brunches, lunches and more from fresh local ingredients. 

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Alternatives: Just down the road, try Urban Grind for an excellent coffee and lunch. 

And what’s my new local? The Blue Note is a bit of a West End institution at this stage, serving good pints (and excellent sandwiches too) with a seasoning of great music. 

Alternatives: For another type of music altogether, The Crane Bar is one of the city’s best trad pubs. Or try the Salt House for craft beer.  

Schools and supermarkets? Joyce’s supermarket on the Father Griffin Road keeps the area supplied with essentials. There’s also Ernie’s, a great local greengrocer in the West End.

There’s one primary school in the Claddagh itself: Claddagh NS (Catholic, mixed, 310 pupils). There are two more just west of the business district: Scoil Iognaid (Catholic Gaelscoil, mixed, 546 pupils); and Scoil Fhursa (Catholic Gaelscoil, mixed, 271 pupils). 

There is one post-primary school: Coláiste Iognaid (Catholic, mixed, 632 pupils).  

OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Claddagh trivia to impress a local. Claddagh is unusual in that it has its own king – albeit an honorary one. Historically the King of the Claddagh was the leader of the community, the equivalent of a mayor, and his fishing boat carried a white sail to distinguish it from the others. But the role persists today (the current King of the Claddagh is Mike Lynskey).

Do you live in the Claddagh? Let us know your opinion in the comments!