The History of Claddagh and Galway City

The home of The Claddagh ring, Galway and the Fishing village of The Claddagh have changed much throughout the years but still retain the charm of times past.

The charm of Galway City streets on a moonlit night.

To take a stroll along the medieval streets of Galway down throught the Spanish Arch to the fishing village of Claddagh nestled by the banks of the River Corrib, is like taking a wonderful walk through times past. Much has changed over the past thirty years, but the echoes of the past still resonate throughout The City. Today Galway is a confident modern city busling with commerce and tourism. Full of character, with great restaurants and a lively nighlife, and the natural beauty of Connemara just a short drive outside The City, Galway is a lovely place to spend a couple of days. With its beguiling personality you will end up wishing you could stay longer.

Thatchecd cottages and traditional dress capture the character of Claddagh Village at the turn of the last century.

The settlement of Galway first developed as the Fishing village of The Claddagh at the mouth of the River Corrib where it empties into Galway Bay. The town thrived as a Gaelic settlement until the arrival of the Normans led by Richard De Burgo in the thirteenth century. The Gaelic traditions and language were preserved until modern times within the Claddagh fishing village. The Normans built city walls and began to develop the medieval city we know today. Remnants of the old city walls can still be seen today down by the Spanish Arch.

A view across The Corrib river to the village of The Claddagh.

The strategic position of the City on the west coast in shelter of Galway bay brought trade and prosperity to its citizens. Galway became a wealthy trading port with trading connections with France, Spain and Portugal, bringing all manner of exotic fare to the City. Galway is often know as, ‘The City of The Tribes’ in recognition of the 14 clans who ruled the city. Names like, D’Arcy, Blake, Joyce, Kirwan and Lynch are still synonymous with The City today. The City prospered for centuries until the arrival of Cromwell’s Army in 1651 precipitated a long period of decline.

Historical photograph of Claddagh fisherwomen wearing traditional Galway shawls.

There is much to see and do on a trip to Galway. You can stroll the streets enjoying the buskers and street performers, stopping off in Neachtans or The Quays for a pint and a bit of craic. On sunny days, you could take a bracing dip in The Atlantic from the beaches at Salthill or take a trip out to enjoy the beauty of Connemara or The Burren. The city streets come alive at night with traditional music sessions in many of the city pubs and a host of nightclubs to be found around Eyre square.

The emblem of the city is commemorated with the iconic traditional Claddagh ring. Learn more about Claddagh rings and where the traditional began.