County Galway covers 2593 square miles with a population of 286,921.
It is a spectacular blend of richness and
ruggedness and is one of Ireland's most luminous places. Connemara is the official name of the Gaelic speaking
section of County Galway.
Galway city is Ireland's fourth largest city and is the
way most people have always imagined Ireland to be. The
houses at the harbour and in the old town date back as far
as the 16th century, and many are still in remarkably good
The earliest inhabitants of the county, the hunter-gatherers of the Middle Stone (Mesolithic) Age, have left slight traces because of the simple nature of their dwellings and lifestyle but a kitchen midden of shells at Gentian Hill, past Salthill, shows their presence. It was probably the proximity to fresh water, to freshwater fish, and to the sea that attracted these people. The area was also covered by dense forest.
Later, the settlers of the Neolithic also came and cleared away portions of the forest to begin the first farms in the region. These people left artifacts such as stone axes and dugout canoes found in the Corrib by underwater archaeologists. The region then saw the coming of the Bronze Age and Iron Age people. Artifacts of these eras have also been found in the Corrib - mainly some swords of both metal types.
From the early Christian era written accounts of the Galway region begin to appear. It is recorded that there was a fishing village at the mouth of the river, where St. Enda, the saint of Aran, bought fish from a boy. A Christian monastery was located farther up Galway Bay, at Roscam, where the butt of its Round Tower and the remains of the monastic enclosure may still be seen. The monastery was plundered by the Vikings in the 9th century as their longships passed up the river to attack other monasteries on the islands in Lough Corrib.
Around Roscam, there was probably a settlement of craftsmen and workers to service the monastery. There may have been a trading post at the mouth of the Corrib where merchants could come to exchange goods, probably beaching their ships on the foreshore, and meeting traders from the interior. Metals goods from Europe could have been bartered for hides and leather.
Internecine strife in Ireland in the 11th and 12th centuries forced the local King to do something about the defense of the region. Turlough O'Connor, King of Connacht, was the most powerful man in Ireland and was recognised as High-King. In order to prevent incursions from Munster, he had a 'dun' or fort built at the mouth of the river, called by the annalists Dun Bhun na Ghaillimhe, the 'Fort at the Mouth of the Galway'. The river was called 'Galway' at that time, probably from 'gaill aimh', meaning 'stony riverbed'. The name is appropriate as the stony river-bed of the Corrib can still be seen at low tides.