Centuries ago Cromwell ordered thousands of Irish people off their lands told them they could go to 'Hell or to Connacht'. Today, Connacht, which makes up the bulk of Ireland's Western region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, a byword in a kind of natural beauty that time seems to have passed by.
The weather-beaten Atlantic coast gives way to the quieter waters of Galway Bay, immortalised in songs innumerable. Coming into the bay one passes the Aran Islands where Irish is the spoken language and a warm reception the tradition. Nestled in the corner of the Bay is Galway City, known as the City of the Tribes, a vibrant University town with a dynamic nightlife bringing together the most popular music of today and the ancient traditions of Irish dance and song. Festivals, horse racing, pubs, restaurants, shops, theatres and most of all -Galway people, combine to create this atmospheric medieval city of culture.
North of Galway is Mayo, one of Ireland's most picturesque counties. A place of small towns and villages Mayo has 13 Blue Flag beaches, the ideal lodation for watersports such as swimming and surfing. Centuries ago this coastline was ravaged by the infamous Irish pirate Queen Granualie who terrorised English traders as far south as Portugal. Today the coast is a far quieter spot though as popular with sailors as it was all those centuries ago.
The Shannon runs along the border of the west on the eastern side separating the tranquility of the West from the more hectic pace of the cities and towns of the east. Cruises along the Shannon are increasingly popular and through the Shannon-Erne Waterway can take you across the county to the north of the isle.
The west of Ireland is linked in the minds of the Irish people with the rural traditions that still survive there today. The small villages and farms hark back to a countryside of long ago which has survived the rush of 'progress'. A rural idyll indeed, but in Galway a place for the excitement and nightlife that is summed up in the peculiarly Irish word of 'craic'.