Kinvara is a beautiful little town in South Galway just along the border with County Clare. You may have passed it on your way to the Cliffs of Moher or driven through it on the way to Galway City. Its a town full of beautiful little craft shops and Gallerys, award winning Restaurants and of course Dunguaire Castle is a short walk from the town.
This is another beautiful destination along the wild atlantic way but unfortunately its many beautiful shops, pubs and restaurants are often overlooked by tourists. I arrived in the town on a beautiful Monday afternoon and parked down beside the Pier. There are a number of car parking spaces down here as well as in the town itself and the Dunguaire castle car park is only a short 7 minute walk back into town. The first thing that struck me was the amount of people out on the green area beside the Pier having picnics and all of the people sitting outside the pier head restaurant enjoying lunch! Everyone seemed to know each other and salute each other as they were passing- a real sense of community about the town. You will find a number of restaurants down at the Pier in Kinvara but one that stood out with its beautiful flowers and window boxes was the Pier Head. Its an award winning restaurant and from eating here before I know it is well worth a visit! And those views- well you will just have to go and see for yourself.
After soaking up the scenery I took a walk up the town and noticed a sign for the Jackdaw Cottage. This little craft shop is a little bit off the beaten track but well worth a visit. All of the ceramics in the shop are handmade by the lovely Bláithín Ní Leannaín. She makes beautiful personalised pieces also. If you are looking for a keepsake from your trip to Galway then definitely give Jackdaw cottages a shout. There is a lovely little park beside Jackdaw cottage and strangely there are head stones in it also. After doing some research these graves probably date back to the late 19th century. After enquiring with a few of the locals about whether this was a graveyard or a park I was told that it was more than likely a continuation of a graveyard and the ruins of a church that is still in the town to this day. There is no access to them however as the town was built up around them. If you take a visit into the secret Garden gift shop you can spot the old Church.
Back down through the town there is an abundance of lovely pubs, restaurants and cafes. The Merriman Hotel is at the top of the town and is your first port of call for a night away. The Thatch bar here serves food all day. Kinvara Arts Gallery is on the main street also but unfortunately it was closed on the day I visited. Looking at the paintings and prints in the window though it looks like a fabulous spot to visit. Turning off main street again down towards the pier you will find the lively looking Connollys bar. There is plenty of seating outside and there are trad sessions in here a few times a week also. Its along this street you will find the Secret Garden craft and gift shop with a beautiful gallery upstairs. Here you will find your compulsory souvenirs from this part of Galway. I ate like a local that day and had my cup of tea and a bun on the green looking over the harbour. Instead of being sensible and walking the half kilometre over to Dunguaire castle however I got back in the car and decided to park at the designated car park closer to the site. (I told myself I was freeing up a spot for someone else at the Pier instead of being a complete lazy article :))
The car park for the castle is on the right hand side as you come out of Kinvara or on the left if you are coming from Galway. Its just a short walk then up to the entrance. The photo opportunities along the left hand side of the road are the best and you get a real sense of how tall the castle is. Dunguaire Castle was built in 1520 and was occupied first by the O’Hynes before passing to a number of other families and eventually being bought by Christopel Lady Ampthill. Lady Ampthill restored the castle to its former glory and held many Banquets in it. It was then bought by the now Shannon Development company in 1972. On entering the gates of the castle there is a green area to your right where they had a ice cream van set up- handy if you are a bit peckish after the walk from town.
The admission into the castle is €6 for adults. Its only open from April to Mid October but they do provide tours of the castle also. On entering the door of the castle there is a little gift shop to the left that provides all the souvenirs of the castle and also some impressive prints. To the left is the ground floor area with its amazing windows and some information on the castle and the toilets also. There is a steep spiral staircase that you must climb to reach all 3 floors but the climb is worth it. The first floor was decked out as a family room or “the good dining room” in some houses with fab views over Galway Bay. The next floor was the Banquet Hall which was set up for a Banquet. You can still book these medieval banquets here through the Shannon Heritage website.
The final floor then looks like it was restored to be Lady Ampthill’s living space. The views from this room are amazing and you can actually go outside from here to take in the views over Galway Bay and Kinvara. If you are afraid of heights at all I wouldn’t recommend it. I shimmied my way all around the top of the castle (there’s literally room for one person) and got some brilliant pictures.
All in all the castle is very well kept and very informative about the families who lived there. Definitely a place to visit before they close again in October for the winter. Kinvara is only 20 minutes then from Galway city but if I were you I would definitely consider it a stop on a trip of the Wild Atlantic Way. I have attached some links below if you are considering a trip and let me know if I have missed any must see places. As always- Happy Galavanting! xxx