My first impression of Galway, this enchanting city by the sea, was one of mixed emotions. I had just gotten off a 4.5 hour bus leaving the small village of Glencolumbkille, which had unexpectedly stolen my heart. As the bus pulled away from Glencolumbkille, I had to keep myself from jumping off, knowing just how excited I’d be to eventually explore the winding cobblestone streets of nearby Galway. It was mid-afternoon when I finally hopped off the bus in Galway and checked in at the Galway City Hostel. After just 24 hours of exploring the city, it was Glencolumbkille — not Galway — that left me wanting more.
First impressions of Galway
When I announced I was heading to Ireland’s famed West Coast, many people asked me if I would be venturing to Galway. The Irish city of Galway holds a certain aura of charm to it; it is the city by the sea, a place where music flows like a river and pubs are abundant. As I warmed myself with a strong cup of Americano and a slice of pie from The Pie Maker, I felt a certain enthrallment with Galway. That intrigue continued as I made my way around the city — one step at a time — occasionally tucking into a bookstore, such as the local Book Exchange or the ever-popular Salt House for a craft brew. While the music was incredible (especially at Taaffes Bar) and the Guinness gratifying, my heart felt a pull towards another destination on the Irish countryside; a place not even Galway could compete with.
Glencolumbkille: A lesser known destination
Hidden on the upper West Coast of Ireland is the small folk village of Glencolumbkille (Glen for short), a mere one-hour drive from County Donegal. Home to Sliabh Liag — the tallest sea cliff in Europe — Glen is a secluded destination of bewildering amazement. I arrived in Glen by way of knowing a friend of a friend. The journey took me four hours by bus from Dublin combined with a one-hour car ride from County Donegal. The moment the village came into a view, I could feel my heart leap with joy. The sea was right there, kissing the shoreline as hundreds of sheep wandered the countryside; it was as picturesque a scene as one would hope to find when coming to Ireland. With a population of less than 300 people, this small coastal village has just two pubs, dozens of trails and the quaintest pebble beach one could ever imagine.
Why Glencolumbkille just might be better than Galway
To try and describe the wonder of Glencolumbkille seems futile for while the photos are cemented in my head, it’s the feeling of being so close to the sea, to cliffs and to pure bliss that make Glen an ideal location for an Ireland vacation. I awoke each morning to the sound of waves crashing against the sand. I could walk mere feet from my doorway and be completely lost in nature as the cliffs beckoned to be explored before an Irish storm passed through. When the rain came, I knew I could venture into the local pub, grab a pint and settle into conversation about anything and everything with the locals as live music floated in the background.
Sure, Galway holds a certain charm but there’s just something about Glencolumbkille that makes it a little bit better. Maybe it’s the locals or the fresh fish, perhaps it’s the calming sound of the sea as you drift away to sleep but in visiting Glen I felt a certain appreciation for Ireland that I didn’t find in Galway. I guess I’ll just always be a “Glen-lass” at heart.
Have you been to Ireland? Share your best memories and favorite Irish destinations below!
Meet the Author
Laura is a freelance writer based out of Fort Collins, CO. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska. Her work has appeared in OBSEV, Travefy, Hello Hustle, Noble Brewer and more. She is an adventure seeker with an obsession with cardigans, craft beer and cycling. Laura shares her writing on her blog, Wanderlust. Bikes. Beers. Puns. Follow her on Instagram at @loraexplora or on Twitter!