The reconstruction of Eyre Square that finished in 2006 was a fine blending of the old with the new as many of the magnificent old buildings that look out on this popular thoroughfare, including Ceannt train station and the Hardiman (formerly Great Southern Hotel) sit harmoniously alongside the new paving and street lighting.
Galway Train Station was opened in 1851 enabling people to travel from the west coast to Broadstone Station in Dublin. Eight years later the branch line to Athlone was established and it played a key role in its growth into the major town in the Midlands. The first section of what we now know as the line from Heuston Station went as far as Cashel and later Cork and then Waterford extensions were completed.
It was then decided to open another spur off the original line which would bring this new form of transport westwards. This of course raised the ire of the various canal networks, with the trains helping companies to get goods from A to B far quicker than by barge; decimating their previously hugely profitable enterprise.
As well as the commercial impact, the opening of the Dublin-Galway line also had a massive social impact as it was now far more viable to travel from one end of the country to another from both a time and cost perspective.
The Great Western Railway company was later to add lines to Ennis and Sligo. By 1976, both lines had closed, but the bulk of the Ennis line was reopened in 2010 with trains now going from Galway to Limerick.
In 1966, the year of the Half-Centenary of the Easter Rising, Galway station was officially renamed Ceannt Station after Éamonn Ceannt, who played a pivotal role in the insurrection. He was one of the fourteen men who were executed in Kilmainham Jail in the immediate aftermath of the Rising.
A GRAND HOTEL
Opened in 1852, the Midland and Great Western Railway Company built a hotel they originally called ‘The Railway Hotel’ at a cost of almost £25,000 (almost €3.5 million today). Five years later the hotel attained its status as the go-to place in Galway when Prince Louis Napoleon of France visited to have lunch while travelling around Ireland.
In 1925 the hotel was renamed ‘The Great Western Hotel’, a name most people still associate it with now. In 2006, the hotel was sold and renamed as ‘The Meyrick’, but this name change did not last too long when in 2019 it was given its third re-branding and is now known as ‘the Hardiman’.
With so many wonderful bars and restaurants residing around the area, Eyre Square is and will continue to be one of the focal points in Galway City and Ireland as a whole.
A CITY OF FESTIVALS
One of the highlights in any Galwegians calendar is without doubt the Macnas Halloween Parade
. This is where the world famous dance theatre company parades various floats and dance routines based around a particular theme, and usually take place on the last Saturday in October.
Another event that brings the crowds to Eyre Square and surrounding area is the highly regarded Galway Arts Festival
, which takes place in July but like many events has been cancelled in 2020 because of Covid-19. Under normal circumstances you’d see everything from street performances to plays performed by internationally renowned theatre groups in venues such as the Black Box Theatre on Dyke Road.
And last buy by no means least, we cannot leave the highlight of the sporting calendar in the West (sorry GAA fans!) The Galway Races Summer Festival. Usually drawing a crowd of almost 200,000 attendees from all over Ireland and abroad, this year it will not be open to the public but we can still enjoy all the action virtually from 27th
July until 2nd
August and witness the finest jockeys pit it out on board magnificent racehorses to win the many prestigious prizes on offer.
End of the day
Eyre Square and its environs offer a wide variety of places to eat, drink and be merry. With so many wonderful restaurants and Public Houses in the heart if Galway City it is no surprise that it is such a magnet for visitors.
For sure, that magical feeling you get on a hot clear summers day as you exit Ceannt Station and take your first glimpse of Eyre Square is one that is hard to beat.
So why not plan a trip to “The City of the Tribes”? To help you make the most of your visit download ‘GeoFindit
’ a free, useful location app available in iOS
and Google Play