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city of tribes

Unsung Galway: A guide to the city in 7 underappreciated buildings

From towers to gargoyles.

AH, LOVELY GALWAY. Home to Supermacs, Tigh Neachtain’s and the pub from the Galway Girl video.

But have you ever taken a moment to consider the city’s rich architectural history? Here are six of its most impressive buildings and structures that deserve a second look next time you happen to find yourself in the land of the Tribesemen.

Nun’s Island Theatre

Originally built around 1840, this austere-looking building functioned as a Presbyterian church in a previous life. Step beyond the threshold of the distinctive red front door today and you’ll find an intimate theatre space, which plays host to productions, workshops, screenings and more.

St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church

St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church holds the distinction of being the largest medieval parish church in continuous use. The building was completed in 1320, making it just two years shy of its 700th birthday today.

Inside, it’s home to a wealth of ancient artefacts including a 400-year-old baptismal font and a grave dating back to the 13th century. Step outside and cast your eye over the spectacular gargoyles and stone carvings that adorn the exterior.

The Quadrangle, NUI Galway


Modelled on Christ Church College in Oxford, NUI Galway’s Quadrangle is a sight to behold. Known as The Quad, the building was constructed in 1845 and designed by John Benjamin Keane, who also designed the likes of Belleek Castle in Co. Mayo and St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Dublin.

With its grandiose Gothic feel, it’s easy to see why it often elicits comparisons to Hogwart’s. Today it’s home to the offices of the President and Vice President of the university.

The Browne Doorway

Plonked right in the middle of Eyre Square and encased in glass is the Browne Doorway. This former doorway is all that remains of an old mansion that once stood on Lower Abbey Gate Street. The mansion was owned by the Brownes, an influential Galway family, and is estimated to have been built in the 17th century.

The house was destroyed in the 1900s, but the doorway and first floor window were kept and given pride of place in Eyre Square. The accompanying plaque describes it as “a fine example of Renaissance-influenced design”.

Fisheries Watchtower

The Fisheries Watchtower is nothing short of an iconic Galway landmark. The building was commissioned by the Ashworth brothers in 1853 and functioned as both as a draft netting station and a lookout tower to prevent illegal fishing activity.

It has the appearance of an Italian-style belltower and President Michael D Higgins once said it represented “how architecture can be used to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary”. It is now home to the Galway Fisheries Watchtower Museum.

Lynch’s Castle

Home to an AIB, Lynch’s Castle is the type of building you could walk past without giving it a second glance. In reality, it’s one of the most impressive structures in Galway. Situated between Shop Street and Abbey Street, this fortified castle was once occupied by the influential Lynch family and built to offer protection from raids.

While some of it was constructed in the 14th century, much of what you see today was built in the 16th century. Take a nose around outside and you’ll be greeted by grinning gargoyles and ancient coats of arms. It is the only secular medieval building still standing in the city today. How about that?

Bridge Mills

Situated on Mill Street and overlooking the River Corrib, this three-storey former flour mill has been a feature of Galway’s cityscape for the past two centuries. Though it was renovated in 1988, the building has successfully preserved many of its original features, including its striking stone facade and a waterwheel. These days, it is home to a language school.

With thanks to Galway City Museum for their tips and recommendations. 

More: Unsung Cork: A tour of the city in 6 underappreciated architectural landmarks>

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