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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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How to do Salthill like a pro - including the best parking, poitín, and where to 'kick the wall'

Plus the locals’ favourite spot for a 99.

The Blackrock diving platform at Salthill
The Blackrock diving platform at Salthill

NESTLED IN GALWAY Bay, just a short drive from the city centre, Salthill has been a popular tourist destination for generations and has even been immortalised in song.

But what’s the best way to plan a beach day in this buzzing seaside town? We asked Liam Silke, who runs walking tours around Galway.

When’s the best time to visit?

As one of the most iconic spots in the west of Ireland for seaside walks and ocean swims, Salthill is most popular during the summer months and when the sun is shining.

“Like most seaside resorts in Ireland, June, July and August are the busiest times. But as Salthill is a suburb of Galway city, you can also take advantage of all the festivals there throughout the year,” Silke says. This includes the Galway Arts Festival, the Galway Races and the Galway Oyster Festival.

Pro tip: Consider a trip to Salthill this summer during the Galway International Food and Craft Festival. In the first weekend of July, there will be cooking demonstrations, entertainment, and local food and drink on offer in Salthill Park at the end of the promenade.

Source: Shutterstock

Where should I park the car?

Whether you’re heading to the beach for the day or just taking a break along the Wild Atlantic Way drive, there’s plenty of space to leave your car in Salthill.

There are two free car parks – one at the end of the promenade and one beside the aquarium – as well as ample on-street parking.

Pro tip: If you’re spending some time there in the busy summer months, park up your car for the day and use the local buses to explore Salthill and Galway city. “During the high season use public transport – it is quicker and stress-free,” Silke says.

What are the top things to do in Salthill?

Salthill is probably best known for its 3km promenade walk, which stretches all the way from the Latin Quarter in Galway city to the famous Blackrock diving tower.

“You start at the Claddagh Basin, go out along Nimmo’s Pier, along the shore past the Griffin monument, which represents the millions of Irish people who died during the famine, then turn down towards the aquarium. You can either stop at the beach or there’s the diving board for the more adventurous,” Silke says.

Source: Shutterstock

Salthill beach is actually made up of several small beaches, some of which are sandy and some are made up of pebbles. It is a Blue Flag beach with lifeguards on duty during the summer, making it “perfect for families”, according to Silke.

If the rain puts a damper on your beach day, you can take a trip to the Atlantaquaria – Ireland’s largest aquarium – or Leisureland, which features an indoor swimming pool, water slides, mini golf and fairground rides.

Pro tip: Don’t forget the local tradition of kicking the wall across from the Blackrock diving board. “To complete your visit to Salthill you have to walk along the prom and kick the wall at the end,” Silke adds.

Where should I stop for food and drink?

One of the top things to do in Salthill is get an ice cream as you walk along the promenade. “There’s lots of outlets for ice cream and 99s, but Bon Bon is the locals’ favourite for the traditional ice-cream cone,” Silke says.

If you’ve worked up more of an appetite, there’s a wide selection of cafes and restaurants nearby. This includes coffee in Coco, tapas in The Black Cat, pub grub in O’Reilly’s, or dinner in the Galleon. And don’t forget you’re still only a short walk from Galway city, where there are even more options.

Pro tip: Pay a visit to one of Salthill’s most famous establishments – O’Connor’s. The traditional pub has been in the O’Connor family since the 1940s, and was more recently featured in the video for Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl. “A trip to Salthill is not complete without a visit to O’Connor’s – it’s a must for the craic and the local brews,” Silke adds.

Source: Shutterstock

How can I escape the crowds?

If the beach is getting busy, head for the water. There are plenty of options in Salthill for watersports or you could even take a trip on a traditional Galway fishing boat to see some of the sights around the bay.

“There are cruises in the famous Claddagh Hookers throughout the summer season, which are great for dolphin and seal watching, and the mackerel season in late August when the fish are in abundance,” Silke says.

Pro tip: On a clear day there are great views of the Aran Islands from Salthill, but if you have a few days to spend in the area, drive down to Rossaveal and get a boat to Inis Mór to explore the islands yourself.

Are there any hidden gems I should look out for?

Craft beer fans may know that the Galway Bay Brewery started at Salthill’s Oslo pub ten years ago. Although the main brewery has now moved out to Oranmore, visitors can still try the locally produced beers at the brewer’s flagship pub and stay for a meal.

Meanwhile, at the back of Oslo there’s a newer addition to Salthill – the Micil distillery. Launched in 2016, it was the first distillery to open in Galway in a century, and it now produces poitín and gin.

Pro tip: Take a tour of the Micil distillery for €16 to find out more about traditional Irish poitín making and taste some of the spirits made on site. “They do tours twice daily and it’s really worth checking out,” Silke adds.

More: How to do Dingle like a pro – and find the hidden spots only locals know about>

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Sarah Harford

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