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GALWAY INTERNATIONAL OYSTER FESTIVAL
When? 22–26 September 2010
Where? Galway, Ireland
What? Guinness and oysters, two of the finest things in life, join up with two more: music and friendship. The Galway International Oyster Festival brings deep, simple pleasures.
Style Guinness-gulping gourmets
Setting Wild West of Eire
Event highlights Socially inclined locals look forward to the Gala Ball and the ‘Oyster Pearl’ beauty contest. For spectacle and fun, visitors flock to the Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship to watch international competitors shucking away maniacally.
IN THE KNOW
Head count Some 12,000 people scoff around 100,000 oysters during the four days of the festival.
Packing tips Bring a jumper and a brolly; Galway’s spot on the wild west coast is seldom warm and dry. Forgotten your rain gear? No need to fret about getting wet: you can buy umbrellas everywhere (including the tourist office). If you’re planning on attending the Gala Ball, be sure to dress sharp.
Bar chat It was Shakespeare, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, who came up with that ‘world’s your oyster’ idea. The line goes: ‘The world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.’
DOs & DON’Ts
• Book tickets for events at the festival marquee. Some really good revelry – from jazz cabarets to champagne swilling – happens here. Go to www.galwayoysterfest.com for details.
• Book taxis ahead of time, since they can be difficult to find among the streets and crowds. One reliable firm is Galway Taxis (+353 (0)91 561111).
• Explore one of Galway’s lesser-known delights: Nora Barnacle House, a small museum focusing on James Joyce and his wife.
NEED TO KNOW
Getting there You can fly direct to Galway Airport from Luton with Aer Arran or Logan Air (a subsidiary of British Airways), and get a taxi into the centre from there. Major carriers, including BA and Ryanair, fly into Shannon Airport, about an hour and a half from Galway. From there, you can catch a bus with City Link or Bus Éireann, or rent a car at the airport. And Galway is under three hours by car from Dublin, if you feel like a two-centre stay.
Children Local kids get quite excited about the Oyster Festival, and most of the events are family-friendly. There is a superb toyshop at 3 Quay Street called Wooden Heart, a must for its old-fashioned toys and some beautiful books.
Parking Head for the docks for plentiful paid parking or, better, ask your hotel about free parking. The centre and promenade are easily compact enough to walk around, so you won’t need your car in town at all, but there are great day trips from Galway, including the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, Connemara National Park and the Burren, so renting a car is very much recommended.
FOOD & DRINK
Definitely worth making a detour for is Moran’s Oyster Cottage (+353 (0)91 796113), 10 miles south of Galway. Once a tiny household pub for workers who ferried peat, the restaurant has increasingly garnered international attention for its amazing seafood and traditional soda bread. Dating back 250 years, Moran’s has served Paul Newman, Julia Roberts, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan – and Seamus Heaney wrote his poem ‘Oysters’ here. In town, McDonagh’s, 22 Quay Street (+353 (0)91 565001), is a fish ‘n’ chip shop, seafood restaurant and fish market in one. A few of our favourite pubs are cosy Tigh Neachtain (aka Naughton’s), 17 Cross Street; unpretentious Taafe’s, 19 Shop Street; and Tigh Colí, Mainguard Street.
There are no Smith hotels in Galway, but we can recommend the Victorian grandeur of the Skeffington Arms Hotel (+353 (0)91 563173) and the bright, lively Spanish Arch Hotel (+353 (0)91 569600). If you’re travelling via Dublin, stay overnight to make the most of Ireland’s capital city before you fly home: The Dylan is a boudoir-chic Victorian townhouse with a buzzing bar and restaurant set in Dublin’s leafy outskirts; alternatively, we also like John Rocha-designed Morrison hotel on the north side of the Liffey – its restaurant, Halo, features an Asian fusion menu, and is set in a wonderful space with a double-height ceiling.