Visitors to Ireland have a ‘to do’ list of places to visit and experiences to have, and our students are no exception! But what’s typically on our students’ bucket lists? What are their favourite visits? People choose to come to Galway to learn English for a specific reason: perhaps they have already spent time in Dublin and they now want to discover more about our lovely city. Our students often tell us that on a previous visit to Ireland, they spent a day or a weekend in Galway, loved it and decided to return for a longer period. Sometimes, they’ve already been to a larger city, and now want to opt for something smaller. Our students often tell us that Galway feels more like a town than a city to them and this is what some people look for when they are considering study abroad options. Or maybe they love the idea of spending time on the Atlantic coast and visiting some of the spectacular places we have along The Wild Atlantic Way.
The Cliffs of Moher
Of course, the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are a very popular attraction. Just a 1.5 hour drive from Galway, the Cliffs are ranked second most popular visit in Ireland after the Guinness Store House in Dublin and they are listed as a world heritage site. They are truly a sight for sore eyes – and a great place for our students who like to walk! They set out early and walk as far as Doolin village, where they have lunch in one of the three lovely pubs there. Doolin is often called the capital of traditional Irish music and they often stay the night at a local B&B and go to one of the three pubs to listen to some!
Our students love to visit the Cliffs at all times of the year but particularly in the period from March-September, when the weather is a bit better. However, they can also be spectacular to visit in December, if you fancy getting a lot of fresh Atlantic air!
Our live online student Alvaro from Seville recently came to Galway and visited the Cliffs. He was blown away – as a lover of the sea, Alvaro said this was the highlight of his visit to Galway.
The Cliffs take their name from a ruined fort ‘Mothar’, which is an old Irish/Gaelic word for – yes, you guessed it – ‘ruined fort’! They stretch for 8km as the crow flies and reach up to 214m in height. On a clear day, you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, County Galway. Looking south, you can also see as far as County Kerry and you can just about make out the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands.
The Cliffs of Moher have a wide range of flora and fauna, with as many as 20 different species of birds.
And… they are even movie stars! The Cliffs have featured in many movies, including ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Princess Bride’, ‘Leap Year’ and many more.
The Aran Islands
Listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s top island destinations, the Aran Islands are located just off Galway. Our students love the idea of taking a boat out into the Atlantic and visiting one of the islands. There are three: Inis Mór (Big Island), Inis Iarr ( and Inis Meain ( where they can walk around the ishear the locals speak Irish as well as English, visit some Celtic churches of historical significance and walk to the incredible World Heritage site, Dun Aonghasa, which is an ancient fort dating from the Bronze Age. This fort is set on a dramatic 300 ft cliff edge.
Our student Conchi, who is studying in her teacher’s home in Galway, recently visited Inis Mor and she had lots to talk about on her return! She visited Dun Aonghasa and absolutely loved it – she said she felt a sensation of mysticism and a connection to the Atlantic Ocean. As the locals say, next stop’s America!
Approximately 9 miles (12 kms) long and 2 miles (3 kms) wide Inis Mór is a walker’s holiday paradise. You can also discovered on hire a bicycle available or even visit the island in a traditional pony and trap. Across the island you’ll find an abundance of wildlife, with over 437 varieties of wild flower. You’ll also find breathtaking cliffs, with their panoramic views of Connemara, Clare and sometimes even as far south as Kerry, on a clear day, which Conchi was lucky enough to experience.
The Aran islands have a strong spiritual appeal. Because of its Celtic and Christian heritage, The Aran Islands have an unusually high number of ruins and sacred sites. Some of our students have been to spiritual ceremonies such as the Summer Solstice, and others have been on retreats on one of the islands.
Our students have travelled to the islands in different ways: Conchi took the boat from just around the corner at the Galway Docks, David hopped on a ferry from Doolin, Lyndy went with her students from IH La Spezia from the port at Rossaveal – and Christine from Shanghai took to the air, taking the 10 minute flight from Rossaveal!
Our students sometimes stay on one of the Aran Islands for the weekend. There are different accommodation options to choose from, including Bed & Breakfasts, Hotels, Hostels, & even self-catering pods, the latest thing!
Our more romantic students just love visiting this house, which is just over one hour’s drive from Galway in the heart of beautiful Connemara. Why romantic? Kylemore Abbey was built for love – Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman and liberal politician, created the estate as a present for his young wife. It’s a beautiful, and sad, love story, which has inspired our more poetic students, but we will leave this for you to discover!
Today, Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community, who have been here since they relocated to the Abbey following the destruction of their convent in Belgium during the First World War. Kylemore Abbey was a famous, and very exclusive, school for girls from this time until the last students graduated in 2010. From then on, it became a national monument, with the Benedictine community still in residence. Today, students from Notre Dame attend residential summer semester courses in Irish history, culture and literature here – lucky them!
Our students enjoy spending the day at Kylemore discovering the woodland and lakeshore walks and strolling around Ireland’s largest Victorian Walled Garden, which is as beautiful as it sounds! When we visit Kylemore, we take a tour around the house and the Gothic Church, which is like a mini cathedral, with marble from different parts of the country. On our last visit to the church earlier this summer, we were very pleasantly surprised to meet a choir from Notre Dame University performing a number of popular Irish tunes from the 19th Century. The acoustics were amazing and our students were thrilled to have been there and to meet the members of the choir! We also bought some of the award-winning chocolates which are handmade by the Benedictine nuns – delicious!