SALMON WEIR BRIDGE
The Salmon Weir Bridge is one of the most iconic and historic landmarks in Galway City. It crosses the River Corrib from the Cathedral on one side to the courthouse on the other, offering a stunning view of the river and its surroundings. The bridge is also a popular spot for watching the salmon run upstream to spawn, or for cheering on the anglers who try to catch them.
The Salmon Weir Bridge was built in 1818, making it the oldest surviving bridge over the River Corrib. However, it was not the first bridge to span the river at this location. In fact, there was a wooden bridge here as early as 1235, which was granted by King Henry III to Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster. This bridge was later known as the Friars’ Bridge, because it connected the Franciscan abbey on Nun’s Island with the mainland.
The Franciscans also held the rights to the fisheries on the river, which were a valuable source of income and food for them. They built a weir across the river to trap the salmon, hence the name Salmon Weir. The weir also served as a defensive barrier against invaders from upstream.
The Friars’ Bridge was destroyed several times by floods and wars, and was eventually replaced by a stone bridge in 1651. This bridge was also known as the Gaol Bridge, because it linked the county courthouse with the county gaol (prison) on Nun’s Island. The gaol was built in 1810 on the site of the old Franciscan abbey, which had been suppressed by King Henry VIII in 1541. The gaol was later demolished in 1965 to make way for the Galway Cathedral.
The Gaol Bridge was also damaged by floods and decay, and was finally replaced by the current Salmon Weir Bridge in 1818. The new bridge was designed by James Savage, an engineer from London, and cost £6,000 to build. It was made of limestone and had three arches, with a span of 36 meters and a width of 12 meters. It was also designed to provide a connection with the main road to Connemara, which was being developed at that time.
The Salmon Weir Bridge is still a vital and vibrant part of Galway City today. It is used by thousands every day. It is also a popular tourist attraction, especially during the summer months, when the salmon run is at its peak. Due to the smaller size and width of the bridge, which was primarily designed for horse and cart; not cars, buses, pedestrians or cyclists; a new pedestrian and cycle bridge was built beside the bridge and opened in 2023. It is hoped that this bridge will reduce the pressure on the Salmon Weir Bridge and improve the safety and mobility of pedestrians and cyclists.
The Salmon Weir Bridge is a remarkable structure that has stood the test of time and has become a symbol of Galway’s history and identity. It is a bridge that connects not only two sides of a river, but also two centuries of a city’s life.
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