The Spanish Arch is one of the most iconic landmarks in Galway City. It is located on the left bank of the Corrib River, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, and it is part of the medieval city walls that once surrounded and protected the town.
The Spanish Arch was built in 1584 by Wylliam Martin, the 34th mayor of Galway, as an extension of the 12th century Norman-built town wall, which stretched from Martin’s Tower to the riverbank . The purpose of the arch was to protect the city’s quays, which were used for trade and commerce, especially with Spain and other European countries. The arch was originally known as Ceann an Bhalla (the head of the wall) or the Eyre Arch, after the Eyre family who added the Long Walk extension to the quays in the 18th century .
The arch got its current name from its association with the Spanish trade and influence in Galway, which was a flourishing port city in the 16th and 17th centuries. Galway had close ties with Spain, both economically and culturally, and many Spanish merchants, sailors and settlers lived and worked in the city.
The Spanish Arch suffered some damage over the years, most notably by a freak tsunami that followed the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Waves as high as 20 foot hit North Africa, while in Ireland, ten-foot waves hit the Galway coastline, entering Galway Bay and damaging the Spanish Arch. The Arch was also partially demolished in 1837 to make way for a new road. However, it was restored and preserved as a national monument in 1954.
The Spanish Arch is not only a historical site, but also a cultural and social hub in Galway City. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax, enjoy the views of the river and the sea, and listen to live music from street performers. It is also a venue for various events and festivals throughout the year.
The Spanish Arch is also surrounded by other attractions that showcase Galway’s rich heritage and vibrant culture. The Galway City Museum, located behind the arch, displays exhibits on various aspects of Galway’s history, such as archaeology, maritime, folklore and art. The museum also features an interactive model based on the Pictorial Map of Galway (circa 1651), which shows how the city looked like during the medieval times, including the Spanish Arch.
The Spanish Arch is open to visitors all year round and there is no admission fee. It is easily accessible by foot from other parts of Galway City Centre or by public transport from other locations. There are also several parking options nearby for those who drive.
The best time to visit the Spanish Arch is during sunny days or evenings when it offers stunning views of the sunset over Galway Bay. Visitors can also enjoy a picnic on the grassy area next to the arch or grab a bite from one of the many cafes, restaurants and pubs in the vicinity.
The Spanish Arch is a must-see attraction for anyone who visits Galway City. It is not only a reminder of Galway’s medieval past and its connection with Spain, but also a vibrant and lively spot that reflects Galway’s present and future. Whether you are interested in history, culture, art or entertainment, you will find something to enjoy at the Spanish Arch.
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