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Harbour Master A nostalgic return to Galway city was made all the more enjoyable with a fabulous stay at a top hotel

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Galway city.

Galway city.

Eddie with pal Marc Roberts in the Dew Drop Inn.

Eddie with pal Marc Roberts in the Dew Drop Inn.

Dillisk on the Docks restaurant in the Harbour Hote.

Dillisk on the Docks restaurant in the Harbour Hote.

Shop Street

Shop Street

Eddie at the Spanish Arch

Eddie at the Spanish Arch

Galway’s Harbour Hotel

Galway’s Harbour Hotel

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Galway city.

I’VE had a long and happy connection with the jewel of the west that is Galway city, with many memorable weekend visits when our daughters were children.

Their grandmother, who was born and reared on the picturesque Canal Road, then had her own home above Salthill. Every so often, we’d load up the car on a Friday evening after work and off we’d go, joining the weekend exodus from Dublin to all corners of Ireland, which in our case was the City of Tribes.

As we pulled into the driveway of the cosy home late at night, two sleeping girls would suddenly spring to life and buzz with the excitement of seeing their beloved nana.

There was always a warm welcome, which for me included a glass or two of Jameson — “you know where the bottle is” — to wind down after the drive.

Then on Saturday morning we’d awake to one of the world’s best ever aromas wafting up from the kitchen — the delicious smell of a full Irish — rashers, sausages, puddings and all sorts from the local market.

Strolling around the city’s colourful streets was pure escapism and sheer entertainment.

With unique little shops, quirky bars and restaurants and an array of musical talent from numerous cultures on thoroughfares packed with visitors from around the globe, Galway was like no other place on the planet.

It was a melting pot of cultures. You’d stumble upon a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll band on one corner, a reggae group further down the street, or a Romanian string quartet up another lane.

One afternoon I stepped into a packed pub for a swift pint of black and found a music session in full swing. Then I spotted that the accordion player was none other than trad superstar Sharon Shannon. It’s that kind of place.

Sadly, as the years passed, we lost nana, and our family ties with her native city.

Today, my link with that magical part of the world is through Galway Bay FM radio where my pal, former Eurovision singer Marc Roberts — he came second in 1997 with Mysterious Woman — is one of the presenters. I join him on the show every Saturday from the Big Smoke to give his listeners all the goss from the crazy world of showbiz.

Recently, I got the chance to catch up with Marc in person on a short city break in Galway with my wife, where we made our home at the striking Harbour Hotel on the waterfront.

From the moment we stepped through the door into its attractive foyer, the warm welcome and hospitality from the staff was just like being at your nana’s.

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Galway’s Harbour Hotel

Galway’s Harbour Hotel

Galway’s Harbour Hotel

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This is a four-star hotel, as modern and stylish as you can imagine, yet it also has something that money can’t buy — staff who are full of Irish craic and good-natured banter, professional and attentive without being stuffy or intrusive, and who seem to be genuine people pleasers.

By the end of the first day, we felt that we were part of one big family, and, for me, there’s no bigger compliment you can pay any establishment.

Normally when we stay in a hotel, we opt to have dinner in the local restaurants. On this trip, it would have been a big mistake not to dine in. The Harbour Hotel has one of the finest restaurants in Galway, a city that boasts numerous superb eateries.

It’s called Dillisk on the Docks. The tables, socially distanced for the times we live in, are set against a beautifully lit modern bar with all kinds of bottles twinkling on shelves and tempting you to sample their delights.

Part of the success of any restaurant is a unique menu which features food with a twist that you won’t find elsewhere in the neighbourhood. And Dillisk has enough signature dishes to bring you back time and again.

A key ingredient of their fare on offer, they reveal, is “the unsung superfood in the pristine Atlantic waters off the coast of Connemara — seaweed”.

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Dillisk on the Docks restaurant in the Harbour Hote.

Dillisk on the Docks restaurant in the Harbour Hote.

Dillisk on the Docks restaurant in the Harbour Hote.

The restaurant actually takes its name from the dillisk red seaweed, which is common in Irish waters.

During our stay, the Galway Bay mussels and smoked Atlantic seafood chowder were a big hit, as was the organic Clare Island poached salmon infused with beetroot.

Dillisk source their ingredients locally and while the steak, fish and chicken dishes are fairly traditional, their chefs weave just enough magic to make them special. A trout main course in white wine sauce came with a delicious medley of fresh baby veg and spinach mash, while beer-brined chicken supreme with wild mushroom velouté was also a star. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on their sticky toffee pudding.

Some hotel bedrooms are simply functional, but our spacious, stylish, modern room at the Harbour was luxurious and totally relaxing.
While it was enticing to chill out in the ultra-comfortable bedroom, there is just so much to do and see in Galway, and we were determined to soak up the atmosphere in the city. Just strolling around the streets and occasionally stopping to listen to the buskers is a joy.

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Eddie with pal Marc Roberts in the Dew Drop Inn.

Eddie with pal Marc Roberts in the Dew Drop Inn.

Eddie with pal Marc Roberts in the Dew Drop Inn.

I spent a boys’ afternoon and evening catching up with Marc after we hopped on board The Corrib Princess for a sight-seeing cruise along the beautiful Corrib River — once travelled by Vikings and Victorian steamboats — and out on to the lake. On a balmy autumn day, this was heaven on earth.

The boat owner, Aodan McDonagh, entertained us and other visitors on board — including a group from America — with tales of Galway’s ancient past as we meandered by many historical attractions along the way. It was a new experience for Marc, who has done this trip on The Corrib Princess many times as the entertainer for their corporate events and dinner cruises. This time it was pure relaxation for the singer-songwriter and radio DJ.

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Shop Street

Shop Street

Shop Street

We finished off the day with some drink al fresco at The Dew Drop Inn, which is in the heart of the Latin Quarter of the city, and we toasted our friendship.

Breakfast is one of my favourite meals of the day and Dillisk didn’t disappoint the next morning, despite the fact that the bar had been set very high indeed many years ago.

The full Irish, with local produce, was right up there with nana’s.

On our journey home, we both agreed that we’d discovered another gem in Galway. Harbour Hotel, take a bow.

Further details see www.harbour.ie for €442 (two people sharing), guests can enjoy two nights accommodation, afternoon tea, a 3-course dinner at Dillisk on The Docks, plus breakfast each morning.

Galway’s famous Christmas markets are currently operating so the hotel is offering a ‘Keep Discovering Winter” bed & breakfast package from €125 per room

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