Okay, let me get this straight off your dirty minds: a Galway Hooker is a boat, people; a boat! Now that we cleared that up (and had 95% of people leave the site immediately), I would like to get back to the topic, and that is Galway, which is the name of both a city and a county in the west of Ireland.
By the time of our visit, I had the feeling that almost everyone apart from me had heard about Galway before, so nothing new here. I didn’t even know the apparently fairly popular song “Galway girl” (which has nothing to do with a Galway hooker, by the way, which is still a boat).
But despite of all that, the city of Galway had me hooked pretty much right away, I have to say (okay, I’ll stop now with the “hooking” – and you stop rolling your eyes!). It has got a lot of layers, and I am most certainly going to write about them, but I’m going to begin with one that actually took us out of Galway city, and on an adventure that started at a place which is about an hour’s drive away: Kilkieran.
An hour was the right amount to build up a good amount of anticipation for a ride on a Galway hooker (it still does not sound quite right, does it? Oh dear.); an appropriate distance to get into the right mood for a little adventure that would take us back to the olden days. Cattle demanding right of way on the roads that lead us there reminded us that the country-side here has different rules, but we had all the time in the world and got in fact quite excited by the little “cow jam”.
The Galway hookers have been around for a while in Galway; at least 200 years. They were used as a fishing boats and are perfect in the shallow waters of the area. They were also used as cargo boats for turf and… people! Yes, these hookers can get you to places, even though you should probably not say this in public. You know.
The beauty we had the pleasure to take a trip on had the typical pitch black body and beautiful rusty red coloured sails of its kind. She was quite an old lady, originally from 1860, but stunningly well restored. Owner Warwick was rightfully proud of her, and watching his crew and his daughter Emer, who has been sailing with him ever since she’s been a child, as the kids in this area do, I wondered if maybe this is the life: they seemed so content and well-balanced out on the water, so very much one with the boat and the sea.
Ah, the sea! There I was, staring thoughtfully out in the mist, vaguely perceiving outlines of green hills in the distance, and it was a bit of a surprise when we slightly changed direction and the next wave consequently saw it fit to – well, there’s really no other way to say it: hit me in the face and wash all over me! And over fellow travel blogger Robin, who had been sitting beside me. So when they tell you to bring water-proof clothing, don’t laugh that away, because the sea totally has the last laugh, and it’s quite a wet one. Then again, if you didn’t get wet, what’s the point? This is a hooker, dammit! This is the real deal!
For some magic reason though, nobody’s camera or phone got wet. Which was a nice gesture of the sea. But it clearly liked the hooker better than the little motor-boat which accompanied us. On it stood Sean, who is a photographer and part of the company that organises these trips, with some really impressive photographic gear. Normally he is the guide and will come aboard, but we already had Emer, the captain’s daughter and also a guide, and Therese, our Ireland Wild West trip guide with us, so Sean could seize the opportunity and take pictures of us.
Since he usually takes pictures mainly on-land, Sean didn’t have any special cases to protect his cameras, but his excitement was bigger than his worries that his gear could suffer from the moisture. The sea on the other hand could not just let that kind of behaviour pass – “What! Are you not taking me seriously?!” – and hissing and spitting around like a venomous snake, it made sure to apply just the right amount of wetness to the cameras until it finally took a toll on their work flow.
Sean though didn’t let this bring him down, which we were glad about, because during the time we got to know him, he turned out to be a really nice, happy, funny and interesting man who was passionate and full of knowledge about this part of Ireland. Clearly not someone whose cameras you don’t mind being destroyed. Most of his pictures turned out as they should (he posted them in a blog-post, too!), only the last ones didn’t make it, and the cameras were ordered to undergo a dehydration treatment.
We had hardly gotten wet enough not to be a bit sad that we already had to get off our vessel when we finally reached the pier again. Also, it meant that the time of all the hooker jokes had to come to an end. We felt that although we had put our best efforts in it, this area had not been sufficiently exploited yet. How can it ever be.
If you too want to make a lot of bad jokes (or have other reasons to board this Galway gem – I’m sure there are plenty!), it is very possible to book a hooker tour with Walking West – yeah, yeah, a G a l w a y hooker tour, yadda yadda ya. They also offer a variety of walks, be it along the coast and beaches, or up hills, or past bogs, and if you want to discover this beautiful part of Ireland, doing so with a local guide will give you so much more insight into the land and the people; count on it. Check out their website for more inspiration, but don’t blame me if you can’t decide which of the walks and tours you should pick, because they all look pretty awesome…
By the way,there’s one thing I didn’t do while I was in Galway. You see, “Galway hooker” is also the name of a beer from here, and I wonder how that works: do you go into a bar and order “A hooker, please!”? And if you do, will other guests throw comments at you and make fun of you, while the bar man, who has heard it all a gazillion times before, wishes he was somewhere very far away? …It shall remain a mystery – for now.
So maybe the “Galway hooker”, be it the beer or the ship, is something that could ‘float your boat’ when you’re visiting Galway… Whatever you’ll end up doing, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have a really good time! Slán go fóill!
Our trip was part of the travel blogging conference TBEX in Ireland, and was made possible by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Walking West. Thanks a lot to everyone involved. The inability to come up with any g o o d hooker jokes remains entirely my own.