(IRISH INDEPENDENT, March 20th, 2015)
“Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue
And I knew right then I’d be takin’ a whirl
‘Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl”
— Steve Earle in ‘Galway Girl’
For those who grew up or lived their teenage years within reach of Galway in the 1960s, summer memories are filled with Salthill.
High-pitched high jinks in Ryan’s Caravan Park… stropping down the endless Long Walk Promenade with ice-cream dripping… the illicit thrill of ducking out of the sunlight into the amusement arcade to play the penny falls in an attempt to shift a cache of coppers into the winner’s tray… back outside, penniless, blinking at the vast expanse of Galway Bay and the landmark diving tower at Blackpool.
The caravan park is still there, although now owned and run by the O’Malley family, and Salthill is just as big a tourist hot spot as ever. Probably even more so, especially since the arrival in the 1970s or thereabouts of the ever-popular Leisureland complex, right on the 2km promenade, with its summer fairground, championship swimming pool and its cracking concert hall, which has brought in the likes of U2, AC/DC, ZZ Top and Morrissey over the years.
Tourism is one thing, but the area has so much to offer to permanent residents and those thinking of moving there.
It is a much sought-after area, reflected in house prices – a four-bedroom detached property in the prime locations of Threadneedle Road and Taylor’s Hill usually do not sell for much less than €700,000.
The Irish for Salthill is ‘Bóthar na Trá’, which means ‘the road by the sea’. The main road west to Connemara was ‘An Bóthar Ard’ (‘the high road’), or Taylor’s Hill as it is named today.
A favourite pastime for Galwegians and visitors alike is walking along the Salthill Prom, which runs from the edge of the city along Salthill. Local tradition dictates “kicking the wall” across from the Blackrock diving boards, which marks its end.
The walk traditionally starts at the Spanish Arch and passes through Claddagh, the fishing village that gave us the Claddagh ring, and takes in the Ladies Beach, which is celebrated in the Seamus Heaney poem, Girls Bathing, Galway 1965, immortalised on a bronze plaque there.
Salthill is, of course, adjacent to Galway city and all that has to offer in terms of eating, drinking and generally making merry.
Festivals and regular events include the Galway Races, Galway Arts Festival, Galway Oyster and Baboro Children’s Arts Festival, the Galway Hooker Sea Festival the Galway Film Fleadh and, of course, the Galway International Oyster Festival.
The city has also become something of a centre for the manufacture of biomedical devices, with the likes of Boston Scientific, which has a branch in Ballybrit, and Medtronic, which is based in the Parkmore Business Park West.
There is also a huge student population, thanks to the presence of NUIG and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, which has two campuses in the city.
So if you do move to Salthill, your children won’t have far to go for third level educations. The Galway Business School, at GCI House, also offers undergraduate degree programmes and a postgraduate diploma in marketing. Global computing and services giants, Hewlett-Packard also have a branch in Ballybrit Business Park in the city.
As well as the the expected water-based venues and facilities, if you are interested in sport, you and your family will have come to the right place. The local Salthill/Knocknacarra GAA club (All-Ireland club champions in 2006) and Salthill Devon Soccer Club cater for a huge number of younger boys and girls. Eight youngsters playing with Salthill Devon have represented Ireland at under-age level so far this year. The club also hosts the national five-a-side soccer championships every year.
Close by are Pearse Stadium, one of Galway GAA’s two primary stadia, Galway Lawn Tennis Club, winner of the Irish Tennis Club of the Year in 2002, and Galway Golf Club.
Eile Mental Activity Park, in nearby Furbo, is an Irish-owned and operated outdoor activity centre, offering laser tag, archery disc golf (also known as Frisbee golf), so you can have a cupla focail and a cupla fourballs.
Atlantaquaria, on the promenade, is the National Aquarium of Ireland and is focused on the display of indigenous fish and invertebrates. Spanning two floors, it is home to more than 150 species. You can also meet Valentine, the world’s only captive white skate.
Food and drink
Salthill has an abundance of eateries, with family restaurants including The Galleon, Lohan’s & Da Roberta’s. Fast Food outlets include Supermac’s and Salt ‘n’ Pepper.
You’ll also find the Arabica Coffee House at the aquarium, as well as the The Royal Villa Chinese Restaurant. For drinks there is The Cottage Bar, The Kroma Slavic House, the Cullinane Inn (Trends), O’Connors, The Office, Lonergans, PJ O’Flaherty’s, Killoran’s.
Shopping: Shopping is excellent and varied but, for those who like something different, there is Eureka with its “pre loved and new clothing” at 133 Upper Salthill. There’s also the popular Mortons grocery shop, which specialises in fresh foods and wines, and there is the busy Go Dutch florist and gift shop at 137 Upper Salthill.
Bus Eireann 401 Salthill-Eyre Square, every 20 minutes, 7am-7pm; every 40 minutes at night and on Sunday. Bus 402 Merlin Park-Eyre Sq, approximately every 30 mins, 7am-7pm; every 60 minutes at night and on Sunday. The regional 424 bus to Connemara also stops at Salthill.
For girls, there is Dominican College, Taylor’s Hill, whose website informs us is “currently the only school in Ireland to have students achieve eight A1 grades at higher level in Leaving Cert for the past two years in a row”, and Salerno Secondary School, also under the trusteeship of Le Cheile, on Threadneedle Road.
St Enda’s, or Colaiste Einde, is mixed. The pupils at this school have produced The Endapendent, a college yearbook, since the 1980s.
As the area is so popular and well-served with services and facilities, housing is hard to come by and, when it is available, it is not cheap.
Atlantic Heights, 2 Cashelmara, Knocknacarra Cross, Salthill, a nine-bed, 10-bathroom B&B overlooking Rusheen Bay, with an AMV of €695,000, would make for a wonderful family home, while 7 Carragh Drive, AMV €420,000, a detached 1,950 sq ft four-bedroomed, three-bathroom home, has been recently refurbished to a high specification and is for sale by Public Auction at the Harbour Hotel, The Docks, Galway on Friday, April 17 at 3pm, if you are interested.
St Ritas, a 1,500sq ft semi-detached, four-bedroom house on San Antonio Terrace, just off Salthill Promenade, recently went for a more modest €300,000.