Galway is always a treat to visit and this time of year it’s especially inviting as The Christmas Markets are in full flow. I was on the busy 11.25 from Hueston Station and with a bag of crisps and bottle of water in my bag I was dreaming of the Festive Afternoon Tea awaiting me at the Hardiman Hotel.
The Hardiman hotel has had some name changes since its completion in 1840. The new name is homage to historian and scholar James Hardiman who wrote the famous History of Galway in 1820. For many years the Great Southern is how this fine imposing building was known but it was initially called The Railway hotel after it was opened and as my train pulls into Galway Station I can see why. For almost two centuries the great and the good have stayed here and some while making history in the process. Alcock and Brown were guests in the early 20th Century after completing the first Transatlantic flight. The best of Hollywood from Jack Nicholson, Roger Moore to Elizabeth Taylor have also graced the foyer. Indeed you’ll find more stars have stayed here than are numbered on the Hollywood walk of fame.
The reception is bursting with Christmas atmosphere and a Giant Christmas tree. Before settling in to meet some of the Galway cognoscenti I ran up to my room for a quick change and looked out on the best view in the city. A box of Gra chocolates were left in the room, such an artistic delight from the chocolate connoisseur I’m not sure I’m going to have the heart to eat them. On my way to afternoon tea I bumped into the gorgeous twins Margaret and Mary of Les Jumelles Boutique who have dressed the women of Galway in finery for 25 years at 2/3 Church Lane. The ladies offer Rick Owens signature Biker Jackets and wonderful Golden Goose clothes, shoes and bags. Always with an eye on what is trending you’ll find some of the best designers from Italy and England.
Then Paul O’Mara, the general manager, showed me around the festively decorated Oyster Bar which has the very best view of the markets across the road. In the run up to Christmas a host of delightful Christmas themed cocktails are on offer to choose from. I went for ‘Spice and all things Nice’ before gorging on the afternoon tea which included my favourite finger sandwiches with coronation chicken.
The afternoon tea was so filling and such a treat I had to leave plenty of time before dining in the Gaslight Brasserie which offers a huge selection of mains. However the monkfish won out and was double the portion size I’m used to eating in Dublin. Pictures of famous politicians and actors cover the walls in a lovely fusion of the past and present.
After we went out to inspect the transformed Eyre Square where the Pádraic Ó’Conaire statue is bathed in wonderful Christmas colours at the moment with the lights from the View Wheel and pretty market stalls. I have a head for heights and couldn’t wait to see Eyre Square and Galway sparkle from above like the diamonds in Hartmann’s Jewellers. The queue wasn’t long and the view certainly was worth the short wait. Below the patchwork of huts and fairy lights are full of Christmas cheer and it’s wonderful to have that Christmas vibe back on Irish soil. I hadn’t gift buying in mind but the Peruvian knitwear and French ceramics didn’t pass me by.
Later The Oyster Bar was the perfect setting to soak up the end of a festive evening and another cocktail before retiring to bed. I always sleep better in a room with a high ceiling and The Hardiman has all the grace of a vintage building with every modern convenience and styling.
I wasn’t rushing back to Dublin either, as next morning I’d a late breakfast and another peak around Shop Street. In the past people came to Dublin to Shop for Christmas but after my short trip I’ve earmarked the city of the tribes as the best shopping spot.
Factbox The Christmas Markets Experience at The Hardiman is available to book now from €92.50 per person sharing, and includes one night’s accommodation in a luxurious guestroom and a delicious freshly cooked breakfast each morning
To book your festive break in Galway City contact www.thehardiman.ie or call 091 564 041
Hardman Hotel gift vouchars are on sale in the foyer and a treat in the run up to Christmas is the weekend festive lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. After lunch, children can visit Santa in his Hardiman Grotto and receive a selection box. The two course Santa Lunch menu for adults is €30 and the 3-course lunch menu is €38 pp. The children’s menu is €15.95 for two courses. Booking is essential www.thehardiman.ie to book or call 091 564 041.