The picturesque sea port of Kinvara lies in an inlet on the southern side of Galway Bay. Every year visitors flock to see Kinvara boats bobbing on the beautiful waters of Kinvara Bay, get a feel for the history of one of Ireland’s friendliest fishing villages and find their slice of Irish history. Accommodation around Kinvara features some marvellous coastal hotels, intimate guesthouses, and family-run bed and breakfasts.
Kinvara History and Heritage
The name Kinvara is an anglicised version of the Gaelic name Cinn Mhara, which means “head of the sea”. And the sea is where Kinvara derives all its charm and history.
The village sprang up in the shadow of Dunguaire Castle, which was built in 1520 by the O’Hyne family. The first records of Kinvara were made in 1615, when one Oliver Martyn was given a licence to put on a market every Saturday in Kinvara. The village was effectively cut off from land access, which meant that fishermen, merchants and other traders would have been forced to visit Kinvara by boat.
Kinvara’s upwards ascent was brought to a halt in the 19th Century when the Great Irish Famine struck. All of Kinvara’s families were depleted by starvation and emigration to the new world. Still, the village survived and by the 20th Century the town had swelled to support more than 40 businesses, including five hotels.
Dunguaire Castle is one of the most visited places in County Galway, and the simple fortress towers over the bay, perched on a rocky outcrop. In summer, the keep hosts medieval-style banquets, with traditional dishes like smoked salmon and soda bread, apple pie and a draught of mead.
Around the castle can be found the remains of a 7th Century fort called Guaire, named after the old king of Connacht for whom the castle was named. Dunguaire was where the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats planned the Irish National Theatre with his friends.
In May and August, Kinvara comes alive with visitors from all parts of the world visiting the town for festivals – so make sure you book early. The Fleadh na gCuach (the Cuckoo Festival) kicks off proceedings with traditional Irish music, a celebration of the start of summer and the old ritual Fire Festival of Beltaine.
The Cruinniu na mBad (the Gathering of Boats) celebrates the original industry of Kinvara and visitors can see the traditional Galway Hooker sailing boats that used to ply the trade between Kinvara and County Clare, transporting barley, lime and timber from port to port.
Staying in Kinvara
The beauty of Kinvara makes it an atmospheric place to stay, where it’s easy to enjoy the wonders of nature and history. Kinvara and the surrounding area have some great hotels to choose from. Expedia is on hand to help out, and give you plenty of information to make the right choice and find the perfect place for you. Whatever choice you make, be assured that a holiday in Kinvara is a memorable experience.