County Clare, Galway, and the Aran Islands Feature

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A Shopping Tour of Galway

There's no question about it: they have a different look in Galway. People have always dressed differently, because they dress for the Galway weather, which can be wet and windy at any time of year. But ever since Galway was transformed by Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" economic boom, they have also dressed—and decorated—with a real sense of style. Want proof? Just join the locals on the following walk.

Pick up a free map of Galway from the tourist information office on Forster Place. Turn left out the front door to reach the Hotel Meyrick (formerly the Great Southern), a monumental 19th-century grande dame in cut stone (its lobby is just the place for "scene-iors" to take their coffee or tea).

Turn left beyond the hotel and right into Merchants Road, location of the Blarney Woollen Mills, for Irish clothing, and (on the top floor) Meadows & Byrne for well-designed Irish goods for the home. Turn right out of the Woollen Mills, and take the next turn right along New Dock Street into Flood Street, the heart of medieval Galway, a tiny area where all the cutest shops are jam-packed together, including Cobwebs, abrim with offbeat antique jewelry, old binoculars, and bronze model airplanes. For a feel of the essential Galway, cross the road to the banks of the River Corrib, and walk to your left to the Spanish Arch. When natives feel homesick, this is the view they think of: white water breaking on the dark surface of the swift-flowing Corrib.

Staying on this side of the Corrib, cross over the bridge and take the riverside footpath past the contempo Jurys Inn and some old warehouses. Turn left over O'Brien's Bridge for the historic Bridge Mills, now outfitted with a designer swap shop, a basement restaurant overlooking the river, and Sam Beardon, Sculptor and Jeweller. Cross the bridge again, taking the first right into Cross Street and right into Kirwan's Lane. Here, Design Concourse Ireland/Judy Greene Pottery has locally made turned-wood objects, basketware, and perfumery.

Medieval Kirwan's Lane leads you on to Quay Street and Twice as Nice, a vintage and antique clothing boutique with old Irish linen and gold and silver jewelry. Continue up High Street to Faller's Sweaters and Tweeds, just the place to buy an Aran sweater, and The Kilkenny Shop, Galway's largest emporium of Irish-designed products, with a dazzling selection of chic John Rocha crystal, Newbridge Silver, and Nicholas Mosse pottery.

Farther up on the right, O'Maille has some great mohair wraps and the essential Galway fashion item, a Jack Murphy raincoat. Top one off with a rainproof Stetson with a feather in it and you'll pass for a local.

High Street leads into William Street, where you'll find The Treasure Chest, a three-story shop selling upmarket Irish goods. Its exterior, painted in Wedgwood blue with white swags, just like the famous china, is a favorite with photographers. Brown Thomas, on William at the corner of Eglinton, has long been Galway's most upscale department store. The post office is on Eglinton Street. A few steps up Williamsgate Street brings us back to Eyre Square and your starting point at the TIO.

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