Three days of hen weekend fun in the Irish harbour city Ed Sheeran can’t shut up about...
It’s a soggy, dull Thursday afternoon as we touch down at Knock Airport in Ireland, but in spite of the dreary weather, spirits are high!
Inspired by the Ed Sheeran song - yes, really - and the fun the girls from P.S. I Love You seemed to be having, my best buds and I are off to the beautiful harbour city of Galway on Ireland’s West coast for three days, to celebrate my lovely sister’s upcoming wedding.
The morning started with Bucks Fizz, a limo ride and noisy renditions of anything sung by Bewitched, and by the time we arrive at our beautiful AirBnB overlooking Galway’s stunning port, we’re ready to experience everything this fine city has to offer. The Unesco heritage city has a youthful population and an incredibly bohemian spirit, with a strong and vibrant cultural scene that we’ve heard is best enjoyed by simply strolling the city lanes, and soaking up the atmosphere. And with live music at every turn, and plenty of scenic country right on its doorstep, it’s clear that Galway has plenty to keep us busy. But we’ve left very little to chance, filling our visit up with an itinerary of activities guaranteed to keep these hens happy.
We kick things off bright and early the next morning as we meet up with John from Segway Adventures Ireland at the nearby Kingfisher Club, in the heart of the city’s NUI Galway university campus. The bride is a little nervous, never having ridden a Segway before, but John is clearly an old hand when it comes to hosting groups such as ours, and after warming us up with coffee and biscuits - good man! - and some good chatter, we’re introduced to our machines for the morning.
“Riding on a Segway is like nothing you’ve imagined before,” John tells us as we climb aboard, togged up in all our fleecy layers and with matching bodywarmers.
“You’re gliding on air, above the crowd with a clear view of everything ahead. No obstacles, No barriers. But this isn’t the transportation of tomorrow. It’s Segway, today, and it’s been around for over 15 years, tried, tested and absolutely safe.”
John hosts regular Segway adventures all over the UK and, having been on a Segway a few times in the past, I think I know what to expect, but it turns out I don’t have a clue. There’s no tripping along in a line, one after the other, following John on some mellow tour through nearby fields and lanes. Instead he leads us to a large outdoor court where he’s set up an assault course for us to practice on and get to grips with our Segways. Once we’re comfortable, the frisbees come out, as John teaches us how to bend and scoop them off the floor without leaving our vehicles. Very 007. Then the Nerf guns are dished out, then the water guns. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun! We spend the morning playing like kids, and our 90 minute session ends up running to two-and-a-half hours before we reluctantly hand our weapons back, and step back onto legs that, sadly, require actual walking. We’re all on a high, and a little damp from the water guns, as we clamber into a taxi back to the city centre, to tidy up for afternoon tea.
And this is no ordinary afternoon tea. The House Hotel, a mere two-minute totter in high heels from our weekend digs on the docks, is utterly gorgeous. Decorated in rich and luxurious colours, and with a fancy bar you just want to hunker down for the day in, this boutique hotel, located in Galway’s Latin Quarter, screams cosy decadence. As we arrive, we’re ushered through to a giant velvety booth for a round of drinks while our table is being prepared. The House Hotel’s Hendricks Afternoon Tea is exactly what it sounds like; gorgeous teapots arrive at our table brimming with gin. The food is a delight too - crunchy scones with jam and clotted cream, tasty sandwiches and wraps stuffed with delicious and creative fillings, and all manner of mouth-watering morsels for dessert: crème brûlée with shortbread biscuits, brownie bites, and toffee cheesecake. We’ve worked up a real appetite on those Segways - and thank goodness! When we finally struggle to our feet to leave, two hours later, we’re stuffed from the feast, and carrying doggie bags.
That night, dressed as four-leaf clovers (this is a hen do, remember...) we hit the city’s streets in search of live music, some good Irish craic, and a tipple or two of Guinness. We find all three in a series of truly great pubs, including Tig Coili - where we take on a stag party in a dance-off and are asked to stop singing so loudly as we’re drowning out the paid musician; An Púcán - where we Irish jig around the dance floor to an incredible band playing fiddles and putting their own spin on all kinds of pop classics; and The Quays, where one of our hens somehow gets handcuffed to a perfectly affable chap on a stag do from Leeds, while we dance to yet another fantastic band. Everyone is friendly, chirpy and speaks like either Ronan Keating or James Nesbitt. Perfection.
When our afternoon tea bellies finally start to give way to pangs of hunger, we hop in a taxi to The G Hotel, where we settle into their stunning Signature Lounge, with rounds of cocktails and a selection of incredibly tasty tapas - everything from spiced chicken goujons, and mushroom and feta arancini, to beef croquettes, goat’s cheese tartlets, and garlic and chorizo prawns. We’d been warned the five-star hotel is very high-end, but luckily staff welcome us with open arms, even in our green top hats and stripy socks get-up. Phew!
The next day, we wake ready for another day of activity fun. Our first stop is Great Escape Rooms Galway, where the girls and I tackle the Auld Shebeen Traditional Irish Pub room. 45 minutes of investigating with torches, cracking codes and giggling a lot (and, I admit, pressing the intercom to ask for a couple of clues...) we manage to proudly bust our way out. And that’s when things get really interesting. As we’re heading out the door, staff offer us the chance to have a go in the new VR suite, and we’re only too eager to accept. What follows is the absolute coolest 90 minutes of any of our lives, as we step into fully-immersive headgear, which takes us inside the brain of a serial killer who is laid in a coma, to retrieve vital clues before he dies. Seriously. The five of us may be sat in a circle of chairs, in a pitch black attic room in Galway’s city centre, but for the next hour and a half, we sail in boats through monster-ridden waters, solve puzzles whilst floating through space, and work together to interact with and manipulate all manner of objects without ever leaving the chairs. It’s incredible.
After a couple of hours spent saving the world, we’re ready to blow off some steam, and we meet up with Paul from Pedal Power after a quick lunch. We’ve been looking forward to this since we first booked it last summer and as we take our seats at, what I can only describe as, a pub booth on wheels, Paul hands us an aux cable to get some tunes blasting. There’s nothing quite like riding through the bustling city streets, singing loudly to ‘Galway Girl’ as people laugh and wave and take pictures. Except getting to stop off at pubs for drinks along the way, so the pedalling becomes a pedal crawl. Oh yes. And Paul is a font of knowledge, stopping to show us all the sights of interest along the way. This activity gets a big two-thumbs up.
By the time we climb back on the plane the next day, tired but exhilirated, we already know we’ll be coming back to Galway. It’s been an incredible three days and we’ve barely scratched the surface of this beautiful Irish jewel of a city.
Save our stools Galway, we’ll see you soon.