The first inhabitants in the Galway area arrived over 7000 years ago. Shell middens tell us about the existence of people as early as 5000 BC.
The county originally comprised several kingdoms and territories which predate the formation of the county. They included Aidhne, Uí Maine, Maigh Seóla, Conmhaícne Mara, Soghain and Máenmaige. County Galway came into official existence c. 1569.
A number of inhabited islands are administered by the county; they include Oileáin Árann (Aran Islands) and Inis Bó Fine (Inishbofin).
With the arrival of Christianity many monasteries were built, and written records of events in the area and of its people were kept. These were followed by a number of law-tracts, genealogies, annals and miscellaneous accounts. Extant manuscripts containing references to Galway include:
Dunguaire Castle, circa 1520, one of the many castles of County Galway.
Nearly 20% of the population of County Galway live in the Gaeltacht. County Galway is home to the largest Gaeltacht Irish-speaking region in Ireland. There are over 48,907 people living within this region which extends from Galway city westwards through Connemara. All schools within the Gaeltacht use Irish language as the medium of instruction. There is also a third-level constituent college of NUIG called Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in Carraroe and Carna. Spiddal is the largest town in the region. Galway city is also home to Ireland's only Irish-language theatre Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe. There is a strong Irish-language media presence in this area too, which boasts the radio station Raidió na Gaeltachta and Foinse newspaper in Carraroe and national TV station TG4 in Baile na hAbhann. The Aran Islands are also part of the Galway Gaeltacht.
There are about 30,000-40,000 Irish speakers in County Galway. According to Census 2011, the Galway city and county Gaeltacht has a population of 48,907, 30,978 say they can speak Irish, 23,788 can be classed as native Irish speakers while 7,190 speak Irish daily only within the classroom. There are 3,006 attending the ten Gaelscoil (Irish language primary schools) and three Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) outside of the Galway Gaeltacht.
According to the Irish Census 2006 there are 10,788 in the county who identify themselves as being daily Irish speakers outside of the education system.
Galway County Hall, Galway City.
Local government and politics:
Prior to the enactment of the Local Government Act 2001, the county was a unified whole despite the presence of two local authorities.
Since that time, the administrative re-organisation has reduced the geographical extent of the county by the extent of the area under the jurisdiction of Galway City Council. Today, the geographic extent of the county is limited to the area under the jurisdiction of Galway County Council. Each local authority ranks equally as first level local administrative units of the NUTS 3 West Region for Eurostat purposes. There are 34 LAU 1 entities in the Republic of Ireland. The remit of Galway County Council includes some suburbs of the city not within the remit of Galway City Council. Both local authorities are responsible for certain local services such as sanitation, planning and development, libraries, the collection of motor taxation, local roads and social housing.
The county is part of the North–West constituency for the purposes of European elections. For elections to Dáil Éireann, the county is part of two constituencies: Galway East and Galway West. Together they return 9 deputies (TDs) to the Dáil.
A view over the karst landscape on Inishmore, from Dún Aengus, an ancient stone fort.
County Galway is home to Lough Corrib (the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland) the Na Beanna Beola (Twelve Bens) mountain range, Na Sléibhte Mhám Toirc (the Maum Turk mountains), and the low mountains of Sliabh Echtghe (Slieve Aughty). The highest point in the county is one of the Twelve Bens, Benbaun, at 729m.
Climate The location of County Galway, situated on the west coast of Ireland, allows it to be directly influenced by the Gulf Stream. Temperature extremes are rare and short lived, though inland areas, particularly east of the Corrib, can boast some of the highest recorded temperatures of the summer in the island of Ireland (sometimes exceeding 30 °C); though these temperatures only occur when land warmed east winds sweep the area; the opposite effect can occur in the winter. Overall, however, Galway is influenced mainly by Atlantic airstreams which bring ample rainfall in between the fleeting sunshine. Rainfall occurs in every month of the year, though the late autumn and winter months can be particularly wet as Atlantic cyclonic activity increases and passes over and around the area, and which is why Galway tends to bear the brunt of severe windstorms that can occur between August and March. The county on average receives about 1300mm of rainfall annually, though some areas along the west coast of the county can receive up to 1900mm and beyond. Extreme weather such as blizzards, thunderstorms, flashflooding and hail, though rare, can and do occur, particularly when air masses of continental origin are undercut by more humid and unstable Atlantic flows.
Flora and fauna:
One of the least densely-populated counties, County Galway harbors a variety of wildlife. The region's biodiversity is best represented by Connemara National Park, situated in the west of the county.
Towns and villages:
Counties of Ireland
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