In fact, if the shiny Galway harbour wasn’t gleaming through the door, there wasn’t an Irish lilt ringing in my ears and a sparkly eyed barman wasn’t pulling Guinness from the taps, I might be forgiven for thinking I was in an Irish-themed pub in another country.
This, however, is the real thing. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, is not only Europe’s most westerly city, it’s also the continent’s fastest growing one.
It’s nicknamed ‘na Gall’ (place of foreigners), thanks to an influx of Anglo-Norman settlers in the 13th century. That name still rings true, with the quaint medieval town attracting many tourists, who are lured by its rich cultural history — Nora Barnacle, the wife of James Joyce, was born here, and it was a favourite retreat of poet WB Yeats. But Galway doesn’t just pull in the foreigners — these days Dubliners flock to the vibrant city for a helping of its legendary nightlife.
The main attraction of a night out in Galway is that it’s never predictable, says the barman as he pours me another pint. And don’t worry if you’re more the Cosmopolitan than Guinness type — there’s something for everyone here.
After mingling with the festival revellers, we find ourselves in the sophisticated, multi-floored Living Room, which is decorated with Smirnoff vodka bottles, located in Bridge Street. OK, the DJ did play U2, but he also chose more recent hits while the guy behind the bar mixed some mean cocktails for us.
Later, we have one for the road at the local GPO. Situated in Eglington Street, it’s one of the city’s best dance venues, with previous guests including Fatboy Slim, Roger Sanchez and Stereo MCs.
Like the barman said to me, you can never tell what will happen on a night out in Galway, and on our way home some members of our group peel off to continue partying.
Pitching up outside a club they tell a group of strangers: “We have no money. We’ve never been to Galway. We don’t know what to do.”
They are promptly bundled into a cab, with the promise “Don’t worry, we won’t kill you”, and taken to a private bash where they are plied with free booze until the sun comes up.
Yes they are grand hosts, those Galwegians.
» Amy Fallon travelled from London Luton to Galway with Aer Arann (www.aerarann.com; 0870-876 7676), which offers one-way flights from £42.