Coast Road, Oranmore, Galway

During the Spring of 2012 I was at home and took a cylce around the coast road between Oranmore and Galway city which has been spared the brunt of the traffic since the 90’s when they built the dual carriageway bypassing the village. The poet Rafferty called it “a mean little town with its back to the sea”. Now the view of the tower by Galway bay is largely obscured by a gargantuan 24 hour Tesco and the mini-mountain of rubble created during its construction. Oranmore was a meaner little town when I was a teenager but I’ve watched it rapidly transform into commuter town/suburb with all the generic blandness of modern Ireland. The Hasty Tasty is now a Supermacs and Celtic Tiger estates stand atop rubble spread over marshlands. An old church has been converted into a library and there’s a café/Charlie Byrne’s bookshop upstairs in Lidl but these days Oran’ is tending towards boom-built sameness as everywhere else. It’s the closest village to Galway on the Limerick road but my native Clarinbridge (second village from Galway, 5km down the road)  has grown in a much more pleasent way to include a boutique, antique shop, 3 coffee shops and a yoga studio all managing to stay in business without the swelling ill-advised housing estates. Cycling past Oranmore I found the abandoned buildings much more interesting than the modern mutants crowding around the village.

In the early 80s my mother worked on the census. I would often accompany her in the car after school. This house was ocupied by a stubborn Frenchman who kept refusing to participate even though he’d be present on the census date as he would only be in Ireland for a year or so. He wasn’t lying.

I’ve always considered this rock a worthy candiate for Excalibur.

As I was standing on the roadside to take these pictures a woman about my age came out of her house a field away. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeding her horse junk food. She’s lived her life in Oran but neither of us could quite remember when this nursery closed down. I love these heads someone painted on the front. She tipped me off that the same artist has similar heads stenciled the Bluebell estate and Renmore. I’ve since found them but the canvases aren’t as large as the old nursery.

Around the countryside I can now see two generations of unfinished houses abandoned during my lifetime. I remember being haunted by these bare-blocked shells as a child on Sunday drives to the Burren or Connemeara, wondering what people left behind and if they went to America like some of our aunts and uncles did. They were much humbler than the houses abandoned in recent years which, when you think about it, shows how much we’ve progressed as a society.


This is near where the train station is now.


13 thoughts on “Coast Road, Oranmore, Galway

  1. Hasty Tasty morphed into Sergeant Pepper’s for a short while but is now part of the Supermacs franchise. Some continuity is that the original owner is still …um…the original owner.. and I’ve seen at least one of his family at work there recently.

    Some really lovely pictures of a route I walk most days and drive everyday. You genuinely gave them a new perspective. Nice work. I reckon Collins Nurseries was in business for at most a year to 18 months and it had to pre-date the by-pass of the Village, which took place in 1986. Even with being on the (then) main road to the city from Dublin and the South, it was still off the beaten track for Villagers like myself.

    The caravan acts as a summer ‘holiday home’ for a man I know well. I always regard it as summer when I see him parked outside (whatever the weather!). I remember being in my dad’s car as a very small child and stopping to buy petrol from the dissused pump you pictured. All those years ago the typical fill of a tank was £3. Now my average fill is €75!

    I can’t argue with your general conclusions about the ‘development’ of the Village, but as a native I have my pride and still love living here. I also agree about Clarenbridge maintaining the sense of a village.

    Do you have a source for the Raifteirí quote? I’m always very defensive about all the Mayo people coming to Galway to take all the employment and then flying their Mayo flags from their homes come summertime. Raftery’s put-down of my home Village sounds like he got his retaliation in well before my time 🙂 I’m sure you’re aware he’s buried in the neighbouring cemetery of Killeeneen (between Kilcolgan & Craughwell). (The Galway revenge put-down for Mayo people runs along the lines of, “We know they climbed to the top of Croagh Patrick and saw the Promised Land. Sure nothing would stop them after that”). I’m sure the Mayo mafia Antóin O’Raifteirí included would be tickled pink that your blog on Oranmore was posted on April Fool’s day 🙂

    Anyway – nice work with the camera – well done

    • Thanks for all the insights Gerard. I actually have more memories of the Sgt Peppers era; post pub garlic cheese chips, fights…I once had to grad a hold of my burger to avoid it getting splattered with blood but most of the time the place was under control. I’m glad to hear it’s still a locally-owned business.

      Perhaps the Raifteirí quote was something he said rather than receited. I was unable to find a source but I remember hearing it growing up. His grave was a stop on school tours in our area and he has a pub named after him in Kilcolgan. That’s a great Mayo put-down. I’d never heard it before.

  2. I remember there being some debate as to whether that rock could be called a dolmen although I think it’s a bit on the tiddly side to get proper status. Pretty sure myself and Wig were knocking around inside the deserted Frenchman’s gaf circa 91-92, I kicked a rusty can of beans, oh how we laughed.

  3. To Gerard Burke who wrote this caption: “The caravan acts as a summer ‘holiday home’ for a man I know well. I always regard it as summer when I see him parked outside (whatever the weather!).!”
    That is not an accurate account. The caravan is situated on the boreen where I live (Cartron, down the coast road). An elderly neighbour lived there all his life, Tommy Turk. It was his home. He sadly had to be moved to a home last year. Nobody lives there now.

    • Respectfully, we are talking about 2 separate caravans. The one you refer to is indeed in Cartron & Tommy, Rita (Costello) & Mikey Turke are well known to me. The one I was referring to is actually on the coast road in the field adjacent to the disused petrol pump.

      • Oh right. So the caravan is not the one in Cartron. I was practically sure it was. Looks identical. Sorry about that.

  4. Regarding the derelict bungalow on the coast rd. My father Patrick Barry built it in about 1965/6 before we moved onto England in67 I know it was about then because dad took me to see the 66 world cup final in the Merlin inn on the way into Galway.I was just doing some random searching on the Galway area and was absolutely delighted and more than a bit surprised to find your article and photo,s thanks a lot for rekindling so many happy memories I have of the hose and of the lovely Galway

      • I. Was wondering if any one knew the current status of our old house on the coast road?
        Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

  5. Kevin,
    The current status is as it was when Gavin took the picture. I presume you’re asking if anyone owns the site or is doing anything with it. The house & site have lain derelict for as long as I can remember. A few rumours circulated when I was a child that it was haunted but that was par for the course in any unoccupied dwelling in the West of Ireland 🙂 Right across the road now is a favoured location for speed camera vans. It’s a real honey trap as on that straight stretch it is difficult to hold the maximum speed of 80kph.

    I loved that your Dad took you to Merlin to see the ’66 World Cup Final. I have worked in Merlin Park for the past 25 years. Ironically, the route you took then is probably busier today then it was then. Today it’s only a tertiary route with the main arteries into “town” running parallel to it but it is used as a ‘rat-run’ by commuters every day. When more recent roads were built the route you took became known colloquially as the ‘red bridge’ road in reference to the railway bridge you travel under en route to Merlin. In the summer of ’66 (I was 2) the traffic was probably increasing a bit because the railway station had closed in 1964. As Gavin points out it has now reopened just about 2km in the Oranmore direction of the house your Dad built. Happily, the number of passengers using the train seems to be increasing a bit, but it was certainly the view of us natives (I think) that it was a short-sighted move to close the original railway station, which was further 2km north towards Tuam /Sligo.

  6. Gerard Burke that is my dad’s caravan on my uncles farm, their family home. I spent every summer in it when I was a kid and we still check in on it believe it or not. Great pictures.

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