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'It's always buzzing, rain or shine' - Ireland's top home holiday revealed for 2020

Winner: Galway

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Sitting outside Tigh Neachtain's in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Sitting outside Tigh Neachtain's in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Ireland’s Favourite Home Holiday: Galway. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Iarnród Eireann),  Ruth Mulhern, Ruairi Lehman and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Ireland’s Favourite Home Holiday: Galway. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Iarnród Eireann), Ruth Mulhern, Ruairi Lehman and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Photograph: ©Fran Veale

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Sitting outside Tigh Neachtain's in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

"The atmosphere, the craic, the feeling of Irishness" - that was how one reader summed up a visit to the City of Tribes, named Ireland's Favourite Home Holiday in our Reader Travel Awards 2020.

"Going to Galway is the equivalent of drinking Guinness," they added.

Painting a picture of this coastal jewel, readers kept returning to words like 'buzz', 'atmosphere' and 'vibrant'. They described Galway as "like living in a small town within a city", a university hub that still feels "homely", and the effortless way it seems to marry arts, culture and a breathtaking location on the water.

"Everything is within walking distance," you said. "The vibrance of the city; it's always buzzing, rain or shine. Being right by the sea is great too, it helps blow off a few of the cobwebs after a few too many on Eyre Square!"

Traffic is an ongoing challenge, sure, but readers hailed the ease of arrival by train and bus ("you're in Galway City when it arrives"), and the city's safety, walkability and super location as a springboard for visits to Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way.

"I love its atmosphere, street entertainment, music in pubs, abundance of cosy restaurants, hearing people ag caint as Gaeilge and the nearby seaside village of Salthill," one reader wrote.

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Ireland’s Favourite Home Holiday: Galway. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Iarnród Eireann),  Ruth Mulhern, Ruairi Lehman and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Ireland’s Favourite Home Holiday: Galway. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Iarnród Eireann), Ruth Mulhern, Ruairi Lehman and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Galway is a European Capital of Culture 2020 (see the programme at galway2020.ie), and has been tipped by Lonely Planet, Time Out, CNN and our own Irish Independent Travel Hotlist as a don't miss destination this year. Its food scene also continues to improve - from creative, casual fare to Michelin-starred Aniar and Loam, which recently won Michelin's Sustainability Award.

Of course, no amount of gongs can sum up the sensation of simply being in Galway. This is "the best of what Ireland offers as a destination", you told us, from thumping trad music to Connacht rugby games, from "small old streets" to modern festivals and an electric social scene. The people were another highlight for many.

Galway is "a city that's alive", you said; a place that allows you "to have solitude in the morning, adventure in the afternoon and great nightlife in the evening".

"You can't bate the West."

FINALISTS: Top six home holidays for 2020

1. Galway

"This city has something special - a unique blend of culture and history while also having a strong 21st-century identity which represents its people and its unique location as the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way."

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Galway - Eyre Square-Kennedy Park

Galway - Eyre Square-Kennedy Park

2. Kerry

"They know how to treat tourists, and go the extra mile to ensure that you enjoy your holiday. Put simply, they care."

3. Wexford

"The ancient and modern gateway to Ireland. Miles and miles of incomparable beaches, a bit of elusive sunshine, strawberries, festivals, and it's a history book all by itself."

4. West Cork

"It seems to be caught in a time warp, where you can enjoy life instead of working for it. The multiple local artisan foods companies add to the experience."

5. Donegal

"My heart has been there since I was a child. The smell of turf, the taste of fresh eggs, the sun, wind, rain in one day. Lying on Culdaff beach baking in the sun. A huge county with wonderful places to visit and the nicest, most friendly people ever..."

6. Westport

"Probably the most beautiful town in Ireland. Spoilt for choice in eating out. Easy access to The Wild Atlantic Way, the islands, beautiful beaches and all that Co Mayo has to offer."

NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here and share on social using the hashtag #indotravelawards.

Irish Independent