The Galway Races are the biggest annual horse-racing festival in Ireland, held at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway. The festival draws more than 150,000 spectators each year andl is the highlight of the year for most local businesses as crowds and horse lovers flock from all over the world to attend.

Races start on the last Monday of July every year, and is held for over seven days. As well as being the biggest, it is also the longest of all the race meets in Ireland. Wednesday and Thursday are the busiest days of the festival; the Galway Plate is held on Wednesday and the Galway Hurdle and Ladies’ Day take place on Thursday.

Festival History

The first racing festival was a two-day event held in Ballybrit in 1869. This was extended to a 3-day meeting in 1959 and by 1999, it had become a 7 day event.
  • It is said that the pub underneath the Corrib Stand, built in 1955, was for many years the longest bar in the world. It was replaced by the Millennium Stand in 1999.
  • The Killanin Stand opened in 2007 replacing the old Corrib (west) Stand.
  • On the 4th day of the Galway races there was a race meeting held in Tuam. The last races held in the Tuam race course was in 1973.

Additional race meetings also take place in September and October, but these are not as popular as the main summer festival.

Ladies Day

Galway RacesThursday is traditionally the busiest and most stylish day of the week-long Galway Racing Festival.Galway Ladies Day is famous for being stylish, vibrant and chic. Best Dressed Lady Competition includes prizes for the Best Dressed Lady & Best Hat.

There is no formal entry procedure to the competitions. Judges simply wander through the crowds and invite chosen finalists.The winning outfits are usually announced at approximately 3.30pm. The prize giving ceremony takes place in the enclosure immediately after the 5th race.

Aran Islands Celebrity Judge

Every year there is a celebrity judge, and this year it is been kept in the Galway region, Maura Derrane grew up on the Aran Islands, Maura is a sure choice for this year’s Best Dressed judging panel and is excited to see ladies from all over the country turn out in style.

Joining Maura to cast their expert eyes on Thursday July 30th will also the Irish fashion industry, including Irish Independent & Weekend Magazine Fashion Editor Bairbre Power, Image Publications Editor-in-Chief Melanie Morris and local Catwalk Model Agency Owner Mandy Maher!

The winning outfits are usually announced at approximately 3.30pm. The prize giving ceremony takes place in the enclosure immediately after the 5th race.

Culture of the Races

The Galway Races are the subject of At Galway Races, a poem by W. B. Yeats. They are also the subject of eponymous folk song, “The Galway Races” The song’s narrator is attending the eponymous annual event in Galway, a city in the west of Ireland. The song was made famous in the UK in 1967 by The Dubliners. It also featured on The Clancy Brothers albums “Isn’t It Grand Boys and Wrap the Green Flag”, The Chieftains album Ballad of the Irish Horse and The Pogues album If I Should Fall From Grace With God

And what better end to a trip to the Galway Races than to visit Doolin and a Cliffs of Moher Cruise 🙂