Galway – and the pupils of the Claddagh National School in particular – were the big winners on the first day of the first official royal visit by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall this week.
Better still, the rain managed to stay away for water swept views of the city captured by television cameras amid the tightest security ever to envelope the city and county.
A team of 200 gardaí locked down NUIG, parts of the Claddagh, city centre, Oranmore and later Gort for a packed itinerary undertaken by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla at the start of their four-day trip.
While media reports were overshadowed by the handshake and private meeting between Prince Charles and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams during the NUIG reception, it served to bring the visit to the top of the news agenda around the world – and with it Brand Galway.
Prince Charles set the warm tone for the visit in his speech by admitting while he was a Fred Astaire fan since he was young, but he “may be a little too old to learn the steps of the Irish dancing routine”.
On this his third visit to the island, he declared that each time he was “so overwhelmed and so deeply touched by the extraordinary kindness, the welcome and indeed the fun of being in Ireland”.
During his trip to the Marine Institute in Oranmore, which he had specifically requested en route to the Burren, Prince Charles was introduced to staff working on research into sustainable fisheries, marine bio-discovery and climate change impacts. He was gifted a 330 million year-old piece of fossil coral recovered from near Mullaghmore, Co Sligo.
In the Burren, he helped build a dry stone wall and invited Pat Nagle and son Oliver, local farmers taking part in the Burren conservation programme, to visit his estate to help him grow a hedgerow.
After her visit to the Claddagh National School where she learned about the Suas literacy programme, the Duchess of Cornwall was treated to a ten-minute performance of Richard II, which is part of the DruidShakespeare production to mark their 40th anniversary.
She then walked around the corner to the House Hotel, which showcased produce from the Wild Atlantic Way.
By evening time the couple reunited at Lough Cutra Castle for a private dinner with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, where they dined on blanched asparagus, pan-seared halibut followed by panna cotta and poached rhubarb at a dining table where the guest list remained under wraps.
See full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.