The Claddagh

Published on 11/29/2013

  • The Claddagh

The Claddagh Symbol consists of three elements.. The Hand, the heart and the crown..

The meaning of each element is traditionally described as follows: 

  • The hands symbolise friendship
  • The heart symbolises love
  • The crown symbolises loyalty.

The three emblems come together in the phrase: 'Let friendship and love reign'.


The Claddagh (Irish = An cladach, meaning stony shore) is an old fishing village just outside Galway City where the river Corrib opens out to the Atlantic. This was the area where the Irish ring is believed to have been designed. It was a fiercely independent area, with its own king, and once prospered through trade with Spain.

Its fishing fleet, made up of traditional sailing boats called 'hookers', is now much diminished in number but is remembered each year in an ancient ceremony known as the Blessing of the Bay Festival.

Dating back to 1488, it is believed to be the oldest tradition in Ireland, and involved a Dominican priest blessing the boats at the start of the herring season. On a mid-August Sunday, the modern-day ceremony sees all manner of yachts and other small craft sail into the Bay to join the few remaining hookers. A Dominican priest is then taken out into the Bay on a hooker to perform the blessing. He rings a bell as a signal for the local choir of altar boys to sing, and all the boats then make a tour of the Bay.

Little remains of the old Claddagh of thatched white-washed cottages that once lined the quay. The perceived romance of such a simple life was probably very different to the reality and the unsanitary homes were finally demolished in the 1930s.

Today the area is popular with tourists and strolling locals enjoying the fresh sea air and superb views across Galway Bay.


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