Tuam was once - albeit briefly - designated as the Capital of Ireland, and was the political and cultural centre of Connacht throughout the medieval period. In more recent times, the fabric of Tuam town has been shaped by waves of prosperity and development driven by the local inhabitants who established tanneries, breweries and fabric mills throughout the town. Many of the town's historic features reflect the development of its commerce and industry, including Bishop Street Bridge, the Market House in Town Square, and Waterslade House on the banks of the Nanny, while the Cathedrals and the history of the Tuam Market Cross are strong links to its ecclesiastical origins. Today, Tuam's economy is still driven by local enterprise, with the majority of business in the town being owned and operated locally, with some successful and long running family traditions. As well as its diverse cultural and archaeological heritage, Tuam also has a rich natural heritage within the town and in the surrounding area. The section of the River Nanny flowing through the town is an important trout nursery, supporting recreation and tourism, while the town also hosts large numbers of some of Ireland's rarer fauna, including some rare birds such as the barn owl, and the bats which have roosted in the cathedrals for centuries.
The town's name is a shortened version of the Gaelic Tuaim d? Ghualainn, meaning the mound of two shoulders, from the time of the town's foundation during the 6th Century. The name probably refers to the high ground which was once noticeable on either side of the River Nanny. This provided an ideal location for a crossing point that attracted travellers from many different directions, making Tuam a centre point for communication and interaction. Today, Tuam is still a major hub for travellers through the Borders, Midlands and Western region. In the past decade, and perhaps most noticeably in the last 5 years, the town has seen major expansion.
With this expansion has come a huge increase in the range of retailers and restaurants, and the products and services they provide. Top quality organic meat and vegetables are available in Dempsey's Food Emporium; those having food allergies or special dietary needs are well catered for by retailers including Ryan's Cafe, Ocean Health Store and Spice of Life; the local Fairtrade organisation are working promoting the products and ideals that help producers in developing countries and Fairtrade product ranges are available in many stores including Costcutter, Mannion's Supermarket, and O'Tooles Super Valu; for those wanting a taste of something different or exotic, try the Baltic Shop or the recently opened Afro Caribbean shop, and for those intent on a bit of retail therapy, the number of excellent clothes and footwear shops continues to increase and with a lots of beauty and hair salons, opticians and a hat shop, there's no doubt that you'll be dressed to impress at whatever social occasion this summer season takes you to.
As well as the local, family businesses that have been serving the town for many years, nationally recognised brands like Elverys, Easons and Sasha have arrived in recent years, a further indication of the commercial health and vitality of the town.
Of course, no shopping trip can ever be complete without some refreshments to keep the body and soul together, and in Tuam there is no shortage of options. Cafe Florence, Berannie's, The Palace Restaurant, The Corralea Court Hotel, plus many other restaurants and cafes are located in convenient locations for you to relax, nourish the mind and body, and plan your next attack on the shops. And if eating out is how you like to socialise in the evening, with a number of great Chinese and Indian Restaurants, plus many others offering more traditional fare with a modern twist, you can be sure that Tuam can cater for all taste buds. With everything within walking distance, and plenty of parking options, the town centre is easily accessible on foot regardless of where you decide to park.Despite the vast expansion the town has seen in these most recent years, it is hard to believe the town still has less inhabitants than it did at the end of the 19th Century, when it was a major market town. In the intervening years, there was a Livestock Market at the Fairgreen, a General Market in The Square, a Turf Market in The Shambles and a Banbh (Bonnive) at Temple Jarlath. Many of the market traditions still exist, and though some of the former market places are no longer in use, or have been developed for other uses, there are plans afoot to revive some of these traditions for local food producers and traders. Watch this space.....!