I’ve seen a few lists doing the rounds of things for people to do when they are visiting Sligo and as we are due an influx of visitors for the fleadh and also those checking out the Wild Atlantic Way I thought I do a blog about my suggestions. These are my ten choices in no particular order and I can only recommend the things I’ve actually done so if your favourite activity is missing it’s because I probably haven’t done it. The list isn’t exclusive to tourists either, it’s amazing how many Sligo people have never explored their county, maybe this will inspire some of you.
1. Visit Eagles Flying in Ballymote, Co. Sligo.
This is one of my favourite places in Sligo and it’s amazing how many locals have never been. You will get to see all kinds of animals including an albino hedgehog, a pick-pocket racoon, ferrets, donkeys, horses and of course the birds of prey. The birds fly right over your head and in some cases will even land on you! You get to hear all about this fascinating creatures in an informative and humourous way by the team at Eagles Flying. The flying show is usually held outdoors but if it’s raining they will move it inside. It’s for people of all ages and is a great day out, one you’ll remember for years to come. You can see more of my photos from my last visit here.
2. The Sligo Town walking tour.
This takes place from Monday-Saturday until the end of August meeting at the Sligo Tourist Office, O’Connell Street at 11am. If you want to know more about Sligo this is the tour for you and it’s free! You will find out about the Yeats, Spike Milligan and Dracula connections with Sligo and a whole lot more. This is my blog post about one of the tours I went on.
3. Visit Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery.
In my opinion Carrowkeel is one of the most underated places in Sligo, everyone talks about the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery but I think Carrowkeel is a very special place. It’s slightly off the beaten track and there is no visitor centre so you are left to your own devices. The views across Lough Arrow when you get to the top are amazing, this along with all the tombs makes it a special experience just don’t do what I did…I forgot my camera! The blog post is here if you want to read and see more. If you go to Carrowkeel at the weekend you can pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary which is located near there, bring ginger nut biscuits and carrots and they’ll love you :) The donkey website is here. If you are hungry after all your exploring I’d recommend Cromleach Lodge, they have a wonderful Early Bird dinner and the views from the lodge are amazing. Clevery Mill is wonderful for food too but only open certain times so check before you go.
4. Explore North Sligo.
Mullaghmore is a very pretty seaside village. It’s well worth parking in the village and walking around the coastal loop where you will pass the imposing Classiebawn Castle. I have to highly recommend Eithna’s by the Sea as a place to eat, the food is a work of art and it’s no surprise it won the Georgina Campbell and BIM 2014 award for its seafood, shellfish and lobster dishes. Mullaghmore is the place to be for the ‘big waves’ when surfers come from all over the world for the Tow-in surf sessions.
Streedagh is a beautiful beach in North Sligo, the rocks are covered in fossils, it’s a popular location for surfers and it’s also the location of three Spanish Armada wrecks. Seatrails run great walking tours of various locations in Sligo, I’ve been on the Streedagh one and found it really interesting and informative, it’s a brilliant way to find out more about our coastal heritage.
Island View Riding Stables do some lovely beach treks near Streedagh, it’s like a little bit of heaven being on horseback along the golden sand, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. I went on a Heritage on Horseback trek with Seatrails and had a wonderful time.
Take a drive or a cycle around the Gleniff Horseshoe and Ballintrillick. It’s a beautiful place and the location of my snowy photo that went viral. There is also a lovely waterfall across the road from the old mill. The Benwiskin Centre which is located nearby has some great information about the area which you can find here.
5. To the waters and the wild.
Don’t just stay on dry land in Sligo, it’s well worth checking out some of the water adventures. You can choose from surfing, kayaking, free diving, scuba diving, stand up paddling, boat trips to islands, fishing trips and more. I’ve been Stand Up Paddling with SUPforall, it’s suitable for all ages and abilities and is a really peaceful way to see Sligo from the water you can read all about my experience here.
I’ve been on a few boat trips. Wild Wet Adventures do kayaking, stand up paddling and more, I stuck to the boat as I wanted to take photos but I’m definitely going back again for a try at kayaking, here’s more about my solstice experience with John and the gang.
Lough Gill Tours will take you on a boat trip of Lough Gill, you can visit the various islands or just stay on the boat. I’d recommend Beezie’s Island and Church Island for a look around, they are so lovely and peaceful and Eddie from the boat will tell you all about them. Ewing’s boats can bring you to Coney Island or Inishmurray Island. If you are going to the latter I hope you have a good stomach for sea travel! With Coney Island you can walk or drive there (wear wellies if you are walking) and avoid the potholes if you are driving, be sure to check the tide times. If you don’t want to get stuck it’s easier to get a boat taxi.
6. Eat, drink and be merry.
We have some of the most amazing restaurants, coffee shops and pubs in Sligo town. A few of my favourites are: Eala Bhan (the afternoon tea above is served there), Osta (for the best chocolate brownies in town), Chapters (service with a smile every time, it’s like my second home), The Swagman (huge meals – you’ll never leave hungry), Rugatino (wonderful Italian food), Heart’s Desire (one of the newest coffee shops that serve wonderful, well priced food), Hargadons (an award-winning pub with great food), The Harp Tavern (steak for €10!), Kate’s Kitchen and Cafe Fleur (both serve wonderful wraps), Fabio’s (real Italian ice-cream in Sligo), Le Fournil (the best pastries in town). I’m sure I’ve missed someone out but these are my pick.
As for the pubs most of them have live music sessions taking place during the week. I’ve been to a couple in Hargadons and The Swagman. McGarrigle’s (also home to the Spike Sligo Comedy Club), Fureys and Earleys, Shoot the Crows and Raffertys are great pubs for music. Sligo-Music is a good site to find out what music is on. 5th on Teeling also have bands and comedy clubs. Velvet Room is a lovely nightclub and they run Kieran Quinn’s theme nights. Don’t forget the Sligo Summer Festival (8th and 9th August).
The Hawk’s Well Theatre have music, plays, shows and exhibitions taking place. The Model have music events and film screenings and exhibitions as well as a lovely cafe. The Hamilton Gallery and The Hyde Bridge Gallery also have exhibitions running.
7. Visit Strandhill and Rosses Point
Rosses Point is a lovely seaside resort, it’s safe to swim there so perfect for all the family. W.B. Yeats spent his summer holidays at Elsinore House, which is now a ruin. You can also see the old watch house, the ‘Waiting on the shore’ statue, the Metal man (one of only two in Ireland) and if you are getting a boat taxi to Coney Island it will leave from Rosses Point.
Strandhill isn’t safe for swimming but it’s very popular with surfers. One of my favourite days was spent in and around Strandhill, in the morning I climbed Knocknarea Mountain followed by a lovely seaweed bath in Voya, a walk to Killaspugbrone Church and lunch in the award-winning Shells Cafe. Such a perfect day. If you go to Strandhill on a Sunday you can also check out The Strandhill People’s Market which takes place from 11am-4pm.
8. Go Shopping
Sligo has some real gems when it comes to shopping, there are a few shops in particular I’d recommend. The first is Michael Quirke, not just a shop, an experience. Michael is a woodcarver and a great teller of myths and legends of Sligo. He will chat away to you as he works.
M. Cosgrove and Son Delicatessen, one of the oldest shops in Sligo and a real treasure trove of all things nice. If there’s a type of food you are looking for this is the place to go to, if you can’t get it here it probably can’t be got in Sligo.
Angelworld, the minute you set foot in Angelworld you’ll feel relaxed. It’s a really lovely shop with some great gift ideas and not just angels either. If you are looking for a special present this is the place to go.
If you happen to be in Sligo on a Saturday there are three markets that take place: Sligo Farmers Market, Beltra Country Market and the Benbulben Craft Village Market. If you are here on August 23rd the wonderful Sligo Flea Market takes place at The Model. On Sunday the Strandhill People’s Market takes place from 11am-4pm down by the sea.
9. Driving Tour of Yeats’ Country
This is perfect for any fan of the poet W.B. Yeats or if you want to see some beautiful scenery. You will get to see so many of the places he mentioned in his poems and places he stayed in when he was in Sligo. The drive is listed here just to let you know there is no longer a coffee shop at Parke’s Castle so if you wanted a stop along the way Dromahair is the place to go. There are a couple of restaurants in Dromahair but I haven’t tried any of them so can’t recommend them. Check out the Drumcliffe Tea House at Yeats’ Grave or just up the road is the Yeats Tavern, both lovely places to eat. Lissadell House also has a tea room which you can visit even if you aren’t taking a tour of the house and gardens.
10. Have tea in a castle.
Markree Castle, Collooney. The only castle hotel in Sligo. Even if you aren’t staying here you can have a meal or even just tea here. Johnny Cash stayed here once and the hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful’ was written by Cecil F. Alexander when she stayed here in 1848. The building and the gardens are beautiful and if you feel like exploring the Markree Castle Estate you can book a trek with Markree Riding Stables. Don’t worry if you can’t ride they have horses to suit all abilities.
And one for luck! I couldn’t leave this one out:
10 ½ Lough Easkey. In my opinion this is Sligo’s answer to Connemara. I only recently discovered this place, as you head out of Tubbercurry on the Ballina Road you can just follow the signs, the road gets quite narrow and beware of sheep and chickens in the middle of the road! It’s well worth the drive though, a very peaceful place (apart from the sheep). It’s also worth stopping in Tubbercurry especially if the Old Fair Day Festival is taking place (August 9th-13th 2014).
I hope this blog post has given you a few ideas of places to visit in our beautiful county. I have many more I could have listed but it would have turned into a book! Enjoy your visit.