All Fleadhed Out!

Fleadh Fireworks

Firstly apologies for this post being so short and lacking in photos. My Internet is diabolical, in fact it took over 600 minutes just to upload a two second video, it’s so bad my blog isn’t working properly and it will only let me upload small photos so you’ll just have to put up with me waffling on.

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If you live in Sligo you’ll know we just had the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, if you don’t know what that is it’s a huge traditional Irish music festival. I must admit I wasn’t going to go near the town for any of it…and I ended up going in almost every day! The atmosphere was just brilliant, the streets were full of buskers and Irish dancers. There were traditional music sessions in the pubs. There market stalls, food stalls, concerts, plays, walks, talks, parades and so much more. It was like New Year’s Eve every day, the whole town was buzzing and alive. There were people everywhere and music everywhere, I was so proud to live in Sligo.

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I didn’t get to all of the Fleadh because there were so many different events taking place, so I just stuck to the centre of town. I was talking to a lot of visitors who said it was the best fleadh they’d ever been to. The many volunteers did an amazing job of helping visitors, keeping the town clean etc. The Sligo Tidy Towns have done such a brilliant job in the town, with all the amount of visitors and I heard there were 350,000 people attending the event but the place was spotless.

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Some highlights for me were going backstage at Fleadh TV, seeing No Crows and Dervish perform, chatting to visitors, watching the parades and of course the fireworks. I don’t miss the yapping dogs though which seemed to be for sale on various stalls throughout the town, I also don’t miss some of the very dodgy tuneless buskers (and the fact I didn’t get a free Fleadh hoodie ;) )…apart from that it was great! Looking forward to next years one already. There are loads more photos here.

Tubbercurry Old Fair Day Festival

IMG_0474-001Not only is the Fleadh taking place in Sligo this week the Old Fair Day Festival in Tubbercurry is also well underway. I went along to the opening night and was blown away by the entertainment on offer and it was all free! Not only that there is a great community spirit in the town and the people are very friendly and welcoming.

IMG_0118The big fair day takes place tomorrow Wednesday the 13th August where the streets will come alive with music. There will also be a chance to see traditional crafts and sample a bit of Ireland as it used to be. You never know what you’d see and once again it’s free.

IMG_9683You can find out more information on their site here.

The Fleadh Comes to Sligo

IMG_0584The 2014 Fleadh Cheoil launched in Sligo yesterday and the town was alive with music, song and dance. It’s great to see the place looking so good thanks to Sligo Tidy Towns and wonderful to be able to invite visitors in to show them all Sligo has to offer.

IMG_1428President Michael D. Higgins came to launch the Fleadh. I think he’s a really lovely man, very friendly and approachable.

IMG_1177Martin McGuinness was also there, along with the Mayor of Derry. I think it’s a shame we don’t have a Mayor of Sligo anymore.

IMG_0719There was a colourful, musical parade through the town and we heard the story of St. Colmcille.

IMG_0786-001Sean-nos dancers entertained the crowd.

IMG_0998And what a crowd there was!

IMG_1236I was so proud to live in Sligo. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the Fleadh has to offer over the course of the week.

IMG_1123Well done to all involved for a great day. The rest of my photos are here.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for more photos during the week.

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Summer in Sligo

9484830253_3fd50b8d9d_bThis Friday and Saturday sees the return of the Sligo Summer Festival. I’m really looking forward to it especially Sister Sledge who are headlining on Friday night! It should be brilliant. There are loads of great acts playing Sligo and admission is only €2 donation! You can find out more about it here.

7764918168_bf2b8ed2bf_oThe Sligo Soapbox Derby and ball run take place on Saturday afternoon on The Mall. If you want to enter for the derby you still can, all the info is here and the profits from both events will go to the Rennafix Group.

10557167_826729144017364_4749563868509822582_nThe Fleadh Cheoil also comes to Sligo from the 10th – 17th August and the Tubbercurry Old Fair Day Festival is from the 9th-13th August so there’ll be loads to see and do for all the family.

Sligo sunsetIn keeping with the summer in Sligo theme I took this photo last night….Lucy beat me though, she took the one below which I think is fab!

IMG_7275Enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing and if you see me out and about smile for the camera :)

 

Snap the Spirit Photo Competition

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Do you volunteer? Know anyone who does? Been to a volunteer event and taken a great picture? Sligo Volunteer Centre have a great competition running. All you have to do is Snap the Spirit of Volunteerism in Sligo, its positive impact in the local community and the diversity of volunteering in action. Best entries will be shortlisted for exhibition and win prizes. Get your friends and family to take a photograph and win fantastic prizes!

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There are all kinds of people (and animals) that volunteer so have a look around Sligo, especially with the fleadh coming up and good luck.  You can check out all the details here.

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10 Things to do in Sligo

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.

Eagles Flying

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.

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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.

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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.

p10705814. Explore North Sligo.

IMG_9149Mullaghmore 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 and Seatrails

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.

IMG_8256Take 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.

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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.

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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.

 

dscf28787. 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.

Michael Quirke

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.

Isle of Innisfree

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.

Markree Castle10. 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.

Markree

And one for luck! I couldn’t leave this one out:

Lough Easkey

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin Zoo with Canon and The Sunday Club

IMG_5234Canon-Ireland in conjunction with The Sunday Club ( a unique club for Sunday Times readers) had a photography masterclass at Dublin Zoo this weekend. I was trying to win tickets but wasn’t lucky. Lucy got invited along though and I was her +1 so off we headed yesterday morning on the 7am train from Sligo – Dublin.

IMG_5218We got to Dublin Zoo and were greeted by friendly Canon staff. We were then shown the most amazing slide show of work by award-winning photographer Mike Brown, I’m totally in awe and would love to take images even half as good as he does. He gave us some really good tips and advice…I could tell you but I’d have to kill you ;) Ah no he was saying try to get to the same level as the animal or if you are taking a photo looking down make sure there is a good background. He also said backgrounds are almost as important as the photo itself, if you have a ‘busy’ background it will detract from the image itself. Another tip was try to get the animals doing something interesting like eating or yawning and try to get eye contact. Easier said than done…although I find it easier taking photos of animals sometimes rather than people…people have an awful habit of complaining….or saying ‘don’t take my photo’ as they brush their hair ready for a photo. You never get that with an animal ;)

She's not that into you

After our slide show and talk we got to wander around the zoo and were left to our own devices. The first thing we saw was this beautiful peacock, he was trying to impress his lady friend but she wasn’t interested in the slightest, he even wiggled his bum at her but she couldn’t care less.

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Next stop was the elephants to see the new baby – the same idea as everyone else had. The baby was hiding under his mum so I didn’t get a good photo but he was very cute.

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We had a lovely wander around the zoo. Mike was walking around offering advice to us as we snapped away, I’d love to see the shots he got. Lucy got some brilliant shots here is her blog about it.

IMG_5368It’d be great to go back to the zoo again, I like some of the photos I took but I think I could do better. I’d also love to go to Fota Wildlife Park one day, I’ve never been to Cork and it’s one place I’d love to visit, I’ve been told Fota is a great place.

IMG_5405When we had finished taking photos we went back to the Canon centre and got to print some of our photos out on the Canon printers. We could just insert the card into the printer and see the shots on an LCD display – no need for a computer! They came out great and it was lovely to see the shots we had just taken.

IMG_5298Thanks so much to Canon, The Sunday Times Club, Mike Brown, Dublin Zoo (including the wonderful animals) and Lucy for a brilliant day out. I learned so much and I really hope they run another event again soon. The rest of my photos are here.

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