Earlier this year I was exploring the heritage trail with a friend. It’s a really lovely walk, even if you just stick to the town part. We weren’t sure where Emlaghfad Church was, and it was hard to find information online, so I went back another day to explore that, but in this post I’ll tell you about the whole trail.
The trail starts at the Ballymote Town Park (it’s just on the right as you come into the town from the Sligo side). The park is beautiful, there’s a playground, so you could bring a picnic and make a day of it. There’s also a small stream running through the middle of the park, with some friendly ducks. Years ago there was a little train that was in operation at the weekends, but sadly that’s no longer in use.
Just across the park you’ll see Ballymote Abbey/Franciscan Friary, this dates back to the 1400s, and although it’s now a ruin it’s still worth a look. As you head back through the park, you’ll see the memorial of Brother Walfrid, who founded the Celtic Football Club in 1888.
The next stop on the heritage trail is Ballymote Castle. As you leave the park, Ballymote Station is on your left, and although this isn’t part of the trail it’s well worth a look, it dates back to the mid 1800s, and was a regular stop for Bram Stoker (who wrote Dracula). You can read more about Bram’s visit to Ballymote here, and see some photos I took of the former hotel where he stayed: https://sligobramstoker.weebly.com/articles/bram-stoker-in-ballymote
Cross the small carpark and take the underground tunnel to the Castle, I love this tunnel, it reminds me of something from a James Bond film (weird I know). The castle was built in the 1300s and it’s great to see it back open to the public.
After walking through the Ballymote Castle Park you’ll arrive at a road, cross the road and enter the Margaret Gormley Park. In this park you will find the old Corn Mill, this was built in 1795 and at the moment it’s a ruin. There were ambitious plans to turn it into a tourist attraction, but so far this hasn’t happened. Read about the plans here: https://www.independent.ie/regionals/sligochampion/news/plan-to-turn-ballymote-corn-mill-into-a-major-tourism-attraction-27568603.html
The final stop on the Ballymote Heritage Trail is Emlaghfad Church, this was quite confusing to find because there is an old Emlaghfad Church and the new one (which is in the town). The old one is around 2km outside Ballymote, take the Gurteen Road and keep a look to your left, you’ll see it up on a hill. If you take the next left turn you will get to it that way.
Emlaghfad Church was probably my favourite place on the walk, maybe because I’d never seen it before. Even though the church is in ruins, it’s still beautiful. The birds singing and the breeze blowing the wild flowers, the view of the fields and farms, it’s something magical.
If you want more inspiration, there’s a lovely video on Sligo Walks, that’s well worth a watch: https://sligowalks.ie/walks/ballymote-heritage-trail/