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    Sligo Travel Guide 

    Author: Eimear Quinn
    More by Eimear

    Welcome to Sligo

    A region untapped, Sligo is the dream destination for anyone looking to get away from it all. Sligo calls out to thrill seekers wanting to surf and climb. It naturally holds a space for explorers wanting to discover ancient sites strewn around its landscape. And it encourages the artists among you to take inspiration from its wild Atlantic shores.

    Sligo has it all, and it’s ready to be discovered. So why not browse the travel guide below and learn more?

    Quick Access

    Where is Sligo?

    Sligo is located on the northern end of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland’s northwest. With Donegal to the north, Mayo to the south and the glens of Leitrim in the east, you will never be short of things to see and do with Sligo as your base.

    How do you get to Sligo?

    Knock Airport, Ireland’s fourth largest international airport, is just under an hour’s drive from Sligo town. The town itself has an Irish Rail depot with regular connections to Dublin Connolly, and Bus Eireann service routes to Galway and Derry via Donegal.

    For the sake of flexibility, we recommend that Ireland is best travelled by car or bicycle (for those feeling energetic). Not keen on driving yourself? Travel with a guide, and let us worry about the logistics and the details.

    Check out the map to better see Sligo and its surrounding areas.

    How to Visit

    By Car  Read More

    Travelling by car will allow you much greater flexibility while visiting. If you are time-limited, you will cover more ground and pack far more into your trip this way. There are many hidden treasures along those narrow, winding roads that, unfortunately, buses won’t reach. The downside of going by car is missing out on sampling the specialities of any distilleries and breweries you will want to visit – unless you can nominate a designated driver, of course.

    By Foot  Read More

    It’s totally possible to experience the best of Sligo on foot. You can choose to marvel at pristine beaches, quaint towns and idyllic harbours of the coastline via the Wild Atlantic Way.

    Or opt for an inland trek along the Sligo Way, where you can experience first-hand the archaeological and geological features the county has to offer.

    The Sligo section of the Wild Atlantic Way is approx. 150 km, starting at Mullaghmore Head and finishing at Enniscrone Beach.

    The Sligo Way is 80 km in length and starts at Lough Talt on the Sligo/Mayo border, finishing up at the beautiful village of Dromahair, Co. Leitrim.

    By Bike Read More

    Another energetic option to get around is by bike. It is worth considering that Irish roads can be quite narrow and busy as you will often be sharing routes with tour buses and other vehicles. Although there is no dedicated bike route along the Wild Atlantic Way, Sligo has plenty of stunning bike routes through striking mountains and glacial valleys.

    Music and the Arts

    Musicians in a pub

    Cheerful Irish trad music in a cosy pub.

    Live Music

    Traditional Irish, folk, rock, jazz, dance – whatever you’re into, Sligo has it. Throughout Sligo’s many cosy pubs, there is live music every night of the week, from local stars to visiting acts. You’ll find a mixture of traditional and contemporary music sessions, depending on your tastes. John the Map is a brilliant resource to follow what’s on around the county.

    Interested in Irish trad music? Check out our guide here, and bop along to our Ultimate Irish Playlist while you get a chance.

    Festivals

    Each year sees the return of Sligo Live, Wild Roots, Sligo Jazz Week, and the Cairde Arts Festival, to name a few. A mix of music and arts, the festivities attract visitors from far and wide to experience Sligo’s unique and vibrant culture. Most offer free events and exhibitions showcasing local and global talent.

    Yeats’ final resting place.

    W.B. Yeats

    Sligo heavily inspired the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, and many local sights and landscapes feature in his work – Glencar Waterfall, Hazelwood Forest, Benbulben mountain, the isle of Innisfree, the forests and geology around the lakeside Dooney Rock and Lissadell House and grounds, to name a few.

    As a result, his legacy lives on in the Yeats Society’s Summer School and the Fiddler of Dooney music competition. His final resting place is in Sligo, at Drumcliffe Church, beneath the majesty of Benbulben.

    Surfing waves

    Surfing at Easkey Beach in Co Sligo.

    Surfing

    Famous worldwide for its incredible surfing spots, Sligo is a water enthusiast’s playground. The Mullaghmore headland attracts big wave surfers, some riding up to 60 ft waves, particularly in winter. Even if surfing isn’t your thing, why not pull up a chair and a thermos of tea and watch the pros tackle the big waves?

    Other places of note for catching waves are Strandhill, Easky, and Streedagh. A new international centre of surf has opened in Strandhill, marking this sleepy beachside town as an ideal hub for surfing enthusiasts and beginners alike.

    If you don’t fancy the surf, grab your SUP board or kayak and opt for the gentler swell of the gorgeous Lough Gill.

    Learn more about surfing here.

    Blue silhouette of Knockanrea hill rising through the clouds

    Blue skies and mystical clouds embrace Knocknarea hill.

    Hiking & Mountaineering

    The slow adventure of a trek is a perfect way to get up close and personal with the sights, sounds, flora and fauna of your chosen expedition.

    There are four mountain ranges to choose from in Sligo – Dartry, Ox, Curlew and Bricklieve – and a wealth of trails among them. Most notable are Knocknarea, Benbulben, Benwhisken, Knocknashee, Carrowkeel, and Keash Hill.

    If you prefer an easier ramble, coastal walks such as Aughris Head, Dunmoran Strand and Mullaghmore Head are ideal options. Read more about coastal walks here.

    Pink sunset over a lake with a cyclist holding a bike up reflected in the water

    Gorgeous sunset over Sligo’s Lough Gill.

    Cycling

    Sligo offers plenty of options to get on your bike. Road cycling is hugely popular in Sligo, with gorgeous routes to choose from such as the Lough Gill Loop, the coast road to Enniscrone or the Ladies Brae route through the Ox Mountains.

    For those searching for more heart-pounding adventures, Mountain biking is also on the rise, with a brand-new MTB Trail Network in Coolaney.

    Check out our list of our favourite Irish bike loops here, which features Sligo’s lovely Lough Gill route.

    Food & Drink

    White Hag Brewery

    This Ballymote brewery boasts a wide range of unique stouts, ales, lagers, and IPAs. Their most popular beer is the Session IPA but they’re quite experimental in their offerings, with a sour range that has flavours of lime, mint and matcha as well as berry hibiscus and ginger. They hold an annual ‘Hagstravaganza’ in August to celebrate their birthday, attracting people from far and wide. Their beers are widely available in bars and shops around the county and would make a perfect gift for someone special. After you’ve had some yourself of course!

    Sligo Oyster Experience

    With its natural harbour and seafaring history, it’s fair to assume Sligo has some incredible seafood to sample. These guys source their oysters from Wild Atlantic Oysters in Sligo Bay, who cultivate oysters using a tradition that is traced back two centuries. From the farm, the oysters are brought to Sligo Oyster Experience for you to try, either natural or baked. The tour is a great way to learn about the history of oyster farming, the process and the preparation. It’s a must-do experience for seafood lovers and those curious to try.

    Knocknarea Farms

    Outside Strandhill, lying close to the foot of Knocknarea, this wholesome farm grows its nutrient dense produce using regenerative practices, with a holistic edge. They take care of the local community as well as they take care of their farm and are focused on inspiring others to do the same. It’s the perfect stop for all ages! As well as their popular farm shop, they offer tours on Saturdays and run regular open days.

    Cosy Pubs

    Thomas Connolly’s

    Dating back to 1780, this is the oldest pub in Sligo town. In 2023, it was awarded the title of the Best Pub in Ireland, so it’s certainly worth a visit. The weekend is the best time for music, but you can check out their Whiskey Bar any day of the week!

    The Dunes

    Located in the coastal surf-happy village of Strandhill, this trendy pub and restaurant overlooks the Atlantic and sits neatly below Knocknarea hill. It has a restaurant and cafe on site and hosts regular Open Mic nights.

    Harrys

    Known as “the pub with the well”, this maritime pub has been owned by the Ewing family since 1870. Located in Rosses Point, a small village on a headland to the north of Sligo town, it has views of Oyster and Coney Islands and is a great spot to catch traditional music.

    Dapper Duck

    Opening its doors in 2022, this duck-adorned pub is breathing new life into the rural community of Gurteen with its live music. There is always something on and always a warm welcome.

    The entrance to one of Carrowkeel’s many tombs.

    Carrowkeel & Keash

    A gentle ascent up Carrowkeel in the Bricklieve Mountains rewards you with multiple fascinating cairns to explore. They are evidence of Neolithic settlers in the area, and although they date as far back as 3500 BC, they remain relatively intact. From this summit, you will see how they align with other neighbouring cairns of the complex – such as Knocknarea, Heapstown Cairn and The Pinnacle at Keshcorran. Currently in a bid for UNESCO status, access to the site is limited. Check before visiting.

    Heapstown Cairn

    This is the largest site of the Carrowkeel complex and has many stories from Irish Mythology linked to it. The most notable tale hints that there is a well beneath the stones.

    The tale states that a druid named Dian Ceacht used this well to heal Dé Danaan warriors during battle by filling it with herbs and chanting spells. The Formorians, mortal enemies of the Dé Danaans, caught wind of this method and sought to end it. They filled the well with stones until they had covered it completely, creating the cairn we see today. Historically, Heapstown Cairn was once used to crown the chieftains of the local clan, the McDonaghs.

    Access to the site is closed, but it is visible by road.

    Sun-dappled hill and reflections in the water

    Knocknarea & Carrowmore

    The most famous cairn in the whole county, Knocknarea overlooks the surfing kingdom of Strandhill. Knocknarea is a commanding presence and striking feature of the landscape in North Sligo. Local lore tells it to be the final resting place of the fearsome Queen Maeve of Connacht, where she is buried standing upright, in full armour, facing her enemies in Ulster.

    There are two ways to climb the hill to the tomb from the top: from Queen Maeve car park, or up the boardwalk from the rugby club. There is also a longer walk that connects the paths into a loop at the base of the hill. Or combine Knocknarea with the coastal path of Killasprugsbrone to visit a medieval church with a connection to St Patrick.

    Nearby, don’t miss the incredible Carrowmore Neolithic site, one of Ireland’s richest and most dense spots for Neolithic monuments. Explore the dolmans, stone circles, and cairns of the Coolera Peninsula, and learn about Irish Neolithic archeology at the visitor centre.

    Lean More about Sligo’s archaeology on our guide here.

    Read More

    Things to See & Do in Sligo

    Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths

    If you would like to experience the power of the ocean without fighting against the waves, you can soak in the therapeutic calm of a hot seaweed bath at Kilcullen’s. This Edwardian Bath House was built in 1912 and has maintained its charm by staying in the same family for five generations.

    A full treatment is recommended and consists of a steam bath first, followed by a seaweed immersion in one of their large porcelain baths. Afterwards, head to the beach to enjoy the waters in a different way!

    Visit Lissadell House & Gardens

    Once called the ‘finest Greek-revival country house’ in Ireland, this grand estate was the childhood home of the Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz and her suffragist sister Eva Gore-Booth.

    It is a prime spot for anyone wanting to see first-hand a historical and cultural landmark that played host to Ireland’s revolution and literary renaissance (with regular visitors such as Maud Gonne and WB Yeats).

    Lough Talt Loop Walk & Lough Easky

    Hidden away in the Ox Mountains on the Sligo/Mayo border, Lough Talt is a glacial lake that flows into the River Moy and is the official starting point of the long distance Sligo Way trail. On the lake you’ll find the archaeological treasure trove that is Glennawoo Crannóg, a man-made structure that dates to the Early Medieval period. A short 5.5km walk takes you around the whole perimeter of the lake.

    Another Sligo Way lake option is the gorgeous Lough Easkey in south Sligo. This stunning 6km loop traverses remote bogs and skirts the lake’s quiet shores. Once you finish up, we recommend hopping over to the coastal town of Enniscrone for an ice cream or a pint.

    Climb Benbulben

    For a more strenuous hike, there’s no better spot than this gem in the Dartry Mountains crown. Benbulben is a table-topped feature of the Sligo skyline that formed uniquely from the moving glaciers of the last ice age. Made up mostly of limestone and mudstones, it is a protected geological site and very popular with walkers near and far.

    The best place to ascend is from Luke’s Bridge, where you will tackle bogland and gullies before reaching the plateau to marvel at the views over Sligo Bay. Please note – this is a difficult hike and should not be attempted without a guide.

    Visit Parke’s Castle

    Technically, including Parke’s Castle on this list is cheating, as it is located just over the border in Co Leitrim.  Despite this, we just had to include it. Parke’s Castle – once owned by the O’Rourke’s – is a stunning 16th-century castle perched along the shores of Lough Gill.

    A visit to the castle can be combined with a boat trip on the lake to get a view of Slgio by water. If water is your thing, why not try crack out the paddle and go for a kayak along the lake shores and islands?

    Devil’s Chimney (and Glencar) Waterfall

    So named because the wind often blows the water spray up like smoke, the Devil’s Chimney is a beautiful little corner of Sligo. Cascading 150 meters/ 492 feet, there are a number of trails around the area to explore the waterfall and surrounding woodland.

    Just over the Leitrim border, you can tick a second waterfall off the list: the beautiful Glencar, which inspired one of Yeats’ famous poems, ‘The Stolen Child.’ Warm up in the quaint Tea Shed nearby with a cake and a cuppa.

    Sligo Pop Culture

    • Sally Rooney’s award-winning TV-series Normal People was filmed at locations in Sligo, such as Tubbercurry and Streedagh Beach.
    • Bram Stoker was said to have been inspired by his mother’s horrendous recollections of cholera in Sligo while writing his horror classic, Dracula. Learn more about Dracula and Stoker here.
    • Queen Maeve from the comic book series, and popular TV show, The Boys, was allegedly inspired by Ireland’s own mythological Queen Maeve, who is said to be buried atop Knocknarea.
    • Neil Jordan, director of The Crying Game, Breakfast on Pluto, and Michael Collins, was born in Sligo.
    • Four out of five members of the Irish pop group Westlife hail from the shelly shores of Sligo. And there’s a mural in the town to prove it!

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    Meet the Author: Eimear Quinn

    Originally from Northern Ireland, Eimear is particularly interested in gardening from a Permaculture perspective, exploring the Irish landscape, understanding the rich and wonderful world of Irish mythology, legend and folklore, and preserving Irish language, tradition and music.

    View profile More by Eimear

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