Mesmerising Beauty of County Sligo

County Sligo

Updated On: April 15, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Another brilliant place you must visit on a trip to Ireland is the mesmerising County Sligo on the north-west coast. A place that is renowned for its stunning scenery and as a popular surfing hotspot. A place that has inspired the work of award-winning poet William Butler Yeats.

The coastal views and colourful villages are enough to inspire anyone. Sligo is known worldwide for having some of the most incredible beaches. These beaches allow visitors to participate in many exciting water sports, especially surfing. It is the third most popularised county in the province of Connacht.

There is much to see and do in County Sligo; it is the perfect coastal break in Ireland.  Every part of the Sligo landscape has its own unique story to tell.

County Sligo is where you’ll find great food, friendly locals, unique arts and literature and a rich and ancient history that’s not to be missed.

County Sligo
County Sligo

History of County Sligo

The County was first created in 1585 by the Lord Deputy at the time, Henry Sidney, but it wasn’t official until after the Nine Years War ended in 1603. The capital city of County Sligo is also named ‘Sligo’.

The Irish Translation for Sligo means “Shelly Place”, which is still one of its essential industries here. For many centuries, the county has sustained itself by being an excellent place for shellfish sourcing.

The City of Sligo

Sligo Ireland
Sligo Ireland

As mentioned above, Sligo Town is the capital city of County Sligo. Sligo is a historical, cultural and commercial centre of regional importance in the West of Ireland. It is the 12th largest city in Ireland and the 2nd largest in the country’s west.

The town offers one of the most picture-postcard-worthy landscapes, with ancient and majestic mountains in the north and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. It provides the most fantastic beauty without all the crowds. So you can take the time to enjoy the place and its surroundings.

Over the last 20 years, the town of Sligo has seen massive changes, just like many places in Ireland, as it has become more modern and a popular tourist destination. Millions of pounds have been invested in Sligo to make it more appealing and attractive. With new shopping centres, restaurants, the development of derelict areas and more, Sligo has redefined itself to keep up with the ever-changing modern Ireland and the rest of the world.

But it is still a place where its history and traditions have not been compromised. This offers the best of both worlds for people who want something modern and those looking to explore history.

So, if you plan to head to County Sligo, their capital city is a must. Sligo is more than just a pretty place. It offers a range of amenities, including local attractions and historical sites.

Attractions in County Sligo

Inishmurray Island

Inishmurray Island County Sligo
Inishmurray Island County Sligo

Located on the coast of County Sligo, you will find the mystical Island of Inishmurray. It is one of Ireland’s best examples of an early Christian settlement. It is also famous for its wild scenery and wildlife sanctuary.

To get to the island, you need to take a boat ride where you can explore its fascinating landscape. Up until the 1900s, the island was still inhabited. When you arrive on the island, you can explore the well-preserved monastic founded in the 6th century by St.Molaoise.

Many boat trips include a lovely journey from Rosses Point, passing some ancient lighthouses and landmarks along the way. Occasionally, you might see dolphins. The abandoned Island is one of Ireland’s most beautiful places to visit. It is one of County Sligo’s hidden gems.

The Model Art Gallery

You will find one of Ireland’s best contemporary art galleries and cultural centres in County Sligo. The centre was first built in 1862 as a Model School, and the current building has been refurbished and extended twice. In 2010, architect Sheridan Woods extended the building by over a third in size to create its now world-class visitor centre.

The now award-winning building is home to the fantastic Niland Collection of Art. The Niland collection is one of Ireland’s most notable collections featuring work from Jack and John B. Yeats, Paul Henry, Estella Solomon and many others.

The Model Gallery has been praised for its experimental nature, which has seen the gallery critically tackle war and contemporary religious issues.

Visitors can also enjoy food at the onsite restaurant, a performance space, and a bookshop. If you go to the top floor, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Sligo. The best bit of all, you can enjoy what’s on offer inside the Model Building for free.  So, you shouldn’t have any excuses not to visit the award-winning gallery.

Lissadell House

While in County Sligo, take a trip to one of the most historic houses found in Ireland, which once belonged to the famous Gore-Booth Family. Contance Markievicz, a family member, was one of the leaders in the 1916 Rising. She was also the first woman to be elected to Dail Eireann, where she worked as the Minister for Labour.

Constance wasn’t the only successful family member; her sister Eva was a poet of distinction and an active Suffragist. Her brother Joslynn created one of Europe’s most amazing horticultural estates at the Lissadell House.

The brilliant poet W.B Yeats, a good family friend, has even stayed in the house. Yeats even wrote about his time at the house in his poetry.

You Can Read The Poem Below:

“The light of evening, Lissadell
Great windows open to the south
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle. …

Many a time, I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.” –  W.B. Yeats

Today, the house is owned by Mr and Mrs Walsh and is home to their seven children. But they welcome visitors to the estate during the season to explore the house and grounds that offer a rich and exciting history. Lissadel House underwent a massive restoration after 70 years of neglect; now, it has become a great place to visit.

LIssadell House County Sligo
Lissadell House County Sligo

Things worth seeing at Lissadell House include the Alpine Garden, first created in 1740 as a pleasure garden. It was restored in 2004 after years of neglect. Today, the garden is a tribute to the past gardeners who worked on it from the beginning. You could get lost in the garden’s undeniable beauty.

There are also some great exhibitions, including one on W.B. Yeats and his brother Jack Yeats. The 1916 exhibit and the Countess Markiewicz exhibit are also worth checking out.

Visit the tearoom at Lissadell House to enjoy home-baked foods with afternoon tea. It is the perfect way to finish off a trip to Lissadell House.

Sligo Beaches

Mullaghmore Beach

Mullaghmore Beach Sligo
Mullaghmore Beach Sligo

As mentioned, County Sligo has a great selection of beaches. One of our personal favourites is Mullaghmore Beach. The beach is located in the gorgeous little village of ‘Mullaghmore’.

This rural sandy beach stretches for 3km, offering picturesque views and the perfect family-friendly environment. It is also a popular surfing spot, so whether you enjoy surfing yourself or enjoy watching it, you’ll find it here. The waves here offer some fantastic surfing conditions, and in 2013, ‘Lonely Planet’ considered Mullaghmore Beach one of the world’s best surfing spots.

You can’t go wrong with Mullaghmore if you want a lovely place to stay in County Sligo. The village is home to some tremendous seaside hotels and B&Bs. You will also find a variety of seaside bars and restaurants you can visit after a day spent at the beach.

In the centre of the village, you will find a 19th-century harbour where sailboats still come and go. You can even book a trip from the harbour to the nearby attraction, Inishmurray Island. Or just relax and enjoy watching the boats & people come and go.

Many of the seafood dishes in the restaurants and bars come right from this harbour- so you won’t get fresher food than here.

Rosses Point Beach

Rosses Point Sligo
Rosses Point Sligo

Another popular and award-winning Sligo beach is Rosses Point; it is not to be missed.  This beach is located outside Sligo and offers visitors the perfect sandy beach set on the Wild Atlantic Way.

The loveliest views of Knocknarea in the south and Benbulben in the north will greet you.  Head to the discovery point to see even more amazing views, such as Coney Island and Oyster Island. From Rosses Pier, you can even take a boat ride out to Coney Island and check it out. It is a great place to go fishing or enjoy the scenery.

Since a lot of the area is undeveloped, it has long been a place where you’ll find a variety of wildlife. These include a colony of grey seals and dolphins, basking sharks, and some people have even spotted whales. This incredible thing brings people to the area, hoping to spot the different wildlife.

The area is also thought to have inspired the paintings of Jack. B Yeats, the brother of William. B Yeats. You can see exhibitions of his artwork located at the Models Art Centre in the town of Sligo.

Amazing Castles

Classiebawn Castle Sligo
Classiebawn Castle Sligo

There are two incredible castles in County Sligo, which are steeped in history: Classiebawn Castle and Ballymote Castle.

Overlooking the village of Mullaghmore is the dominating Classiebawn Castle. Although it can’t be accessed directly, it is a significant landmark. It is often considered one of those fairy-tale castles that beautifully adds character to the Sligo landscape.

The 19th-century castle is located on three thousand acres and is surrounded by a stone boundary wall. Classiebawn Castle has a long and exciting history that has been home to various people. The closest you may get to it is from Mullaghmore Bay, but it still looks impressive even from afar.

Then there is Ballymote Castle, a 14th-century castle located on the outskirts of Ballymote in southern County Sligo’. It was once considered one of the strongest castles in Ireland. Today, it remains an impressive ruin.  Ballymote Castle also offers an intriguing history. The castle was at the centre of local conflicts for many centuries.

Although you can’t explore inside, the castle is still a beautiful piece of history and architecture.

The Impressive Cairn of Knocknarea

A must-visit in County Sligo is a trip to one of Ireland’s most significant megalithic monuments. The site of Knocknarea Cairn is a sizeable Neolithic monument. It is believed to have been built before 3,200 BC. Also called Maeve’s Cairn, as in Irish legends, it is thought to be the resting place of Queen Maeve of Connaught. However, the Cairn has never been explored, even though there is a huge possibility that a tomb lies buried below.

Knocknarea Mountain, where the Cairn is located, is an impressive landmark in County Sligo that dominates the skyline. It was formed over 300 million years from Limestone; at the top of the summit, you’ll find the Cairn of Knocknarea. Once at the top of the mountain, you’ll be greeted by fantastic panoramic views of Sligo. It is one of those beautiful places where land meets the sky.

If you want to understand the incredible history of the area and its landscape further, head to the interpretive centre at Carrowmore.

Sligo: The Home of a Famous Writer

No Trip to County Sligo would be complete without learning more about one of their greatest exports, William Butler Yeats. For those who don’t know who he is, Yeats is one of the best poets from Ireland. He was a significant figure in 20th-century literature and has even won a Nobel Prize for his work.

Yeats spent much of his childhood growing up in Sligo, and his early poetry was inspired by his time there. Especially the awe-inspiring landscape that surrounded him.  He has even referred to County Sligo as “The Land of Heart’s Desire”.

Yeats Country

Touring Sligo is one of the best ways to discover the place that inspired him and maybe even you.

Sligo has also dedicated some attractions to the poet, such as the Yeats Society in the Yeats Memorial Building. The society was founded in 1958 to honour the memory of W.B. Yeats. Here, you’ll find his incredible work of poetry and other writings being showcased. It also includes the Yeats Photographic Exhibition and the Yeats Gallery.

It is a place to explore his work and meet other people interested in poetry.  You will also find the Yeats International Summer School here, which attracts people worldwide.

The centre is not just about William Yeats. It also explores his other talented family members. One is his Brother, Jack Yeats. Jack was a successful artist, and society offers a glimpse into his best work.

One of W.B. Yeats’s best pieces of work, ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, was inspired by the lakes and mountains and the general captivating scenery of Sligo. It is about Innisfree, a tiny island in Lough Gill that is now a place of pilgrimage.

Check Out the Poem Below:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,                                                                     And a small cabin builds there, of clay and wattles made;                                                Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,                                           And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,                                  Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;                                    There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,                                              And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day,                                                             I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;                                              While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,                                                 I hear it in the deep heart’s core.” – W.B Yeats

Places to Eat in County Sligo

Sligo offers the most amazingly delicious food; most ingredients and dishes are sourced from Anere, an excellent variety of eateries that offer something for everyone, from pub food to award-winning seafood restaurants to food markets and more.

Eithna’s By the Sea

Located in Mullaghmore, this is one of the best seafood restaurants in Sligo, offering beautiful views of Mullaghmore harbour. It’s the perfect restaurant by the sea, and when the sun is shining, they have a lovely outdoor seating area. It is a friendly and family-run restaurant that has been around for over 16 years. It has won a few awards for its fresh and tasty seafood, shellfish, and lobster dishes, which you must try. But if you’re not a big fish fan, don’t worry; they have many other options, including meat and vegetarian dishes.

Hargadon’s Pub

Visit this brilliant 1868 pub that blends old traditions and gastropub style. Hargadon’s pub prides itself on creating good, honest Irish cuisine with a casual and welcoming environment. The place does its best to source its food locally to give the guests an authentic taste of Sligo. Here, you can enjoy a great selection of food and the perfect pint of Guinness. You can’t pass up the opportunity to get some Guinness in Ireland.

Miso Sligo

If you want to try something different in Sligo, then Miso is a must-try. The place offers a fantastic variety of Japanese and Korean-style food. A few of the most popular things you can try here are the different selections of sushi and the miso ramen. It is one of Sligo’s hidden gems that not many people know.

Rathcormac Food and Craft Market

Lough Gill County Sligo
Lough Gill County Sligo

Although the market is small it is still worth visiting while you are in Sligo. It is a locally produced food and craft market where you can wander around and try the different ready-to-eat foods.  It is a great way to spend a Saturday morning with a great selection of stalls and a fantastic atmosphere. It’s great because you’ll support local businesses and never know what treasures you’ll uncover here.

Unmissable Sligo

If all this doesn’t make you want to start planning a trip to County Sligo, then I don’t know what else will. County Sligo is one of the most authentic Irish places in Ireland. A place where you’ll find some treasured ancient sites. It is A place that has inspired the poetry of W. B Yeats with its natural and magical landscape. Sligo is a place to be treasured and where you’ll feel right at home.

Have you ever visited County Sligo? We would love to hear about your experiences!

Also, don’t forget to check out related blogs that might interest you:

Things you Should Miss out in County Fermanagh| The Unendowed and Rich History of County Down| The Beauty of County Limerick| Waterford Ireland’s Oldest City| Famous Irish Authors Who Helped Promote Irish Tourism| The Beauty of County Limerick|

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