Another brilliant place that you must visit on a trip to Ireland is the mesmerising County Sligo in the north-west coast. A place that is renown for its stunning scenery and as a popular surfing hotspot. A place that has inspired the work of awarding-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 offer visitors the chance to take part in many exciting water sports especially surfing. It is the third most popularised county in the province of Connacht.
There is a lot 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 a place where you’ll find great food, friendly locals, amazing arts and literature and a rich and ancient history that’s not to be missed.
History of County Sligo
The County was first created back 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 that of the same name ‘Sligo’.
The Irish Translation for Sligo means “Shelly Place” which is still one of its important industries here. For many centuries the county sustained itself by being a great place for sourcing shellfish.
The City of Sligo
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 the 12th largest city found in Ireland and the 2nd largest in the west of the country.
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 amazing beauty without all the crowds. So you can really take the time to enjoy the place and its surroundings.
Over the last 20 years, the town of Sligo has seen huge changes just like many places in Ireland as it becomes 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, has seen Sligo redefine itself to keep up with 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’re planning to head to County Sligo then 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
Located on the coast of County Sligo you will find the mystical Island of Inishmurray. It is known for being one of the best examples of an early Christian settlement in Ireland. Also popular for its wild scenery and its wildlife sanctuary.
To get to the island you need to take a boat ride where you can explore it’s fascinating landscape. Up until the 1900s, the island was still inhabited. When you arrive to the island you can explore the well-preserved monastic that was first founded in the 6th century by St.Molaoise.
Many of the boats trips over include a lovely journey that starts from Rosses Point, passing some ancient lighthouses and landmarks along the way. Occasionally you might be able to see some Dolphins. The abandoned Island is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. It is one of County Sligo’s hidden gems.
The Model Art Gallery
You will find one of the best contemporary art galleries and cultural centres in Ireland located 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 architects Sheridan Woods extended the building over a third in size to create its now world-class visitor’s centre.
The now award-winning building is home to the amazing Niland Collection of Art. The Niland collection is one of the most notable collections found in Ireland that features work from Jack and John B. Yeats, Paul Henry, Estella Solomon’s and many others.
The Model Gallery has been praised on its experimental nature which has seen the gallery critically tackle issues of war and contemporary religion.
Visitors can also enjoy some food at the onsite restaurant, there is a performance space, a bookshop and if 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 really shouldn’t have any excuses to not visit the awarding-winning gallery.
While in County Sligo take a trip to one of the most historic houses found in Ireland that once belonged to the famous Gore-Booth Family. Contance Markievicz a member of the family was one of the leaders in 1916 Rising. She was also the first women to be elected to Dail Eireann where she worked at 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 the most amazing horticultural estates in Europe at the Lissadell House.
The house has even been stayed in by the brilliant poet W.B Yeats who was good friends with the family. 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 do welcome visitors to the estate during the season to explore the house and grounds that offer a rich and interesting history. Lissadel house went through a huge restoration after 70 years of neglect, now it has become a great place to visit now.
Things worth seeing at Lissadell House is the Alpine Garden that was 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 to check out including one on W.B Yeats and his brother Jack Yeats. As well as the 1916 exhibit and the Countess Markiewicz exhibit worth checking out.
Take a visit to the tearoom at Lissadell House where you can enjoy home baked foods with afternoon tea. The perfect way to finish off a trip to Lissadell House.
As mentioned before County Sligo has a great selection of beaches to enjoy. 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 amazing surfing conditions and in 2013 ‘Lonely Planet’ considered Mullaghmore Beach as one of the best surfing spots in the world.
If you are looking for a lovely place to stay in County Sligo you can’t go wrong with Mullaghmore. The village is home to some great sea-side hotels and B&B’s. You will also find a variety of seaside bars and restaurants that 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.
A lot 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
Another popular and awarding winning Sligo beach is Rosses Point, it is not to be missed. Just located outside Sligo, this beach offers visitors the perfect sandy beach that is set on the Wild Atlantic Way.
You’ll be greeted by the loveliest views of Knocknarea in the south and Benbulben in the north. Head to the discovery point to see even more amazing views where you’ll see out to 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 do some fishing or to simply 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 is one of those incredible things that bring people to the area, in hopes of spotting 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 on his artwork located at the Models Art Centre in the town of Sligo.
There are two incredible castles found in County Sligo which are steeped in history, they are 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 great landmark. It is often considered as 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 interesting history that has been home to a variety of people. The closest you may get to it is from Mullaghmore Bay but even from afar it still looks impressive.
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 greatest megalithic monuments that is left in Ireland. The site of Knocknarea Cairn is a large 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. Although the Cairn has never been explored even though there is huge possibility that a tomb lies buried below.
Knocknarea Mountain where the Cairn is located is one of the impressive landmarks 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 amazing panoramic views of Sligo. It is one of those beautiful places where land meets the sky.
If you want to further understand the incredible history of the area and its landscape 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 that don’t know who he is, Yeats is one of the best poets to come from Ireland. He was a significant figure of 20th-century literature and has even won a Nobel Prize for his work.
Yeats spent much of his childhood growing up in Sligo and a lot of 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”.
Touring Sligo is one of the best ways to discover the place that inspired him and maybe even inspire you in some way.
Sligo has also dedicated some attractions to the poet such as the Yeats Society in the Yeats Memorial Building. The society was first 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 where you can explore his work and meet other people interested in poetry. You will also find the Yeats International Summer School here that attracts people from all over the world.
The centre is not just about William Yeats it also explores his other talented family member. One being his Brother Jack Yeats. Jack was a successful artist and the society offers you a glimpse into his best work.
One of W.B Yeats 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 where most of the ingredients and dishes are sourced locally. There is a great variety of eateries in Sligo that offer something for everyone from pub food to awarding 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 that offers 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 that you must try. But if you’re not a big fish fan don’t worry because they also have plenty of other options including meat and vegetarian dishes.
Take a visit to this brilliant 1868 pub that offers a blend of two worlds of 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 guest 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 for some Guinness in Ireland.
If you’re looking to trying something different in Sligo, then Miso is a definite must try. The place offers a variety of Japanese and Koreans style food that is amazing. A few of the most popular things you can try here is 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
Although the market itself 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 wonderful atmosphere. It’s great because you’ll be supporting local businesses and you never know what treasures you’ll uncover here.
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. A place that has played a role in inspiring the poetry of W. B Yeats with its natural and magical landscape. Sligo is a place to be treasured and a place where you’ll feel right at home.
Have you ever visited County Sligo? We would love to hear about your experiences!
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