County Sligo Holiday Guide

Mystical County Sligo has attracted visitors for centuries – most notably the poet WB Yeats, who was inspired by the fantastic natural scenery and the mysterious prehistoric sites that are strewn around the countryside. If that was all there was to Sligo it would still be a popular destination, but there are also fantastic surf beaches, wildlife encounters and the energetic city of Sligo to entertain you.

County Sligo’s Heritage and History

Archaeologists believe that Sligo may have been the first place in Ireland to have been inhabited by humans and there are certainly lots of signs of Stone Age man’s activities. The megalithic tombs at Carrowmore are enormous with 30 surviving monuments, many of which are connected by sunken passageways. It is linked to the almost as impressive Carrowkeel tombs in the south of the county - both are suffused with the myths of the ancient gods and demons of Irish folklore.

Sligo became a county in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but the county town was a centre of dissent against English rule. The county was colonised by settlers after the 1641 uprising and several 18th and 19th century country estates survive, including Coopershill House, Hazelwood House, Annaghmore, Marktree Castle and Lissadell House, which was home to Countess Constance Markievicz, who was a rebel leader during the 1916 Uprising.

Nature and Scenery in County Sligo

Yeats was stimulated by the dramatic profile of Benbulben Mountain, part of the Dartry mountain range, a giant limestone table that is laced with precipices and cliffs. Knocknarea Mountain is less impressive from a distance, but the presence of a cairn at the peak has made it a place of pilgrimage for generations of Irish folklorists. The cairn is believed to be the resting place of Queen Maeve of Connacht, and experts believe the 30 feet high stone pile covers a passage tomb similar to Carrowmore.

The Mullaghmore peninsula is just below Benbulben and is world famous for its enormous surf waves and spectacular sandy beaches. Further down the coast is Strandhill which is good for windsurfing.

Lough Gill is the home of Innisfree, immortalised by Yeats in his poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and although the island is not accessible there are several boat tours that offer a close inspection.

Leisure and Sport in County Sligo

In addition to the surfing at Strandhill and Mullaghmore, Sligo has lots more watersports available – windsurfing, angling, kayaking, canoeing and sea fishing from several spots along the Atlantic coast. Dry land has lots on offer too – walks around Sligo Town, the Dartry mountain range, the Wild Atlantic Way, Bunduff Lake and to the thundering Glencar Waterfall. Cyclists have a good selection of routes around Lough Gill and the Atlantic coast, and golfers have 9-hole and 18-hole courses to choose from. And for a unique experience, you can even have a brush with an eagle at a sanctuary in Ballymote.

Events and Shopping

Sligo Town has weekly Yeats events and celebrates Yeats Day on 13 June every year. Visitors can also find the Sligo Food Festival every June, a walking festival every May, as well as the three-day Cos Cos Sean Nos Irish song and dance festival in May. For crafts and Irish arts, Sligo Town is the place to be – ceramics, basket weaving and knitwear are all available.

Guide to Exploring Sligo

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