As we are coming into tourist season in Ireland here are my ten choices of things to do – in no particular order. The list isn’t exclusive to tourists either, it’s amazing how many Sligo people have never explored their county, maybe this will inspire some of you.
1. Talk to the Animals.
Eagles Flying in Ballymote is one of my favourite places in Sligo and it’s amazing how many locals have never been. You will get to see all kinds of animals including an albino hedgehog, a pick-pocket racoon, ferrets, donkeys, horses and of course the birds of prey. The birds fly right over your head and in some cases will even land on you!
You get to hear all about this fascinating creatures in an informative and humourous way by the team at Eagles Flying. The flying show is usually held outdoors but if it’s raining they will move it inside. It’s for people of all ages and is a great day out, one you’ll remember for years to come.
Atlantic Sheepdogs is in North Sligo and is not to be missed. Martin will tell you about the various breeds of sheep and how each of his working sheepdogs understand their own language. Another one that is a day out for all the family and not to be missed.
2. The Sligo Town walking tour.
This takes place from Monday-Saturday from June until the end of August meeting at the Sligo Tourist Office, O’Connell Street at 11am. If you want to know more about Sligo this is the tour for you and it’s free! You will find out about the Yeats, Spike Milligan and Dracula connections with Sligo and a whole lot more. This is my blog post about one of the tours I went on.
3. Visit Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery.
In my opinion Carrowkeel is one of the most underated places in Sligo, everyone talks about the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery but I think Carrowkeel is a very special place. It’s slightly off the beaten track and there is no visitor centre so you are left to your own devices. The views across Lough Arrow when you get to the top are amazing, this along with all the tombs makes it a special experience just don’t do what I did…I forgot my camera! The blog post is here if you want to read and see more. If you go to Carrowkeel at the weekend you can pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary which is located near there, bring ginger nut biscuits and carrots and they’ll love you ? The donkey website is here.
4. Explore North Sligo
Mullaghmore is a very pretty seaside village. It’s well worth parking in the village and walking around the coastal loop where you will pass the imposing Classiebawn Castle. I have to highly recommend Eithna’s by the Sea as a place to eat, the food is a work of art and it’s no surprise it won the Georgina Campbell and BIM 2014 award for its seafood, shellfish and lobster dishes. Mullaghmore is the place to be for the ‘big waves’ when surfers come from all over the world for the Tow-in surf sessions.
Streedagh is a beautiful beach in North Sligo, the rocks are covered in fossils, it’s a popular location for surfers and it’s also the location of three Spanish Armada wrecks. Seatrails run great walking tours of various locations in Sligo, I’ve been on the Streedagh one and found it really interesting and informative, it’s a brilliant way to find out more about our coastal heritage.
Island View Riding Stables do some lovely beach treks near Streedagh, it’s like a little bit of heaven being on horseback along the golden sand, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. I went on a Heritage on Horseback trek with Seatrails and had a wonderful time.
Take a drive or a cycle around the Gleniff Horseshoe and Ballintrillick. This is an absolutely breathtaking location and so worth a visit. The Benwiskin Centre which is located nearby has some great information about the area which you can find here.
5. To the waters and the wild.
Don’t just stay on dry land in Sligo, it’s well worth checking out some of the water adventures. You can choose from surfing, kayaking, free diving, scuba diving, stand up paddling, boat trips, fishing trips and more.
I’ve been on a few boat trips. Wild Wet Adventures do kayaking, stand up paddling and more, I stuck to the boat as I wanted to take photos but I’m definitely going back again for a try at kayaking, here’s more about my solstice experience with John and the gang.
North West Adventure Tours run stand-up paddling and hiking tours.
Sligo Bay SUP run stand up paddling on lakes and the sea.
6. Eat, drink and be merry.
We have some of the most amazing restaurants, coffee shops and pubs in Sligo town. A few of my favourites are: Eala Bhan (they do a wonderful chocolate bomb dessert), Osta (for the best chocolate brownies in town), Fabio’s (real Italian ice-cream in Sligo), Heart’s Desire – the best coffee in town, The Blind Tiger – mint aero hot chocolate. I’m sure I’ve missed someone out but these are my pick.
As for the pubs most of them have live music sessions taking place during the week. I’ve been to a couple in Hargadons and The Swagman. McGarrigle’s, Thomas Connolly’s Bar, Earleys, Shoot the Crows. Sligo-Music is a good site to find out what music is on.
The Hawk’s Well Theatre have music, plays, shows and exhibitions taking place. The Model have music events and film screenings and exhibitions as well as a lovely cafe. The Hamilton Gallery and The Hyde Bridge Gallery also have exhibitions running.
7. Visit Strandhill and Rosses Point
Rosses Point is a lovely seaside resort, it’s safe to swim there so perfect for all the family. W.B. Yeats spent his summer holidays at Elsinore House, which is now a ruin. You can also see the old watch house, the ‘Waiting on the shore’ statue, the Metal man (one of only two in Ireland) and if you are getting a boat taxi to Coney Island it will leave from Rosses Point.
Strandhill isn’t safe for swimming but it’s very popular with surfers. One of my favourite days was spent in and around Strandhill, in the morning I climbed Knocknarea Mountain followed by a lovely seaweed bath in Voya, a walk to Killaspugbrone Church and lunch in the award-winning Shells Cafe. Such a perfect day. If you go to Strandhill on a Sunday you can also check out The Strandhill People’s Market which takes place from 11am-4pm.
8. Go Shopping
Sligo has some real gems when it comes to shopping, there are a few shops in particular I’d recommend. The first is Michael Quirke, not just a shop, an experience. Michael is a woodcarver and a great teller of myths and legends of Sligo. He will chat away to you as he works.
The Cat and the Moon, you are sure to get something special there and everything sold is handcrafted in Ireland.
M. Cosgrove and Son Delicatessen, one of the oldest shops in Sligo and a real treasure trove of all things nice. If there’s a type of food you are looking for this is the place to go to, if you can’t get it here it probably can’t be got in Sligo.
Angelworld, the minute you set foot in Angelworld you’ll feel relaxed. It’s a really lovely shop with some great gift ideas and not just angels either. If you are looking for a special present this is the place to go.
There are also two shopping centres in Sligo town; Johnston Court and the Quayside.
9. The Lough Gill Drive
This is perfect for any fan of the poet W.B. Yeats or if you want to see some beautiful scenery. You will get to see so many of the places he mentioned in his poems and places he stayed in when he was in Sligo. Follow the brown signs and head for Lough Gill. The first stop is Dooney Rock followed by Slish Wood, Innisfree, Dromahair and finally Hazelwood. All beautiful places.
10. Lough Easkey. In my opinion this is Sligo’s answer to Connemara. I only recently discovered this place, as you head out of Tubbercurry on the Ballina Road you can just follow the signs, the road gets quite narrow and beware of sheep and chickens in the middle of the road! It’s well worth the drive though, a very peaceful place (apart from the sheep). It’s also worth stopping in Tubbercurry especially if the Old Fair Day Festival is taking place, Cawley’s Hotel is the perfect base for exploring this area.
I hope this post has given you a few ideas of places to visit in our beautiful county. I have many more I could have listed but it would have turned into a book! Enjoy your visit and let us know what you enjoyed.