WB Yeats and Sligo

Today is Poetry Day Ireland so we have put together a blog piece on WB Yeats and Sligo. Ideas of where to visit, Yeats favourite walks and some interesting facts about the man himself.

WB Yeats Exhibition

A visit to the Yeats’ Memorial Building is a must. Currently being refurbished and due to reopen in April the Yeats Exhibition is full of facts about the Yeats family, the people and places which were a major influence on the life and career of WB Yeats, the man as well as the poet. Treasured artefacts such as Lily’s writing desk are in the collection too.

The previously unseen film of Yeats funeral in Sligo is an incredible piece of amateur footage shot by a musician named Jimmy Garvey. It lay undiscovered until his nephew found it and donated it to Yeats Society Sligo some years later. The film is shot in colour and provides a great historical view point of our town.

Find out more here

Drumcliffe Church

Known worldwide as the final resting place of WB Yeats Drumcliffe is an important historical stop off on your Yeats tour. Not forgetting that 1500 years ago St Columba formed a monastery centre in the north-west of Ireland for at least 1500 years. St. Columba founded a monastery here at Drumcliffe as Christianity spread throughout Ireland. There is a Cafe and an audio tour available.

High Cross, Drumcliffe

Yeats sites in Sligo Town

Rowan Gillespie’s statue of WB Yeats stands outside the Ulster Bank at Hyde Bridge in the centre of town.

Pollexfen House – on the corner of Wine Street was the headquarters of the Sligo Steamship Company, owned by William Pollexfen, WB’s grandfather.

Sligo Abbey, Abbey Street, is a 13th century abbey, now in ruins. One of WB Yeats most famous short stories, The Curse of the Fire and the Shadows, was based on a true event that took place in Sligo Abbey in 1642, when the Abbey was destroyed.Visit Sligo Abbey for more details.

St John’s Cathedral, John Street, is the burial place of WB Yeats’ brother Robert, who died in Sligo, aged 3. It also houses the graves of Yeats’ maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Pollexfen. His parents, John and Susan were married in the Cathedral in 1863. Visit St John’s Cathedral for more details.

The Model  houses contemporary art, including a collection of Jack B Yeats work. Jack was WB Yeats younger brother and a very well established artist.

See more Yeats sites across the county at yeatsscociety.com

Sligo Walks for lovers of WB Yeats

Sligo Walks always has an extensive list of fabulous walks in Sligo, but because of the day that’s in it, we’ll mention their favourites for Yeats fans.

Slish Wood
“Where dips the rocky highland of Sleuth Wood in the lake.”

Easily located just off the R287 between Sligo and Ballintogher, Slish (or Sleuth) Wood is a 3km looped walk which runs mainly along the shores of Lough Gill, with the option of linking up with a section of the Sligo Way for a longer linear walk.

According to Susan, the Sligo landscape provided Yeats’ poetry with a mythical quality:
SOK: “When you come to Sligo and walk in some of the places like Slish Wood or Dooney Rock, you feel that mystical thing, the landscape is so untouched, so wild, that you can feel quite easily how he could have been moved by that landscape.”


“The clouds are bundled up high over Knocknarea”

Knocknarea has two access routes, the first is along the Glen Road – exiting Sligo via Maugheraboy and driving for approximately 5km before turning to the right into the car park. The second, more recent access route, is from the Strandhill side, parking near Sligo Rugby Club and taking the clearly marked route from there. Pretty arduous, and good footwear essential. And there are plans to link both routes in 2018.

SOK: “I don’t think people associate Knocknarea so much with Yeats, but he understood always that there was magic in mountains and he talked also about putting your ear to Mother Earth and he loved looking at the landscape over Knocknarea.”

Ben Bulben
“Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid”

Yeats’ final resting place (though subject to some debate) is at Drumcliff, close to the turn for Lissadell, a quiet place for a moment of reflection as you look out towards Ben Bulben. A nearby drive north from here will bring you to the base of the iconic mountain, where a beautiful looped forest walk awaits.

SOK: “The majesty of the mountain certainly inspired him all his life, but he also had the belief and understanding from all the mythology and faery stories that there was indeed a trap door in the side of Ben Bulben.”

“In a field by the river,
My love and I did stand”

Located near Union Wood and the many different walkways there, Yeats found inspiration for his famous poem Down by the Salley Gardens in Ballisodare.

SOK: “It’s one of his best loved poems. It’s well rooted in people’s hearts and minds. Ballisodare was home to the Middleton Mills and they were part of his mother’s side of the family and he spent a lot of time in Ballisodare, he loved visiting there, he loved the folklore, he loved the river, he loved to fish, he loved to walk around in Ballisodare.”

In addition, we have other locations, such as Rosses Point, Cummeen Strand, Lissadell and of course the Lake Isle of Innisfree, to name but a few. All  close to Sligo, all accessible either by road or boat, and all worth putting on your must-do list for the weeks and months ahead.

For details on these and many other walks, visit sligowalks.ie.

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