<note: this post was originally written in 2010 but it gets a lot of traffic so I’ve updated it – in 2014 – and the below is an amended version of the original post>
I’ve been to a whole host of tourism type meetings in the last few weeks and inspired by all the great things people have to say about Sligo, here’s my own personal “Top 10″ things to do if you’re visiting. There are tons more of course but this will get you started. Best thing about Sligo is that all of these things are about 15mins drive from each other too, so you should be able to get lots of them in on any visit.
1) Climb a Mountain
If you want an easy option walk up Knocknarea and visit with Queen Maeve. It’s a pretty easy walk, but it can be VERY cold on the top if it’s windy at all, so layer up. The views from the top are breathtaking- you can see 5 counties (sligo, Mayo, Donegal, Leitrim, Roscomoon) laid out below you like a Postman Pat episode, and legend has it that Maeve is buried standing up – weapon in hand. About an hour round trip, it can be a little slippy so wear good shoes.
A tougher walk- a proper hike really- is Benbulben, our very own table-top mountain. For years there’s been access issues for walkers but the county council have managed to come to some arrangement with the landowners. You can find out more about the new route on sligowalks.ie
2) Take off for the island
Coney Island is a teeny little island off the coast of Sligo- smack in the middle between Strandhill and Rosses Point. You can reach it by land when the tide is out, so you have to be careful with the times, but that makes it all the more special. Generally it’s ok to cross about 2- 3 hours before low tide, but you can usually tell by looking – if the tide is all the way out you’re good to go in a car, but be careful when walking. Beautiful, quiet and Cartystown beach is a great bathing beach.
This web page is good for tide times for 4 weeks in advance (just select sligo/oyster island and give it time to load) or if you’re in sligo you can pick up a tide timetable in Call of the Wild in town – it’s very cheap little guide. The Irish Times also publishes a daily tides timetable.
Whether you surf, or just want to watch the surf, head for Strandhill. Great walks, great grub (Shells Cafe – easily some of the best food in Sligo), Great Pizza (Bella Vista - which even does gluten free pizza bases), Great pubs (The Strand Bar - perfect Sunday papers territory in the winter and great for big Rubgy/football matches on tv) and great relaxing from Voya Seaweed baths - which should be a Top 10 entry all by themselves. You can honestly spend a whole day out there doing very little except chilling out.
4) Visit The Model
A fabulous building full of light, space and lovely people. There’s galleries, free wifi, a cinema, a music theatre, and a terrific little cafe restaurant. Check www.model.ie for what’s on during your visit. Park in Connaghton Rd (€2.50 for the day) and use it as a base for the day to explore the town. Views from up there are great too. If you’re wandering down into town from there you can also grab a coffee in Kates Kitchen (which is a gorgeous food store and deli), and check out Sligo Abbey which is a beautiful spot for photographs.
5) Have a proper pint
Sligo has loads of “proper” pubs. The best two in town are; Hargedons- spruced up but still old school. Lovely staff, best pint of Guinness in town, and lovely lovely wine served in glasses from a real bottle, none of your terrible mini-pub-bottles going on. Oh- and great pub grub too. If you want a less sprucy version head to Connolly’s. It stretches between two streets and traditionally it was marginally fancier on the Markievicz Road end- which was where the bankers and solicitors from Stephen’s Street drank, than it was on the Holborn Street side where the folk from the hill drank. The two had to meet in the middle where the toilets are positioned. Another good call for a proper pint, and some live music if you’re lucky, is Fureys on Bridge Street and if its the craic you’re after check out McGarrigles, especially at the weekend.
6) Walk a Beach
Strandhill is amazing, as already noted, and Mullaghmore makes for a good walk (and big wave surfer spotting – and I mean BIG) , but Streedagh beach is the best one for my money. It’s just before Grange in North Sligo, and is sign-posted if you keep your eyes peeled- look left after the Supervalu. When you land on the beach drive keep right and head for the further beach. Great walk and if you’re doing it in the winter and want to get warm afterwards head to Lang’s pub in Grange. Get to the old mans part of the pub (on the left) and order a toastie and a pint. Sweet as.
7) Seek out some peace
Drive around Lough Gill (I suppose I have to quote Yeats at least once; “where peace comes dropping slow”) and stop off at Dooney Rock for a great viewing spot of the landscape (take the route to the right at the car park), Slish Wood (which has a proper path so is great for buggies and little ones and is so beautiful along the lake – see my pics from a recent wander here) The Lake Isle of Inishfree (yep- the Yeats one) and then finish up at The Holy Well which is a curious mix of catholicism and pagan traditions but incredibly peaceful.
8 ) Slow Shopping
Sligo’s a great spot for some old-fashioned browsing in little shops. You want Grattan/Castle Street (one becomes the other) where you can poke about in Georgian Antiques, Kate’s Kitchen (fab deli and beauty shop), Cosgroves (actual old school deli with supplies in sacks and money worked out on a brown paper bag- KILLER cheeses), Oxfam, and Tir na Nog. If you like vintage bargains wander up the hill to The Curiosity Shop, and if you’re lucky with the date you visit you might catch The Sligo Flea while you’re in town. The aforementioned Shells Cafe in Strandhill has a beautiful little shop of gorgeous things.
9) Hear some Music
Sligo has more music than you could possibly wish for, but it’s often hard to uncover. There is great Trad/folk in pubs like McGlynn’s (called “Dudes” locally- the Dude himself plays on Sunday nights), Foley’s (very knowledgeable owners and tons of regular old school sessions), and Shoot the Crows. There’s lots of great Jazz – often in the Factory or The Harp, top classical music, more contemporary music in The Model and touring gigs in Barry’s of Grange (guitar a speciality), and McGarrigles in Sligo town. Check Sligo Events for listings. Sligo Live takes place every October bank holiday weekend and has both big names and local musicians on the bill. Sligo is also going to host the Fleadh Ceoil (HUGE Irish traditional festival) in 2014 and 2015.
10) Find the Horseshoe
The Glenliff Horseshoe Drive is pretty great. You can see Diarmuid and Grainne‘s cave, see lots of ruined houses, gorgeous scenery and a “magical” road where you can get your car to roll “up” a hill. – look out for the Blackboard sign hanging from a tree on the left (so irish that one, I love it) to find the spot, leave the car on, and in gear, and you’ll roll up the hill without using the accelerator, good fun. This one is a perfect rainy day driving route, and you can still pop out in Grange and go for that recommended pint and toastie in Langs.
Do let me know if you do any of these, especially if you have pictures, and if you have your own top 10?