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 no I think. I can’t find a link online yet but I’ll get one and post it. The new public route is via the Coilte forest out there.
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. A local developer has built a handy smartphone app that lists the tides here> and once you get out on the island you can just ask in the pub! Beautiful, quiet and Cartystown beach is a great bathing beach.
Whether you surf, or just want to watch the surf head for Strandhill. Great walks, great grub (Shells Cafe), Great Pizza (Bella Vista - even does gluten free), Great pubs (Strand) and great relaxing from Voya Seaweed baths, and now there are great bikes you can borrow and cruise around in. You can honestly spend a whole day out there- perfect Sunday papers territory in the winter.
4) Visit The Model
Declaration- I have/do work here but it is a fabulous building full of light and lovely people. There’s galleries, free wifi, a cinema, a music theatre, and soon to be a terrific restaurant. 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 grab a coffee in Cafe Arabica (Illy Coffee- my favourite) where owner Colm is a mine of information and good humour, and check outSligo 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. Oh- and great 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.
6) Walk a Beach
Strandhill is amazing, as already noted, and Mullaghmore makes for a good walk, 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 and order a toastie and a pint. sweet as.
7) Seek out some peace
Drive round Lough Gill (I suppose I have to quote Yeats at least once; “where peace comes dropping slow”) and stop off at Dooney Rock, Slish Wood, 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.
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.
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 Tobergal Lane, top classical music, more experimental and electronica in The Model and touring gigs in Barry’s of Grange (guitar a speciality), and McGarrigles in Sligo town. Check Sligo Events for listings.
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.
Let me know if you do any of these, especially if you have pictures, and if you have your own top 10?