The north west of Ireland boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country and Sligo is the beating heart of this picturesque region.
When I embark on my Ryan Tubridy Show adventures along the Wild Atlantic Way, Sligo town is always one of my favourite spots to visit. Nestled in the north-west of the country sandwiched by mountains on one side and a rugged coastline on the other, this gateway city is full of charm, culture and craic – making it the perfect destination for a staycation, all year round.
Earlier this summer, I stopped off in Sligo for an unforgettable stay. My only regret is that I didn’t have longer to spend in this lovely part of the world. Here’s my favourite bits of what Sligo has to offer...
Life's a beach and so is Sligo!
The west of Ireland isn’t always renowned for its climate but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter in Sligo with its glorious, sandy beaches one of its biggest draws for visitors. Sligo, or 'Sligeach’ in Gaeilge, loosely translates to ‘shelly valley’, because it’s quite literally full of beaches. This stretch of coastline will have you spoiled for choice between Mullaghmore, Rosses Point, Streedagh and Strandhill.
The charming fishing village of Mullaghmore plays host to one of Sligo’s most popular beaches, which is great for swimming or stretching the legs. Using the beach as your starting point, take a stroll - or a drive - to the nearby Classiebawn Castle, which is known for its links to the British royal family. This gorgeous looped walk is the perfect way to work up an appetite before heading back to the village for something to eat in Eithna’s by the Sea.
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Rosses Point is another popular spot, boasting three amazing beaches and a gorgeous promenade walk through the village which gives you spectacular views of Sligo bay. A great place for a swim or a spot of golf, Rosses Point is also home to Sligo Yacht Club. The Little Cottage Café and The Driftwood will keep you fed and watered, while Harry’s Bar and Austie’s Pub will provide plenty of entertainment in the evenings.
For anyone who fancies a trip out on the water, Wild West Sailing in Calry has courses for everyone from beginners to advanced sailors, offering a new perspective of the Wild Atlantic Way from the waves.
Streedagh beach and Strandhill beach are more of a surfer’s paradise with the wild Atlantic waves providing an excursion for those with a sense of adventure. If you fancy giving the surfing a bash, the Sligo Surf Experience team in Strandhill village will kit you out and keep you safe on the water, expertly guiding you through a lesson and leaving you with an unforgettable life experience. A visit to Strandhill isn’t complete without stopping off for a coffee and a bite to eat in Shells Café and I am yet to leave the village without calling into Mammy Johnston’s for some homemade ice-cream, irrespective of the weather!
Take a hike
If you prefer to keep your adventures on land, Sligo is a dream for anyone with a love for walks, hikes and adventure trails.
Few people leave Sligo without taking a trip up a Knocknarea and with good reason. Located just 15 minutes outside of the town, it takes around an hour to summit with incredible scenery the whole way up, topped off by Queen Maeve’s cairn at the peak, which provides the ultimate panoramic viewpoint of the surrounding areas.
If you fancy something longer, the Gleniff Horseshoe offers a spectacular mountain vista just 20 minutes the other side of town. This distinctive landscape is steeped in Irish folklore and is home to the country’s highest cave, Kesh Corran, the supposed last hiding spot of ill-fated lovers Diarmuid and Grainne. Keep an eye out for unparalleled views of the table-top mountain Benbulben or take a walk in the woodlands and soak up the best the Irish countryside has to offer.
A wander along the Gleniff loop can take up to two and half hours, but the six-mile stretch is easily accessible by car and will definitely be a highlight of your trip (and your Instagram feed!).
Poetry in motion
Sligo is not only renowned for its natural wonders; it is also a cultural haven. Known as Yeats’ Country to many, Sligo is famed as the resting place for Irish poet W.B. Yeats. Drumcliffe Graveyard, set in the shadows of the impressive Benbulben, plays host to thousands of tourists each year who stop off to pay their respects to the wordsmith with his grave a major draw to those with an appreciation for the arts.
Call into the Drumcliffe Tea House where you can peruse the offerings of local artists and craftspeople, while Jill and her team look after you with a variety of mouth-watering baked goods.
A taste of heaven
Sligo town is fast establishing itself as a hotspot for foodies on the Wild Atlantic Way, offering the best in everything from quirky cafés to traditional Irish gastropubs and exceptional restaurants.
O’Connell Street is home to Knox Café and Hargadons Pub, both of which are unrivalled when it comes to quality food and atmosphere. The chowder in Hargadons will have you salivating on the spot, while Knox is renowned for its wholesome home-cooked breakfast and lunch offerings.
The vegan community will thank me for introducing them to the delectable Sweet Beat Café situated on Bridge Street, a real gem in the health food space.
An evening meal is best enjoyed at the wonderful Hooked restaurant on Rockwood Parade, or by the sea at Austie’s Bar in Rosses Point where the freshly caught seafood rivals the best in the world.
Steeped in culture, abundant in natural beauty and brimming with delicious food – what more could you ask from a destination? Pack the car and get going – Sligo and the Wild Atlantic Way awaits!
I’ll be back on the Wild Atlantic Way with the Ryan Tubridy Show on August 19th so listen in for more adventures. For more inspiration to plan your next trip to the Wild Atlantic Way visit: www.wildatlanticway.com.