The surroundings of Sligo, which lies on a wooded plain encircled by hills, have many features of interest.
To the east of the town of Sligo lies the scenically delightful Lough Gill, 5mi/8km long and well stocked with salmon, trout and pike. A drive round the lough, 23mi/37km, is an experience not to be missed. On a peninsula between its northwestern end and the River Garavogue stands Hazelwood House, a beautiful little Palladian mansion by Richard Cassels (1731).
To the north of Lough Gill, which lies to the east of Sligo, is picturesque Lough Colgagh, above which are the large old burial ground, the Deerpark Monument (National Monument) and other prehistoric structures. From the top of the hill there is a fine view of the lough.
Past Lough Colgagh, the road continuing around Lough Gill has on the east bank the picturesque Park's Castle (National Monument), a three-story rectangular building with a large 17th C. courtyard. The fortified mansion has been carefully restored and is open to the public.The attractions include audio-visual show, tearooms and exhibitions.
Opening hours: Mar 15 to Oct 31: 10am-6pm
Always opened on: June Holiday - Ireland (1st Monday, Jun), August Holiday - Ireland (1st Monday, Aug), October Holiday - Ireland (last Monday, Oct)
Entrance fee in EUR: Family €7.00, Adult €2.75, Senior €2.00, Group discounts €2.00, Child €1.25
Useful tips: Last admission 45 minutes before closing.
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
The R287 goes west from Creevelea Abbey, but in 4mi/6km turns north and runs along a valley back to the south bank of Lough Gill. Soon Dooney Rock is reached. This much visited viewpoint has been celebrated in song by Yeats, as has Inisfree Island near the south shore. From here, the route continues on the R287 to Dromahair.
From Dooney Rock, the route continues on the R287 to Dromahair, and 4mi/6km beyond takes a right turn and runs down through a valley to the south side of Lough Gill. From here can be seen Church Island, with a ruined church (National Monument), and the smaller Cottage Island.
The R287 from Dooney Rock to Dromahair takes a right turn 4mi/6km beyond Dromahair and runs down through a valley to the south side of Lough Gill. From here can be seen Church Island. To the north is Cairns Hill, on which there are various prehistoric remains. Then the route returns to Sligo on the N4.
17mi/28km southeast of Sligo on the N4 we come to Lough Arrow. If, on driving round it, we take a turning off to the east at Castle Baldwin, we come to the Heapstown Cairn.
17mi/28km southeast of Sligo on the N4 we come to Lough Arrow. If, on driving round it, we take a turning off to the east at Castle Baldwin, we come to the Heapstown Cairn. (National Monument), probably a passage grave, and then continue east to Lough Nasuil.
17mi/28km southeast of Sligo on the N4 we come to Lough Arrow. If, on driving round it, we take a turning off to the east at Castle Baldwin, we come to the Heapstown Cairn and then continue east to Lough Nasuil. In 1933 this remarkable little lough, some 330yd/300m in diameter and normally containing some 1,308,000cu.yd/1,000,000cu.m of water, suddenly emptied, remained dry for three weeks, and just as suddenly filled up again.
To the south of Lough Nasuil, beautifully situated on the shores of the lough, is Ballindoon Friary (16th C).
6mi/10km from Ballindoon Friary the route returns to the N4 at Ballinafad, which has a sixth century castle (National Monument) with massive corner towers.
Three miles/five km north of Ballinafad, on a lonely hill in the Bricklieve Mountains, can be found the prehistoric site of Carrowkeel (National Monument), with 14 burial mounds, all circular except one which is oval, containing different types of tomb chamber. They date from 2500-2000 B.C. Below the burial site are the remains of 50 round stone huts, perhaps occupied by the men who constructed the graves. From the top of the hill there is a beautiful view of Lough Arrow.
A few miles west of Carrowkeel rises Keshcorran Hill (near Kesh, just off the R295), in which there are a number of caves.
Ballymote, 6mi/9km north of Keshcorran, with the massive ivy-covered ruins of a castle with six round towers, gives a powerful impression of a medieval stronghold. Built about 1300, the castle was the subject of frequent attack until its fortifications were finally removed about 1700.
North of Ballymote the R293 joins the N17. To the west of the junction, on the banks of the River Owenmore (salmon fishing), extends the beautiful demesne of Anaghmore, with exotic trees and rare shrubs.
2.5mi/4km northeast of Anaghmore on the N17 is Collooney, also on the Owenmore, near which stands a fine 18th C. house, Makree Castle.
1.5mi/2km north of Collooney, at Ballysodare, is a picturesque series of rapids on the River Owenmore, with a salmon ladder bypass for the fish. On the left bank can be seen the ivy-clad ruins of a seventh century monastery.
Strandhill, 5mi/8km from Sligo, on a tongue of lands jutting out into Sligo Bay is a family seaside resort with good sheltered sandy beaches which also offer excellent surfing. To the south is an easily climbed hill, Knockarea (1,096ft/334m), on the summit of which is a huge cairn (National Monument) 36ft/11m high and 197ft/60m in diameter, popularly supposed to be the grave of Queen Maeve; from the top of the hill there are magnificent views. On the southwest side is a deep chasm between sheer limestone cliffs.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
To reach the graves of Carrowmore drive south from Strandhill and then turn east towards Sligo. In this Bronze Age cemetery, archaeologists have discovered some 60 graves (many unfortunately destroyed and others damaged), but comprising the largest collection of megaliths in Ireland. Most are a mixture of passage graves and dolmens, the oldest dating from between 3000 and 2500 B.C.The whole scene is overlooked by Queen Maeve's tomb on Knocknarea. Guided tours or self-guiding options are both available at the Visitors Centre. The guided tour and exhibition explains the story of Irish origins, connections to (other passage tomb sites) distant lands such as Sweden, France, Britain and Spain, and takes place in a sumptuously beautiful landscape in the heart of the secret Ireland.
Opening hours: Mar 16 to Oct 31: 10am-6pm
Entrance fee in EUR: Family €5.80, Adult €2.10, Senior €1.30, Group discounts €1.30, Child €1.10
Useful tips: Last admission 45 minutes before closing. To reach the graves of Carrowmore drive west from the N4 in Sligo along Church Hill, and Maugheraboy. After 1k, turn left for Ransboro and Carrowmore. The Visitors Centre car park is on your left. Travelling North, take the R292 west towards Strandhill turn east (right) towards Sligo at the Ransboro roundabout.
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Across the water from Strandhill can be seen Rosses Point, with a famous championship golf course, good sheltered sandy beaches and a sailing school.
Map of Sligo Attractions