Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sligo
Sligo View slideshowSligo (Sligeach, "Shelly River"), county town of Sligo county, lies in the northwest of Ireland, on a well-wooded plain encircled by hills.
Most of the town is on the south side of the broad River Garavogue, which flows from Lough Gill, to the east, into Sligo Bay. Sligo is the most considerable town in northwestern Ireland, the see of both a Catholic and a Protestant diocese and an important road junction, at the meeting place of the N14, N15 and N16. It is also the terminus of a railroad line from Dublin, with the Republic's most northerly railroad station.The poet W.B. Yeats lived for some time in Sligo. Courses for foreign students are run in the Yeats English Language School in July and August every year.Sligo appears in the records for the first time in 537. In 807 it was plundered by Norse pirates. It became the residence of Maurice Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, in 1245. Later rival clans vied for possession of the castle. The town was destroyed by Cromwell's troops in 1641 and again in 1645.
Sligo County Library & County Museum
In Sligo's Stephen Street, on the north side of the River Garavogue, is the County Museum and adjoining Art Gallery. The County Museum, in the old rectory, contains material on the history of the region and mementos of W. B. Yeats, including first editions of his works, letters and family photographs.
Address: Westward Town Centre, Bridge Street, Ireland
Sligo Art Gallery
Sligo Art Gallery has pictures by a variety of artists; of particular interest are the works by Jack Butler Yeats, the poet's brother.
Address: Hyde Bridge, Ireland
From the Sligo County Library in Stephen Street a bridge leads over to the south bank of the River Garavogue. To the left are the oldest buildings in Sligo - the church, cloister and conventual buildings of Sligo Abbey (National Monument), a Dominican friary founded by Maurice Fitzgerald in 1253 and rebuilt in 1416 after a fire.The church has a double aisled nave and transepts; the choir dates from the original foundation, the transepts from the 16th C. Notable features are the canopied tomb of Cormack O'Crean, on the north side of the nave, with a Crucifixion and other figures in low relief, and the O'Conor Sligo monument (1624) on the south side. Three sides of the beautiful 15th C. cloister have survived, with the sacristy and chapter house (13th C).550yd/500m to the west are the town's two principal churches, St John's Church (Church of Ireland) in John Street, a neo-Gothic building of 1812, and the Roman Catholic St John's Cathedral (neo-Romanesque, 1869-74) in Temple Street.
Address: Abbey Street, Ireland
Sligo's O'Connell Street branches off north from John Street and comes to the Yeats Memorial Building by Hyde Bridge. The art gallery here puts on periodic exhibitions, and in summer an audiovisual show documenting the connection of Yeats with Sligo.
Benbulben, Sligo County
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.
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.
Across the water from Strandhill can be seen Rosses Point, with a famous championship golf course, good sheltered sandy beaches and a sailing school.
Bundoran (Bun Dobhrain, "Mouth of the Dobhran") is situated far to the north on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, on the N15 from Donegal to Sligo. This popular seaside resort, with excellent facilities for sport and recreation, lies on the south side of Donegal Bay, with Benbulben to the south of the town.The beach of fine sand is flanked by a promenade, with cliffs at each end carved into fantastic shapes by the sea. From here there are a number of attractive walks. One of these goes north to the cliffs and caves on Aughrus Head, with the Puffing Hole, a funnel-like cavity through which water is ejected with great force. Beyond this is Tullan Strand, with a cairn, a dolmen and a stone circle.
The village of Drumcliffe (Droim Chliabh, "Back of the Baskets") lies in the deep bay of the same name in northwest Ireland, just to the north of Sligo. St Columba founded a monastery here in 574, the last Abbot of which died in 1503.The grandfather of W. B. Yeats was for many years the parish priest here, and the great Irish poet is buried in the churchyard. His gravestone bears the inscription which he himself composed:Cast a cold eyeOn life, on death:Horseman, pass by!
On the path leading to the Drumcliffe church is a high cross (National Monument) of about 1000. On the east side are Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Daniel in the Lions' Den and Christ in Glory, on the west side the Presentation in the Temple, two figures and the Crucifixion; the cross is also decorated with fabulous beasts and interlace ornament.
Near Drumcliffe, to the north of the village Benbulben (1,697ft/517m), a flat-topped hill with steeply scarped sides furrowed by gullies, rises abruptly out of the plain. This extraordinary table mountain features prominently in Irish legend. Here Queen Maeve and the Ulster hero CuChulainn fought for possession of a herd of great cattle, and here Diarmaid bled to death after his struggle with the great mountain boar of Benbulben. The slopes of the hill were also the scene of a historical event, the "Battle of the Books" in 561, which was followed by St Columba's departure from Ireland.The hill, which forms part of the Dartry Mountains, is of interest to geologists and botanists. From the top there are extensive views over the plain and the Atlantic.
5mi/8km north of Drumcliffe on the N15 is Grange, from where a side road runs west to Streedagh. There a boat can be hired to go to the island of Inishmurray (which can also be reached from Mullaghmore).The island, 4.5mi/7km west of Streedagh, was still inhabited in the earlier part of this century. On it is an excellently preserved monastic establishment (National Monument) founded by St Molaise in the early sixth century and abandoned 300 years later after being raided and plundered. The monastic buildings were used by the later inhabitants and were thus preserved. The remains give an excellent impression of what such a settlement was like. A ring-wall between 10 and 15ft/3 and 4m high and of the same thickness at the base, with five entrances, surrounds an oval precinct measuring 60x45yd/53x41m divided into four enclosures of differing sizes. Within the precinct are the Men's Church, the little Oratory of Teach Molaise, the Church of the Fire, a beehive hut and altar-like masonry structures. On one of these are the famous Curse Stones, round speckled stones which are believed to be effective in putting a curse on an enemy. All round the island are various memorial stones and station chapels, which were visited by pilgrims in a prescribed sequence. From St Patrick's Memorial, at the eastern tip of the island, there is a fine view of the mainland.
Creevykeel Court Cairn
5mi/8km north of Grange, near the village of Cliffoney, is the Creevykeel Court Cairn (National Monument), one of the finest in Ireland. A wedge-shaped stone wall encloses an open court, beyond which are a double-chambered gallery, two other chambers and remains of still another. The site is thought to be about 4,500 years old.
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