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Yaay! We are back with our 9th travel blog post. Don’t forget to check our other travel posts.
Our friends asked us for a road trip and we said yes. And then, we saw the terrible forecasts for the weekend. But, you wouldn’t mind because c’mon – it’s July Irish summer 😉 Okay, summer-ish. So, we chose Sligo, picked a few places, booked our accommodation and prayed for the rain gods to stay away.
Were our prayers answered? Or, did we succumb to the pelting rain? Why is Sligo called the Yeats Country? What mistakes we did that we don’t want you to repeat? Do you know there are hidden gems in Sligo that you won’t find online? We answer all the questions in this post. So, here’s what we did, places we visited, places we missed, and some pictures we captured along the way. Let’s get cracking.
Why is Sligo called the Yeats Country anyway?
Sligo, in Northwestern Ireland, is one of Ireland’s largest towns. It’s known for its majestic mountains, rugged countryside and rollicking beaches. Now, we’re not making this up. Trust me and look at the pics. It’s known as Yeats Country as it inspired many of the great works of the Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer, W.B. Yeats. His final resting place is in a churchyard in Drumcliffe, Sligo.
Day 1 – **FREE**
As we always say, start early from Dublin so you have plenty of time.
- Pitstop @ Carrick-on-Shannon (if you’re driving from Dublin)
- OPTIONAL – Lough Arrow scenic drive and Markree Castle
- OPTIONAL – Union wood (do this only if you have bundles of time)
- Knocknarea mountain walk
- Strandhill beach
- OPTIONAL – Coney Island and The Glen (you need to know a few things before going here. Continue reading)
This is a beautiful little town on your way to Sligo, offering stunning streetscapes. Park your car and stretch your legs against the backdrop of River Shannon. Recharge your batteries, you have a long day ahead.
2. Lough Arrow scenic drive / Markree Castle (OPTIONAL)
This is totally optional. On your way from Carrick-on-Shannon to Sligo, you’d find signboards for the Lough Arrow scenic drive and Markree Castle. Lough Arrow is famous for trout fishing. We didn’t have time to visit. Give it a try if time’s on your side.
Warning: There are 2 signboards for Lough arrow. “Lough arrow viewing point” comes before “Lough arrow scenic drive”. So, if you want to do the drive, do not turn right at the viewing point sign. Drive past it and you’ll find the 2nd sign a few meters ahead.
3. Union Wood (OPTIONAL)
This is a walking trail on forest roads – providing a range of walking routes through diverse woodlands. There are two marked looped walks here in addition to the ‘Sligo Way’ long-distance route. Quite frankly, you could skip this if you’re not an avid trekking enthusiast. Don’t mistake me, the woods are indeed magical. However, we felt there are better places to be at when you’re here only for 2 days.
4. Knocknarea mountain walk
This is our first major stop for the day and worth spending a few hours at least. Knocknarea is a large hill with a height of 327 meters. The 6km trail takes anywhere between 1.5 – 2 hrs, and I’d not lie – it’s a strenuous walk. Wear sturdy walking/hiking boots and carry enough water/refreshments.
The walk gets steeper from the kissing gate and continues up to the summit, the terrain is quite steep and rugged as you move closer to the summit. The summit is crowned by the great cairn of Queen Maeve. Park your car here. We’d highly recommend this walk. It’s tiresome but don’t you worry, there are some gorgeous views of the mountains to keep you motivated.
5. Strandhill beach
Ah, the beaches. Any time of the year! Absolutely drained after the hike? We got you covered. Refresh in one of the many stunning beaches of Ireland. There are lots of eateries to choose from. Don’t forget to get ice cream from Mammy Johnstons – they are Finger-Lickin’ Good (Okay, I stole that slogan from KFC).
There’s a golf club, surf school, kayaking tours and even a seaweed bath. This is one place you MUST NOT MISS.
6. Coney Island / The Glen (OPTIONAL)
Usually, one would be tired after the hike and choose the beach as a last resort to relax, eat and let their guard down. That was us. But, let’s say you’re one of those marvellous creatures with bundles of energy and you still have the appetite. Sligo’s still got you covered. Visit Coney Island or The Glen – a hidden gem. Here’s a handy guide for both these hidden gems.
Warning: You can drive to the island only when the tide’s low. And, The Glen is not on google maps yet. So, read the above guide before you plan to visit these places.
Where did we stay?
We stayed at Five Glens Inn in Manorhamilton, 20 km from Sligo town. It’s a budget-friendly accommodation at a very affordable price. Easy to find on maps, self-check-in options, and a wonderful host Conor. He sends you the exact location, suggests pubs and restaurants nearby, and promptly answers all your questions.
Day 2 – **FREE Again**
I know you’re already exhausted from all the walking. So, there’s no walk today. Enjoy Sligo from the comforts of your car.
- Glencar waterfall
- Gleniff horseshoe loop drive
- Mullaghmore (Head and beach)
- OPTIONAL – Lough Gill scenic drive
1. Glencar waterfall
Where the wandering water gushes, From the hills above Glen-Car, In pools among the rushes, That scarce could bathe a star.W. B. Yeats
What better way to warm up your day than to start your road trip with the sounds of chirping birds, quirky insects, and gushing waters? The sound of nature is music of its own kind. Only 15 mins from our accommodation, Glencar waterfall is a 50 ft high tranquil place to enjoy the sunrise – if ever there’s one!
Entry to the car park is free, and there are public toilets, a coffee truck and a walking trail too. We couldn’t think of a better way to start this day.
2. Gleniff horseshoe loop drive
If you ask us to pick our most favourite from the Sligo tour – this would be it. We’ve been to Donegal, Kerry, Kinsale, and Northern Ireland. But, we’ve seen nothing like this. This drive offers unique landscapes of the Dartry mountains like no other. Give yourself plenty of time to stop at many places – just park your car and go for a stroll.
Here’s the best guide to do this loop drive. Short summary – start at O’Donnell’s pub Cliffoney. Drive to Gleniff Barytes Mill site. Walk to the creek right opposite the car park and put your feet in the waters if you fancy. On your way, stop at the Grainne and Diarmuid’s cave – the highest cave in Ireland. Park your cars near the cave and absorb the beauty of the one and only Sligo!
After you’re done with the horseshoe drive, simply turn on the map for Mullaghmore Head and follow the stunning coastline of Mullaghmore. We didn’t even make it to the head because we found THIS –
A terrific spot for diving and/or a swim. Call it your luxury private swimming pool. We just couldn’t drive past this place, despite the rain pelting down. It was so magical and enticing that we didn’t even reach the Head. We ended up spending all our time here, and so would you.
Benbulben is THE Sligo landmark. Google “Sligo” and Benbulben is the first image you see. Sometimes referred to as Ireland’s own table-mountain, it’s a large flat-topped rock formation. Do the Benbulben forest walk or simply drive around the giant. You would want to see it again and again!
NOTE: You can actually visit Benbulben BEFORE the Gleniff horseshoe drive.
5. Lough Gill scenic drive (OPTIONAL)
Again, to the ones gifted with infinite energy – if you still aren’t tired, go on this wonderful 40km drive around Lough Gill. Here’s your one-stop guide.
Personally, we were a touch disappointed after 1st day simply because we came with high expectations for our Sligo trip. But, come day-2, it was a HOLD MY BEER moment as soon as we entered Gleniff Horseshoe. We kept holding on to that beer until we drove back to Dublin. The Sligo mountains floored us ❤
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