Sligo is a small County West of Ireland, popular as the origin of the Westlife band and the filming site of the famous Hulu series 'Normal People.' From historical sites to astounding landscapes, there are lots of engaging activities in Sligo that visitors can enjoy. Sligo is also just two and a half hours away from Dublin, and it can offer a good day trip from the city. If you have not been to Sligo previously or are planning to visit Ireland and wondering if it's worth adding Sligo to your tour, here is an exclusive look at the 20 best things to do in Sligo, Ireland.
20. Admire and Enjoy Climbing Benbulben
Benbulben mountain is one of the fascinating landmarks in Sligo. The mountain is a perfect backdrop to Sligo's stunning beaches that embellishes many. Also referred to as 'Table Mountain,' it is clear to understand how the flat-topped peak derived its nickname. While it looks unique and dramatic, climbing the mountain isn't an easy feat. It will take about five hours round trip, and you can also organize hikes with local tour companies or local guides. For something easier and fun, it's recommendable to walk around the mountain base where there is a marked looped walk.
19. Enjoy A Boat Trip Across Lough Gill
Lough Gill is a freshwater lake found several kilometers east of the town. The lake is eight kilometers long and two kilometers wide, with its surface surrounded by densely wooded islands. Boat trips are available all day long at the Parkes Castle front. The captain will show you some of the main sites of the island, like the Isle of Innisfree, as you listen to soothing music and enjoy your favorite drink. This area is a photographer's and bird-lovers dream, so ensure to have a camera that is well charged.
18. Witness the Phenomenal Devil's Chimney
During the wetter season, one great place to visit is the magnificent Devil's Chimney waterfall, eleven kilometers from Sligo. This waterfall flows during sustained wet weather. Therefore, if there has been a downpour during your visit to Sligo, the Devil's Chimney should be at the top of the things you should see. Another reason to see the waterfall is to witness the strange phenomenon of the wind preventing the water from descending. This is the tallest fall in Ireland, with a descending height of 150 meters.
17. Experience Megalithic Tombs at Carrowmore
Carrowmore is an incredible place to visit in Sligo, where you will encounter the biggest cemetery of megalithic tombs. More than sixty tombs have been discovered by archaeologists ranging from 5000to to 5800 years old. DNA research suggests that the Carrowmore monuments were originally used by France residents who had traveled to Ireland by sea. The restored central tomb, Listoghil, was built more than 5,500 years ago, and you can even go into the box-like chamber. This is the only Carrowmore monument where Neolithic art has been discovered, and the only tomb bodies were interred instead of being cremated.
16. Visit The Historical Sligo County Museum
Sligo County Museum and art gallery is situated on Stephen Street, the north side of the river Garvogue. Starting in 1955, the Sligo County Museum features the culture, history, and arts of Sligo County. Here, you will witness some historical collections, including the William Butler Yeats artifact collections and various paintings from artists, including Jack Butler Yeats, a brother of W.B Yeats. He was one of the greatest Irish artists.
15. Explore The Sligo Abbey
In the heart of Sligo Town is Sligo Abbey, a medieval Dominican monastery established in 1252 and destroyed by an unintentional candle fire in 1414. This building is home to Renaissance and Gothic works of art, with some claiming that its silver bell was thrown in Lough Gill and that only those staying sin-free lives can hear it ringing. Some of the unique features that are must-see include the O'Connor Sligo monument and the Cormack O'Crean tomb. The thirteenth-century chapter house and sacristy have survived along with the three sides of the elegant fifteenth-century cloister, making it a destination to behold.
14. Watch The Amazing Classiebawn Castle
The Classiebawn Castle is another great must-watch site in Sligo, Ireland. This castle is a Baronial country house established in 1874 for British Statement Palmerston. The castle is made of Sandstone carried by the ocean from Donegal and features a cone roof-shaped turret at the top of the central castle tower. During the Irish rebellion, the castle was used as barracks by the Free State Army and later refurbished in 1947. While the castle is not in Sligo Town, it's only a 30-minute drive away from the town. Also, Classiebawn Castle is not open to the public, but visitors appreciate its Disney Vibe from some distance.
13. Watch Flying Eagles
Another unique thing to do in Sligo is watch some flying eagles. You can stop at the incredible Birds of Prey North-West to enjoy interesting displays, including flying falcons and eagles, interactive bird shows, or offer some love to the pet animals in the facility, such as goats, pigs, raccoons, and ferrets. There are daily one-hour shows at 11 am and 3 pm. The entrance fee is 14 euros for adults and 8 euros for kids.
12. Head Out to Strandhill for Fun
If you are wondering what else to do in Sligo, Ireland, you should head out to the coast to enjoy the beautiful beaches in Sligo, one of them being Strandhill. These beaches are among the best things to do with your loved ones and kids. Strandhill beach is an excellent place to wander but not to swim and also very famous for surfers who ride on big waves. It's also home to some of the best restaurants and bars with live night music to relax, grab some delicious meals and enjoy live music.
11. Go Surfing at Mullaghmore Head
As a home for the best big-wave surfing worldwide, Mullaghmore Head is a popular destination for surf lovers. You can enjoyably take a seat and watch daredevils ride giant waves, even as large as thirty feet. You can also roam the beaches and cliffs with the outstanding Benbulben and Classiebawn Castle in the distance.
10. Get Amazing Views at Knocknarea
Knocknarea is another magical natural landmark you will want to see on your visit to Sligo County. This unique, monolithic hill is visible miles from Cúil Irra peninsula, west Carrowmore. According to The Irish Road Trip, Knocknarea features a marked walking path to its top, different from Benbulben. This takes about forty minutes from the car park. At the summit, you will be met by a ten-meter-tall Neolithic cairn named Queen Maeve of Connacht, a known character from the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology. The east side of the peak is also a site of a Stone Age village with smaller cairns.
9. Get Glorious Views at Rosses Point
Rosses Point is an old seagoing village located at the meeting point of Sligo Bay and the Ocean. You can quickly go to Rosses Point in less than ten minutes by vehicle from Sligo town and step out to explore the peninsula and experience glorious views across the bay. The main beach at Rosses Point is awarded the Blue Flag every year and is an arcing bay protected from open the ocean by the peninsular at Ballymuldery. Towards the village is a Metal Man dating back to the 19th-century that points to the normally invisible rocks at high tide.
8. Pray at the Tobernalt Holy Well
At the Southwest shore of Lough Gill is the Tobernalt Holy Well which features a natural spring that has been a great attraction for worshippers for more than 1600 years. Before Christianity arrived in Ireland, Tobernalt holy well was a Pagan meeting place where the Lughnasa festival was celebrated at the start of the harvest season. Later in the eighteen centuries, when Roman Catholic worshippers were prevented from building their churches, the spring was the place for the masses to worship at. Pilgrims travel from far to come here on the Garland Sunday, which is the last Sunday of July.
7. Explore The Niland Collection at The Model
If you are looking to experience a cultural look, the Model is a great cultural center and among the most attractive buildings in Sligo. The building was the former Model School, designed by Architect James Owen and established in 1862. This cultural monument has been extended two times, most recently in 2010 by Sheridan Woods to develop an innovative visitor center. Today, there are a bookshop, gallery, café, artist studios, and performing arts space. You can also visit this place to look at the Niland Collection, Sligo's Municipal art reserve featuring the works of Paul Henry, John and Jack B. Yeats, Louis Le Brocquy, and Estella Solomons.
6. Enjoy An Afternoon at Lissadell House and Gardens
Lissadell House is an attractive, old building that has become a significant tourist attraction in Sligo. The house was established in 1830 and is situated only seven kilometers north of Sligo, overlooking elegant Sligo Bay. After decades of abandonment, this phenomenal estate was restored and reopened to the public in 2010. Here, you can enjoy lots of things, including the highly informative visitor center at the courtyard, exploring the beautiful gardens, and roaming the woodland trails. You can then relax with an afternoon tea in the cool tearoom at the previous stable block.
5. Visit The Grave of W.B. Yeats
W.B Yeats is a popular Irish poet and a pillar of Irish literature. Surprisingly, you would not want to miss the sight of where the poet was raided to rest. Established against Ben Bulben, his grave is situated in Drumcliffe in a simple setting that you might almost miss. W.B. Yeats only chose to have some words on his headstone; 'a cold eye on life, on death horsemen pass by.' He was the first Irish to get a Nobel Prize, and Sligo being his childhood home, this is his final resting spot.
4. A Relaxing Retreat at The Real Coney Island
Coney Island is the biggest of all in Sligo Bay. There is an incredible story of where New York Coney Island got its name. According to IB4UD, more than 124 people stayed on this island in 1862, but today there is only a single-family remaining on the island. This island has gained popularity with many people visiting it for exploration, of the many beaches, archeological remains, and the significant rabbit population.
3. Cleanse Your Soul at Drumcliffe Parish Church
Spare some time during your Sligo adventures to attend a Sunday service at the Drumcliffe Parish Church. Here, you will get a warm welcome and offered literature to assist you in getting along with the service smoothly. You can enjoy singing along to the contemporary and traditional songs accompanied by the movements. The dressing code is casual to accommodate everyone, but you might consider dressing decently for the respect of the occasion. The church also uses audio-visual technology.
2. Picnic In the Grand Dooney Rock Forest Park
If you love hiking, you will love the experience of a picnic in Dooney Forest. You will enjoy fascinating views of north Sligo, surrounding islands, and Lough Gill as the trail goes through the condensed coniferous forest. You will walk across the moss-covered trees in the forest en route to Lough Gill, where you can set your picnic basket and blanket. The landscape has many birds, red squirrels, and other beautiful wildlife to enjoy during your walk, solo, with your pet or family.
1. Enjoy Delicious Meals at Eala Bahn
Last but not least, your trip to Sligo cannot be complete without a place to enjoy your favorite traditional foods. At Eala Bahn, you will enjoy local and hand-picked seafood as you enjoy the cool views of the Garvogue River. Other off-menu delicious meals available include a stuffed chicken breast with a sweet chili cream cheese and buttered lemon scallops served with leeks, pistachio crumbled sea trout, and topped with lemon foam. Generally, Eala Bahn is an elegant restaurant to visit after a day of fun activities.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn