Ireland is a stunner of a country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Even when it is at its wildest with vertical rain cascading down (seemingly trying to get in the window) there is a beauty there. On a recent trip to Sligo, on the west coast, I explored areas I had never been to before and it would be selfish of me not to share some of these incredible, picturesque locations with you.
The Wild Atlantic Way isn’t so called for nothing and in typical Irish fashion you can have all four seasons worth of weather in one day. If you are dressed for the elements you have no excuse not to get out there and experience it in all its raw and enchanting forms. Sligo is the understated beauty of the island. It doesn’t shout about the trails and waterfalls it has. It doesn’t bellow about the best bits to see and it should because there are many.
Benbulbin (Benbulben) dominates the skyline as a protected, flat top mountain in the Dartry range. I believe you can hike it but there are conflicting reports of its difficulty. I preferred to view it from the bottom. With a hot, comforting tea in my hands. The peak is in an area called Yeats country and so named for the poet, William Butler Yeats, whose grave is in the Drumcliffe churchyard.
Gleniff Horse Shoe Loop
If stunning scenery and impressive cliffs are your bag then you cannot miss the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive nearby. This loop drive is a 6 mile slow drive through woodlands towards, what I would describe as, a crested wave peak. The area is sheltered by the rock formation and is said to be be where the ill fated Irish legend Diarmuid (who had eloped with Grainne as she escaped her older husband to be, Fionn) was lured to his death in an apparent hunting accident. Diamuid and Grainne’s cave is on private land however so seek permission before you wander. This area is a photographer’s dream. Be warned.
This stretch of unspoilt, sandy beach is a perfect place to stroll or sit and watch the hardy wind surfers or indulge in some SUPing for yourself. The 5 km, blue flag, swim safe beach is a popular spot during the summer. The nearby seaweed baths and village restaurants will keep you occupied even in wild, Atlantic weather.
Downpatrick Sea Stack
Having never seen a sea stack before my visit to Sligo, let me tell you this one is impressive and knocked my socks off. Obviously once attached to the mainland the many stories explaining how it came to be detached are recorded in a visitor wall by the blow hole. A drive from Enniscrone across the border into County Mayo and access via the turn off in Ballycastle village, follow the signs out as far as you can go to the carpark. Walk through the stile and watch your footing as you encounter the oddest bumps in the grass on the way to the cliff edge. can we also not the complete absence of fences which I kind of loved. Nature shouldn’t be fenced in or out and people should be responsible for themselves when they visit. Care is needed near the edge as the wind can be strong but the view is incredible and I strongly urge you to visit.
Sligo friends, can you clear up for me if the Devil’s Chimney waterfall is in Sligo or Leitrim? Leitrim seems to be claiming it despite it being just inside the Sligo border on the map. Either way the short walk to this Torc like waterfall is a lovely road trip destination. Yeat’s poem The Stolen Child talks about how ‘wandering water rushes from the hills above Glencar’ and the fairy inhabitants lying in wait to steal human’s away. You may not encounter fairies but the highest waterfall in Ireland is sure worth a look.
With all this driving planned you are going to need to factor in a few pit stops to refresh and indulge. These two places are th kind of places you will rave about for years to come. Stop in the village of Easkey for lunch and wait for a table at Pudding Row. Thank me later. The food is local, delicious and interesting. You will be dreaming about the peanut butter french toast for months after. Or maybe thats’s just me.
That’s lunch taken care of, now make sure to book ahead for this incredibly, unique dining experience at Belleek Castle. The chefs in this banquet hall are nothing short of magicians. Each dish we ordered was scrumptious and different and the impressive show that comes with the flaming steak on a sword is one to behold. Even if you are a veggie, someone will have ordered it and you can watch the speared meat set alight be served to other diners. If you’re curious enough to want to see that.
This just about uncovers the tip of the iceberg that is Sligo’s beauty. Make sure not to overlook it on your next roadtrip or staycation. If you are looking for more Wild Atlantic Way info and staycation guides check out my post on a Westport, Mayo weekend.