Sligo Attractions & Activities
Nature and Wildlife
Sathya Sai Sanctuary For Donkeys
The Sathya Sanctuary Trust for Nature is a charitable trust situated adjacent to the ancient neolithic site of Carrowkeel in the Bricklieve Mountains, two and a half miles above the village of Castlebaldwin.
Set in 18 acres site in truly beautiful surroundings, the Sanctuary’s aim is to provide refuge for sick, elderly, unwanted, abandoned or abused donkeys, once so much apart of the Irish heritage but now often forgotten and neglected in a world geared for profit and production.
The Sanctuary is currently home to two dogs, cats, three sheep, 18 donkeys, 2 mules and several ponies but these numbers can fluctuate as donkeys and ponies are rescued and rehomed.
Visitors and donations are always welcome but contact in advance is appreciated to make sure there is someone there to meet you. Waterproof footwear is advisable most times of the year.
Historic Houses and Castles
It is located on a rounded ridge with ground sloping away on all sides and surrounded by mature woodland within Coolavin Demesne of the McDermott family. It is well preserved but considerable re building was done in the 19th century. It is also an exceptional example of the cashel class and can be usefully compared to the larger cashels at Staigue, County Kerry and Grianan, County Donegal.
Enclosed by a massive stone wall it is 26m in diameter. The wall is constructed with large bolders at the base and progressively smaller slabs towards the top. There are a series of sloping and stepped ramps leading to wall walks, which allow access to the ramparts. The walls are 4.3m thick and 2 m high, the entrance is a plain 1.8m wide passage.
This is located in the ancient road called the Red Earls road that linked Ballymote to Boyle. The design was modelled on the 13th century plan and stands four storeys high. The main block is rectangular 10.6m by 8m and is dwarfed by four 6m diameter towers.
The towers of the north contained a circular timber stair rising the full height of the building. The floors throughout were of timber. Only one window is well preserved, flat arched and originally spanned by wooden lintels. The loop and tower fireplaces have stone lintels. The entrance is in the north west wall, the approach to which is covered by a pair of loops in the west tower.
Lissadell House and Gardens is situated on the shores of Sligo Bay, 7 km north of Sligo on the Bundoran/Donegal Road, and is very clearly signposted from both Sligo, and Bundoran. The historic and literary associations of Lissadell and the natural beauty of its setting with sea, woodland and mountains makes Lissadell one of the North West’s premier tourism attractions.
Lissadell was the birthplace of Constance Markievicz, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, and was also a favourite retreat for the poet William Butler Yeats. Over a hundred years ago the Lissadell led Europe in horticultural excellence, with world famous gardens operating commercially, with over 200 people employed at Lissadell in 1906.
This period house is open to the public. Group tours are welcome by appointment. It is a distinctly Georgian period house built in 1820, showing the unique character of the era. Guided tours are available.
The house is a mid-sized (600m2), country house which has some interesting architectural features and a well researched history. The original house dating from the 1650’s was built by Robert Morgan, a Cromwellian cavalry officer, when he dispossessed the O’Dowd family from their ancestral castle adjacent to the house. The Morgan family retained ownership until the 1760’s and both Hugh Morgan (son) and Marcus-Anthony Morgan (grandson) were elected members of parliament. The Morgan line has been traced to Henry Grattan (a great great grandson) and to the Marlay family.
The house was sold in the 1760’s to the Kirkwood family, who built the estate ‘famine’ wall and subsequently passed to the Boyd family before being purchased by the state in the Land Acts of the 1920’s.
Richard de Burgo, the Red Earl of Ulster, built the remains of this Anglo Norman castle in AD 1300 and it was the strongest fortress in Connacht. The most prominent feature of this impressive fortification is the large gate building – a rectangular structure with projection 1/2 round towers at each side of the entrance.
Ballymote is almost square in plan with a 3/4 round tower at each angle and a D-shaped tower mid way along the east and west curtains. In the south wall there is a small gateway – which may have been used as a sallyport. The double faced walls of the gate towers were built as a defence against undermining the wall.
Dolly’s Cottage is a two hundred year old, traditional, thatched cottage, the only one of its kind in the area, which is open to the public. It is a stone built cottage with two rooms and a loft with original walls, roof, roof beams, fireplace and pouch bed. When you step through the little red door it’s like stepping into the past. Dolly”s Cottage has hardly changed in its two hundred years and provides an experience of how people lived until the not so distant past.
The cottage is named after Dolly Higgins, the last person to live here. She was a genial soul, well loved by young and old in the district. When Dolly died in 1970, the cottage was purchased by the Strandhill guild of the Irish Countrywomens Association, with a view to preserving it for future generations.
Markree Castle at Collooney, is the only castle hotel in the country still privately owned by the original family and run as a relaxing country house
The Cooper Family home for over 350 years, it was described by Lord Clarke as one of the finest castles of the period. The castle has been painstakingly restored by Charles and Mary Cooper over the last eight years.
The guest accommodation provides all modern comforts and the enormous stained glass window depicting the Cooper family tree, in the magnificent entrance hall sets the tone for this property which is within easy reach of Donegal, Leitrim and Mayo.
Museums and Attraction
Meave’s Cairn, or as it is also known as Misgaun Maeve, dominates the landscape west of Sligo Town.
It sits atop Knocknarea Mountain which seems to have been a major place of ritual and meeting in the Neolithic era. The entire top of Knocknarea on the eastern side is circumscribed by a 1km long embankment. Hut sites have been located on the inside of this area. A large amount of debris from making stone tools have also been collected.
Maeve’s cairn is by far the largest monument on Knocknarea, being 10m high and 55m across at the base. It is estimated that the stones used in the construction of Meave’s Cairn would weigh approx’ 40,000 metric tons. It probably covers a passage tomb similar to those at Carrowkeel and in the Boyne valley and would have been built by Neolithic peoples about 3000 BC.
Its name suggests that it was built for Maeve, the Iron Age queen of Connacht, but any association with her is probably legendary.
Each year in July runners from all over Ireland (and various parts of the world) converge on Strandhill to follow in the footsteps of Queen Meave’s ancient warriors, this mountain running race is known as the Warrior Run.
Sligo Folk Park
Sligo Folk Park is located in the beautiful village of Riverstown, County Sligo.
This community based attraction provides a true experience of rural life and Irish heritage at the turn of the late 19th century.
The Folk Park is set in the grounds of the authentically restored Millview House, which was originally built in 1873 by George Reid, a farmer, shoemaker and church sexton.
Stroll around the park, regardless of the weather, to visit the wonderful museum and evocative exhibition hall which houses one of Ireland’s finest collections of rural history and agricultural artefacts.
One of the highlights is the Village Street, a recreated street scape consisting of a creamery store, grocery shop and pub.
The Labby Rock
Labby Rock, in Castlebaldwin County Sligo, is one of the biggest portal dolmens in Ireland. It is situated at the head of a narrow valley and consists of a well preserved chamber with the large capstone resting on four supports. The massive limestone capstone of Labby Rock weighs about 70 tonne, and is 4.4m long and 3.4m wide and around 2m thick. The portal stones are tightly closed by a large stone.
Cloghor Portal Tomb
Cloghor Portal Tomb is set at the top of a hill with excellent views on all sides of the County Sligo countryside. It is a collapsed portal dolmen aligned north east to south west and its two entrance portals are still standing. They are both very tall, the one at west is 2.7m high and the other is 2.25m high.
The third supporting stone lies collapsed outwards to the south west. The large capstone measures 3.4m long, 1.8m wide and narrow to 1m, and due to the collapse of this the third stone has also fallen. It is sandstone and has considerable weathering on the upper side. The chamber was approximately 1.4m in length before the collapse.
Culkins Emigration Centre
Culkins Emigration Centre is set on a site where once stood the gateway to new worlds in the form of Daniel Culkin’s Shipping and Emigration Agency, in Dromore West County Sligo.
This Centre brings back to life this landmark which operated from the 19th century right up to the 1930’s. This purpose built modern museum hosts a number of fascinating artefacts and features, such as the original shop itself now restored and housed within the building.
Churches, Abbeys and Monasteries
While exploring County Sligo, travellers can visit the ruins of the 14th-century abbey at Ballindoon. Uniquely, the monastery was built entirely in one architectural style, the Middle English Gothic aesthetic.
The site is found on the eastern shore of Lough Arrow and comprises church, chancel, tower and transept. The interior also contains fascinating memorials dating from the 17th century.
This Dominican Abbey survives from medieval days. It was built by Maurice Fitzgerald for the Dominicans in 1252 and was accidentally burnt down in 1414, when a candle left carelessly in the building set it on fire. ‘The Abbey’, as it is known locally, was further damaged during the 1641 rebellion.
Legend says that worshippers saved the Abbey’s silver bell which was thrown into Lough Gill and only those free from sin can hear it peal.
The site contains a great wealth of carvings including Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculpture, well preserved cloisters and the only sculptured 15th century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church.
Just outside the village of Gurteen, about 35km south of Sligo Town, people can visit Carrowtemple, an early-Christian site featuring an enclosure and drystone walled souterrain chambers. Visitors can also view the ruins of a medieval church, both new and old graveyards and a collection of fascinating inscribed slabs
St John’s Cathedral Sligo
St John’s Cathedral of Sligo Town dates from the mid-18th century, though it is located on the site of a 13th-century hospital and parish. The cathedral’s west tower is thought to contain remnants of the original structures.
Renowned architect Richard Cassels designed the present cathedral, taking inspiration from early-Roman style basilicas. The structure, however, was significantly altered in the 19th century, as the original Romanesque windows were replaced and the chancel was extended.
St John’s, which was elevated from church to cathedral in 1961, also has a connection to the famous Yeats family. The parents of W.B. Yeats married there in 1863, while the grave of his maternal grandparents is located near the west door of the church. There are memorials to various family members within the house of worship as well.
Near the village of Castlebaldwin, County Sligo, travellers can have the delight of visiting the historic Carrowkeel cemetery, beautifully situated in the Bricklieve Mountains.
The megalithic site includes 14 passage cairns, most of which are round in shape and contain limestone slabs. The tombs date from 3200 to 2400 BC.
Carrowkeel also boasts 140 circular stone foundations, which are thought to be the remains of a prehistoric village.
Drumcliffe Round Tower and High Cross
Located just 10 minutes from Sligo Town, the village of Drumcliffe is home to the site where St Colmcille founded a monastery in 574. There, visitors can view the remains of a 10th-century high cross and a fragment of a plain high cross. There are also some remnants of a round tower or bell tower, but most of the structure was demolished to build a bridge in the 18th or 19th century.
Drumcliffe is also the burial place of revered Irish poet, W.B. Yeats.
National and Forest Parks
Hazelwood Sculpture Trail Sligo
Only three kilometres from Sligo Town at half Moon Bay on the shores of Lough Gill is the Hazelwood Demense. Well known locally for its forest trails, where you will find a unique series of outdoor sculptures from Irish and international artists, a quiet picnic area and beautiful lakeside views.
The demense is located in an area between Lough Gill and the Garavogue River. The nature trail itself forms a loop of about three kilometres, with two shorter alternatives available. All are clearly marked and begin and end at the car park. Hazelwood House was built for Lieutenant General Owen Wynne in 1724 and was designed by the architect R. Cassells, who was also responsible for buildings such as Leinster House and Powerscourt. Hazelwood House is not open to the public.
Doorly Park is located along by the riverside in Sligo town. About 15 minute walk from the town centre.
In the 19th century Colonel W G Woodmartin of Cleveragh developed this wetland on his estate. A series of ponds were excavated and drier areas were planted with oak, scots pine and a number of other species of tree. The park is named after a late bishop of the dioceses Dr Edward Doorly. There is a nature trail through the park and a picnic area. Recent developments includes new cycling / walking amenities which include 1km adding to the existing 4km walking trail with looped link pathway to connect existing woodland and cycling pathway.
Lissadell Woods are situated by the Atlantic ocean near Drumcliffe, this area was originally part of the Lissadell estate, the home of the Gore-Booth family. The woods were a source of poetic inspiration to W.B.
Yeats was a frequent visitor to Lissadell.There is an abundance of flora and fauna. It is mainly a broadleaf woodland consisting of ash, sycamore and elm. Sitka spruce grows in areas sheltered by the broadleaf trees. Other flora include wood rush, briar, hazel, holly and whitethorn.
There is also a nature trail in the woods.
Benbulben is known as Sligo’s “Table Mountain” and is part of the Dartry Mountains.
Benbulben was formed as a result of the different responses to erosion of the limestone and shale of which the mountain is formed. A hard and resistant limestone forms the upper cliffs and precipices. Benbulben was formed during the Ice age, when large parts of the Earth were under glaciers. It was originally merely a large ridge, however the moving glaciers cut into the earth, leaving a distinct formation, now called Benbulben.
The steeper sides of Benbulben are composed of large amounts of Dartry limestone top of smaller amounts of Glencar limestone. The smoother sides are composed of Benbulben shale. These rocks formed in the area approximately 320 million years ago. Barytes was mined at Glencarbury on the Benbulben range between 1894 and 1979.
If climbed by the north face, it is a dangerous climb and climbers would be advised to avoid climbing this side of the mountain. That side bears the brunt of the high winds and storms that come in from the Atlantic Ocean. However, if climbed by the south side, it is an easy climb, due to the fact that side slopes very gently. Upon reaching the summit, the climber is rewarded with a magnificent view of Yeats Country. Climbers would be advised to contact the local tourist office for approved access routes to the mountain.
Benbulben hosts a unique variety of plants, possessing some organisms found nowhere else in Ireland. Many are Artic-Alpine plants, due to the mountain’s height, which allows for cooler temperatures than is normal. These plants were deposited when the glaciers that created Benbulben melted. Insects, wild hares, and foxes inhabit Ben Bulben.
Lough Gill is a large lake, nearly six and a half miles long and two and a half miles wide. There is public access to the lough from a pier on the south shore at the mouth of the Garavoge River, at Inishfree Pier and at Shriff Bay. Lough Gill holds browntrout and salmon.
Woodville Farm takes pre-booked groups by appointment only – minimum group size 15. A guided tour of Woodville Farm takes you through mature woodland, green fields, and historic farm buildings where a variety of farm animals including some rare breeds, live in natural surroundings. Collect free range eggs from our hens, feed pet lambs and donkeys, hold various chicks and ducklings and see pigs enjoying the outdoor life. The family-run farm museum is to be found in renovated 1870 horse stalls.
The farm is of interest to educational and family groups of all ages.
Rosses Point is situated 8km from Sligo town.
A seaside resort with unique features, including an 18-hole championship golf course, two magnificent sandy blue flag beaches, a yacht club and a fully equipped sea angling boat for hire.
The Village is set against the backdrop of the spectacular Dartry mountain range and the beauty of Sligo Bay.
There are restaurants and good accommodation as well as friendly pubs. The bay is ideal for windsurfing and other water-sports.
Rosses Point is a seafaring village on the North West Coast of Ireland. It is also a popular sailing resort and in summer you can see on approaching Rosses Point beach all the yachts dotted along the coast. Rosses Point also boasts its own Yacht club.
Rosses Point boasts one of Sligo’s Blue Flag Beaches.
Strandhill is one of Sligo’s surfers paradise and is renowned for being one of the main attractions for surfers worldwide. It is an area of great natural beauty located 5 miles west of Sligo town with panoramic views of Knocknarea and Benbulben.
Strandhill has a number of surf schools catering for the both the novice and experienced surfer. If surfing is not your thing there are a number of amazing walks to be taken from Strandhill Beach to Culleenamore Strand and also to Killaspubrone. You can also enjoy a round of Golf in Strandhill links, designed by Eddie Hackett. Strandhill is also home to one of Ireland’s natural Seaweed baths where you can unwind and relax in Voya Seaweed Baths and treat yourself to and organic treatment or massage.
Music & Craic – Regularly at weekends live music is available at BellaVista, The Venue, The Dunes; Brees, or The Strand Bar. The County Fleadh Cheoil traditional music festival, June Bank Holiday, brings the best musicians to Strandhill. The Warriors Run Festival, the largest triathlon event in Ireland attracts hundreds of visitors in the last weekend in August with street parties, live music and the best craic.
Enniscrone, is a lively Seaside Resort on the shores of Killala Bay which offers the visitor a wide range of activities for all age groups including almost 5 km of Safe blue flag beach, World famous seaweed baths, a marvelous 27 hole golf links, Waterpoint our famous all-weather Aqua Leisure Centre, a supervised playground, amusement park for the children, Crazy Golf, Pitch and Putt and Tennis Court, Sea and River Angling and much more. All of which place it among the most favoured seaside destinations in Ireland.
Situated near the county border with Mayo, just 10 km from Ballina and 56km from Sligo, the towns location makes it the perfect base for exploring counties Sligo and Mayo, some of Ireland’s most beautiful counties.
If it is a relaxing break, a fun family holiday or a weekend of craic, Enniscrone is the perfect location for all!
Mullaghmore is located between Cliffoney and Grange, it is a small fishing village.
A popular holiday centre, facilities include superb blue flag sandy beach stretching as far as the eye can see (3km), which is safe for swimming, windsurfing and water sports, with sheltered anchorage for small and medium craft at the harbour.
It is renowned for being a base for licensed angling/passenger boats for charter, sea angling and trips to Inishmurray Island. More Details Boat Trips.
Inishmurray Island, off the County Sligo coast, is an early Christian site and wildlife sanctuary. It was a secluded retreat for St Molaise who founded a monastery there in the 6th century. The last of the islanders moved to the mainland in 1957 and today Inishmurray is a wildlife sanctuary of national importance for both breeding and wintering birds.
Significant populations of Arctic Tern and Common Tern, Shag, Herring Gull, Great Blackbacked Gull and Eider duck make the island their home as do numerous pairs of Black Guillemot, Barnacle Geese, Storm Petrels, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Fulmar.
The well preserved remains of the monastic settlement and the island’s village can also be seen, including mysterious cursing stones, altars and beehive cells.
Coney Island, in County Sligo, is approximately 400 acres and is so named because of the vast quantity of rabbits which can be spotted on the island at any time.
In 1862 the island had a population of 124 people, with 45 children attending the local school. The island now has only one family of permanent inhabitants (traceable there back until the 1750s) but houses many other temporary residents, especially in the summer months.
Visitors to Coney Island like to frequent the local pub, spot the faerie ring and napoleopic star shaped forts, visit Carty’s strand (the secluded beach to the rear of the island) for a swim or walk around the island to spot rabbits or the schoolhouse and other famine structures which remain.
There are also stories of faeries, mermaids and spirits here and visitors can try to find the elusive St Patricks wishing chair, St Patricks well, the remains of a washed up whale and some fairy forts in this very relaxing retreat.
Coney Island is accessible by boat from Rosses Point or by driving or walking over the causeway (guided by the 14 pillars) at low tide.