48 hours in Sligo - experience the county's rich natural and cultural gifts

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48 Hours In Sligo - Experience The County's Rich Natural And Cultural Gifts 48 Hours In Sligo - Experience The County's Rich Natural And Cultural Gifts
Staff of the Sligo Park Hotel celebrate being named the county's number 1 hotel on Tripadvisor
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Visitors to Sligo often come for some mixture of the county’s rich natural and cultural gifts.

And for those planning a break that includes tours of WB Yeats’s grave, the beaches at Mullaghmore and Strandhill, or a ramble around town to sample the delicacies available at Sligo’s highest-rated restaurants, there is no better or more convenient place to stay than the Sligo Park Hotel. 

Recently crowned Sligo’s number one hotel on TripAdvisor, the four-star Sligo Park is just off the N4 near the heart of Sligo town. The hotel has 136 rooms and features a state-of-the-art leisure centre as well as spacious conference and function rooms. Here, we offer a comprehensive Q&A to aid those struggling to put together the perfect Sligo tourism itinerary. 

What are the top three attractions that can’t be missed? 

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As the childhood home of WB Yeats, Sligo draws huge numbers of tourists interested in studying the life of one of Ireland’s most famous literary figures. The Yeats Society Sligo has mapped out several walking trails to sites associated with the poet, including the Isle of Innisfree on Lough Gill, Lissadell House near Carney, and the artist’s grave in Drumcliffe. 

While Sligo is known for its sandy beaches, Mullaghmore stands apart as one of the finest the county has to offer. The bay lies at the foot of the peninsula and the road around the headland offers breathtaking views of Classiebawn Castle perched above the ancient sandstone cliffs and the rolling white surf of the Atlantic. 

The hiking trail to the top of Knocknarea has made the mountain a go-to destination for visitors to Sligo. Those who make it to the peak will find Queen Maeve’s cairn, the burial place of the mythical Queen of Connacht, and sweeping 360-degree views of Strandhill, the Ox Mountains, Lough Gill, Slieve League in Donegal and even Croagh Patrick. 

Best way to get around and explore… 

The kayak may seem like an unlikely mode of transport for touring groups, but there is no vessel more suited to seeing the best of Sligo. Kayaking tours of Ballisodare Bay, Lough Gill, Glencar Lake and Dernish Island are available all year round, each tour specifically designed to give visitors a unique perspective of some of Sligo’s most famous landmarks, such as Knocknarea, the Isle of Innisfree and Glencar Waterfall. 

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If you’re afraid of the water, the rather more obvious way to get around is by car. The Sligo Park Hotel is found just off the N4 near Sligo town, meaning visitors have quick and easy access to amenities in both North and South Sligo. 

Are there any must-do activities? 

Surfing is synonymous with Strandhill, with several Strandhill surf schools offering classes that cater to all ages and levels of ability. After spending a few exhausting hours trying, and failing, to stand up on their surfboards, visitors can retire to a number of different eateries including a speciality ice cream parlour. The Sligo Park Hotel is just a 15-minute drive from Strandhill. With so much magnificent scenery to view on the way, the journey will pass in the blink of an eye. 

What is the best place to have a coffee and people watch? 

Lyons Café in Sligo town is an essential destination for visitors to Sligo. Opened as a tearoom above Henry Lyons department store in 1926, the café is a popular eatery of choice for locals who pass daily under its distinctive stain-glass awning to relax in its wood-panelled surrounds and informal atmosphere. Other great coffee picks include Osta, Blend and Heart’s Desire in Stephen Street car park. 

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If it is raining, what would you recommend doing? 

The Model Arts Centre in Sligo town presents six curated exhibitions from The Niland Collection each year. Exhibitions are often focused on Jack B Yeats, the expressionist painter and brother of WB Yeats. Alternatively, visitors can take refuge from the Sligo deluge at the Hawkswell Theatre, which regularly hosts plays, musicals and other productions. 

For those looking for an activity that’s a less mentally stimulating, and a more geared towards self-care, seaweed baths are available through Voya in Strandhill, with the treatments said to detoxify the body, deeply moisturise the skin and promote healing. 

Are there any indoor or outdoor markets to visit? 

The excellent Strandhill People’s Market is open every Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Sellers set up inside a hangar at Sligo Airport, offering a range of wares and artisanal foods, including crafts and textiles, European and Asian cuisine, baked goods, and fresh vegetables. Coffee is also available with space to sit and relax outside. The Sligo Farmers Market is open on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm on the grounds of the Sligo campus of the Atlantic Technological University, while the New Art and Craft Fair is also open on Saturday from 10am to 4pm at Sligo’s historic Gillooly Hall. 

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Is there a local story or fact that you would like to share? 

Sligo has produced a number of historic figures who have helped shape the world as it exists today. Indeed, Bernardo O’Higgins, the rebel leader in the Chilean War of Independence and a man considered one of the founding fathers of Chile, was the son of Sligo-born Ambrose Bernard O’Higgins, the one-time governor of Chile and viceroy of Peru under Spanish rule. 

Bernardo was appointed supreme sirector of Chile in 1817, although his moves to shift the country towards democracy were resisted by a powerful elite who would eventually depose him six years later. A statue to Bernardo stands at Stephen Street in Sligo town. 

Favourite place to have a drink 

Thomas Connolly’s in Sligo town is a narrow pub that links two streets, the front at Markiewicz Road and the back at Holborn Street, with seating for big and small groups provided by a series of snugs and other private carve-outs. Recently refurbished, the owners have upcycled the premises just enough to add polish but little enough that it retains its rugged, oaken charm. The pub offers a range of craft beers brewed in the West and North West, as well as more traditional brands of stout and beer. 

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How to keep the kids entertained 

Guests of the Sligo Park Hotel have the benefit of taking their children to the hotel’s onsite fairy trail, as well as multi-dimensional sports court for tennis, soccer and basketball. They will of course just love our spacious swimming pool, dedicated children’s pool and new fun float! 

In Sligo, there’s Five Star Fun in Grange village, Funny Bones in Collooney and Happy Days in Sligo town, which are ideal children’s softplay centres. Each one is fitted out with tiered frames, padded and enclosed with netted guards for safe climbing, and winding slides to bring them back down to earth. For animal lovers, it’s worth checking out Atlantic Sheep Dogs, the Wild Atlantic Way Alpaca Farm and Where Eagles Fly. 

Tourists hoping for a more educational offering should visit Eagles Flying near Ballymote. Established in 1999, the company performs twice-daily shows in which children can interact with birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures. There is also a petting zoo on site in which visitors can handle guinea pigs, rabbits, lambs, racoons and even a four-metre long python named Monty. 

If you want to dance, what are the options? 

Found on John F Kennedy Parade in Sligo town, Lola Montez, named after the Sligo dancer who would go on to become the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria in the 1840s, is a lively spot for anyone wishing to cut loose on the dancefloor. 

Dinner recommendations on a budget or special occasion 

Sligo chef Alan Barrins and his brother Paul are the brains behind Bridgefoot House on Sligo’s O’Connell Street. A veteran of kitchens in London, Sydney and Dubai, Alan’s offerings are more upmarket than one would typically find in Sligo, making it the ideal spot for a special occasion. Meanwhile, burger restaurant Flipside on Rockwood Parade is urban cool, with quality beef and chicken burgers, wings, malt shakes and craft beers available at very affordable prices. 

Where is the best place to watch the sunset? 

Strandhill sunsets have become something of an Instagram cliché in recent times, with snaps of the skies visible over the Strandhill promenade regularly posted to social media. Anyone looking to watch the sunset in a more secluded area should head towards Rockley or Cliffoney, where unspoilt beaches provide the perfect setting for good sunset aficionados. A view of Ben Bulben or Knocknarea from any corner of Sligo is also very special. 

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