Surrounded by towering mountains and picturesque countryside, Sligo is worth the drive when you’re in the Irish capital. It’s not just about the breathtaking natural landscapes that fuel one’s wanderlust – County Sligo has a wealth of well-preserved ancient sites that deserve to be discovered by locals and tourists alike.
From visiting a cemetery that dates back to the bronze age to discovering a 13th-century Dominican friary’s well-preserved treasure, here are 9 of the best things to do in Sligo, Ireland.
1. Discover the megaliths in Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
Fascinated by old cemeteries? Forget those spooky 19th-century graveyards that give you nothing but ghost stories. Let’s travel back to the Bronze Age.
Carrowmore is a spectacular Bronze Age graveyard. The cemetery is the largest in Ireland and is one of the oldest ones in Europe, dating back to 4600 BC. It consists of around 60 graves, which are a combination of passage graves and dolmens. While it’s been damaged over the centuries, it still comprises the largest collection of megaliths in Ireland.
2. Reach the summit of Knocknarea
Speaking of graveyards, Knocknarea is another top landmark for those who enjoy a little history as they feast their eyes on a magnificent natural spectacle. Ths unique limestone hill stands 327 meters tall, offering stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
Here, you can find Neolithic sites, including a large 10-meter tall cairn at the summit known as “Maeve’s Tomb”. It’s named after Queen Maeve of Connacht, a character from the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology, and the cairn is believed to hide an ancient grave.
3. Hike Benbulben, the “table mountain”
Benbulben often described as “Sligo’s Table Mountain” or “Table Mountain of Ireland” is a shale and limestone mountain that stands 526 meters. It was once a large plateau that was hewn into its form by moving glaciers during the Ice Age. Today, it’s a rust-colored, large flat-topped rock formation adored by locals and tourists alike. It’s also easy to hike, offering the best view of Sligo town.
4. Uncover the haunting past of Sligo Abbey
If you want to visit a historic edifice that stood the test of time (including natural disasters and wars), then visiting Sligo Abbey is a must. This ruined Dominican friary was built in 1253 by Maurice Fitzgerald, destroyed by fire in 1414, ransacked in 1595 during a nine-year war, and pillaged in 1641 during the Ulster Uprising.
Sligo Abbey was restored in 1850 and today, it’s one of the most visited places in Sligo. It’s also home to the only surviving 15th-century structured high altar in any Irish monastery. It’s well-preserved and you can still see the intricate Gothic and Renaissance carvings.
5. Roam around Sligo Town
Exploring Sligo Town by foot is free – unless you’re tempted to shop and dine. Walk along the river. Wander around the streets. Enjoy discovering colorful houses, decorated bridges, and quirky buildings and establishments underneath.
Talk to the locals. Each picture-worthy spot might have a fascinating backstory worth uncovering.
6. Step inside Sligo’s top museums and galleries
No Irish travel experience will ever be complete without a trip to an art gallery and/or museum.
Sligo County Museum & Art Gallery – this museum is dedicated to the culture, history, and arts of County Sligo. It contains artifacts that tell the history of the region, including mementos of W.B. Yeats. The adjoining gallery displays an extensive collection of paintings by local artists including the ones by Jack Butler Yeats, who’s considered as one of Ireland’s greatest.
The Model – This art gallery and the cultural center is one of Ireland’s leading centers for contemporary art. Here, visitors will find a performance space, a bookshop, a restaurant, and artist studios. The building is also home to the Niland Collection of art, one of the most renowned collections in Ireland.
7. Visit historic and picturesque castles
Wherever you are in Ireland, your trip won’t be complete without visiting at least one historic castle. If you’re in Sligo, you may check out Ballymote Castle, Classiebawn Castle, and Parke Castle.
You can find some castles that provide lodging and feel like royalty as soon as you arrive.
8. A stunning coastal experience awaits in Enniscrone
Looking for a beachy getaway in Sligo? The seaside town of Enniscrone provides breathtaking landscape and coastal scenery.
Aside from laidback activities like sightseeing and enjoying a relaxing seaside hotel accommodation, there is a wide array of thrilling activities for embracing the great outdoors. You can catch a wave in the Atlantic Ocean, trek along the sandy beach, try horseback riding, and reach the summit of a rugged hill with friends.
You can also discover the best attractions in County Mayo since Enniscrone is situated near the Sligo-Mayo border.
9. Stay at a hotel in the surrounding countryside
One of the best ways to make the most out of your Sligo escapade is to choose a great place to lodge. Ideally, you want a hotel accommodation that offers breathtaking views of Sligo’s landscapes from your hotel room. You should also map out your itinerary and choose a hotel that’s located in the heart of the town where the action is.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the passionate writers for Ocean Sands Hotel, Ireland’s leading beachside hotel in Enniscrone, County Sligo. Her fondness for travel, food, and cultural appreciation makes it easy for her to write inspiring pieces of content about them.