County Sligo’s favourite son, William Butler Yeats, was probably describing his ancestral home when he wrote about the mornings ‘mild and fair’ with ‘mist-drops hung from fragrant trees’. Green pasturelands in the hinterland contrast beautifully with the cliffs, crags and beaches of the coast. Car rental in Sligo is an excellent way to reach the isolated corners of the county as well as the rest of the country.
The town of Sligo is well connected to the rest of the country by the N4, N15 and N16 motorways as well as by rail and Sligo Airport. Ireland West Airport Knock is also within 50 kilometres.
County Sligo is famous for its Stone Age sites, notably the Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery. Other attractions in the area include a pair of striking monolithic mountains near Sligo Town: Benbulben, a uniquely shaped mesa to the east, and Knocknarea, with a gorgeous view of the coast. Sligo Abbey, which dates back to the 13th century, is also well worth a visit. Lough Gill is popular with birdwatchers and anglers, or motorists can drive to the original Coney Island if the tides are right. Even surfers will find an unexpected niche at Strandhill Beach.
Benbulben is Ireland’s most distinctive mountain, part of the Dartry Mountains, and known as Ireland’s version of Table Mountain in South Africa. Its particular shape is the result of 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, formed during the Ice age approximately 320 million years ago, now hosts a unique variety of plants, possessing some organisms found nowhere else in Ireland. It is possible to climb the mountain as there is a looped access trail but it is strongly advised that you have a guide.
Mentioned in several of Yeats’ poems and part of Irish myth, Knocknarea Mountain is a 327 metre high limestone hill standing in a prominent position on the Cúil Irra peninsula between the bays of Sligo and Ballysadare. Knocknarea dominates the skyline of west Sligo and is well known for its huge flat topped cairn which is believed to be the resting place of the legendary Queen Maeve of Connacht. The walk to the summit of the mountain takes an average of 45 minutes. Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree view. You will be able to see the Ox Mountains, Lough Gill, and Slieve League in Donegal and on a clear day Croagh Patrick in the West.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
Built around 4600-3900 BC (so even before the Egyptian Pyramids!), there were originally over 80 monuments on this megalithic cemetery, the largest in Ireland and Europe. The monuments include chamber tombs, ring forts, cairns and passage graves. There are about 30 sites well worth visiting. The tombs are generally known by numbers assigned to them by George Petrie in 1837. Called by Yeats “the Fir Bolgs” or burial mounds, the tombs were originally covered with earth and stones to make them uniform miniature cairns spread across the landscape.