One of Ireland’s lesser known spots, Sligo is still very much an underrated gem in the eyes of overseas tourists. But we’re so glad we included it in our Ireland itinerary, because when it comes to what to do in Sligo Ireland, this place has got it going on.
It would in fact be fair to say it was a late and unintentional addition to our Ireland road trip. Borne out of convenience, rather than a burning desire to visit. But Sligo was like that night out that you don’t really want to go on, which unexpectedly turns out to be the best night ever!
If you’re a literary fan, you may have already heard of Sligo. Because it’s probably most well known for the famous poet, W.B. Yeats. He was born and laid to rest here. Plus lots of places in Sligo, such as Benbulben Mountain and Lough Gill have been immortalised in his works.
What To Do In Sligo Ireland
Laying claim to one of the most stunning and rugged stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way, County Sligo is characterised by wild beaches backed by misty mountaintops.
But on top of the scenic drives drives and panoramic hikes, there’s also a serious dose of history to be had, a thriving food scene and some cracking traditional pubs.
So let’s get into the best things to do in Sligo Ireland.
We’re going to run you through the prettiest Sligo beaches, the best hikes, the most scenic drives and the most impressive historic monuments. Plus recommendations for where to eat, where to drink and where to stay in Sligo.
And in the aim of being extra helpful with our Sligo guide we’ve already plotted everything on a map for you.
Only 10 minutes drive from Sligo town are the towering cliff tops and sweeping beaches of Rosses Point. Look out for the Metal Man lighthouse. He’s been there since 1821 and is a navigational beacon for some rocks that are out of sight at high tide.
Just 180m from the shore you’ll find Oyster Island with its 70 acres of Oyster beds. In 1841 it had a population of 28 but this dwindled just one inhabitant according to the 1986 census and in recent years has been uninhabited.
There’s also the iconic Waiting on Shore figure by Dublin sculptor Niall Bruton. The woman has her arms outstretched towards the North Atlantic Ocean, pleading for the safe return of loved ones. It’s a tribute to generations of seafarers.
The Driftwood is a popular restaurant if you’re after a place to grab a bite to eat.
Another 10 minute drive in the other direction of Sligo Bay will land you at Strandhill.
The beach is wild and rugged with grass tipped sand dunes. You can feel the raw power of the ocean when the tide is in as the waves come relentlessly crashing in, throwing spray high up into the air.
There are a few cafes and bars along the seafront which makes it a popular place for people to come and relax while taking in the views.
In between Rosse Point and Strandhill beaches lies Coney Island or Inishmulclohy as it is also known. You can walk across from Cummeen Strand to it when the tide is out in Sligo Bay. Just follow the 14 large stone pillars that mark the way and triple check tide times.
Deserted except for a huge rabbit population and solitary pub. Be sure to grab a pint in McGowan’s if you can. It’s open Thursday to Sunday during the summer.
Another great spot on Sligo beaches is Culleenamore at the edge of Strandhill. You’ll find the oldest oyster beds in Ireland here and on a clear day may catch a glimpse of one of Ireland’s biggest seal colonies just off the shore.
Isle of Inishmurray
Situated 7km off the coast and under 1sqkm in size, since 1948 this island’s only inhabitants have been seals. But with walls of an early monastic settlement still in place, it’s a fascinating Sligo attraction.
To get there you can take a boat from Mullaghmore Harbour, County Sligo.
Up that way too you have Streedagh beach. With it’s golden sands and tranquil water it’s the perfect place to try your hand at SUP, a favourite of summer activities in Sligo.
During the Spanish Armada, three ships sunk just off the shore here, taking with them 1000 sailors. Now and again cannons still wash up on the beach.
If you’re after more water sport acitivities in Sligo, Easkey beach is one of the best surfing spots in the whole of Ireland. But there’s lots of top Sligo surfing spots all along County Sligo’s ‘Surf Coast’.
Pretty much anywhere in Strandhill is popular, as is Enniscrone a little further south. This part of the county is definitely the place to head for fun things to do in Sligo.
There’s a great refreshment stop off here in town here too called Pudding Row if you need to refuel.
Speaking of Enniscrone, for an alternative suggestion of what to do in Sligo, head round here for a hot seaweed bath. Yep, you read that right. The 100 year bath house of Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths is well known for its traditional, relaxing and therapeutic seaweed baths.
There’s a great traditional thatched roof bar and restaurant called The Beach Bar along the coastal road at Aughris head between Strandhill and Easkey. They serve up a beaut of seafood chowder.
Okay let’s go big for our first Sligo hiking recommendation with the Benbulben mountain. The 526m shale and limestone mountain was formed by ice age glaciers 320 million years ago. Also known as Sligo’s Table Mountain, it’s totally possible to climb it.
From its foot, it looks as though vertical grooves have been carved into its side and it’s flat peak have drawn comparisons to Table Mountain in South Africa.
The hiking trail through Benbulben Forest up the south slope is suitable for most walkers and should take around an hour and a half. It simply has to be on your list of things to see in Sligo Ireland.
The Devil’s Chimney
Or Sruth in Aghaidh An Aird as it is called in Irish, lies on the edge of County Sligo. Right next door to County Leitrim. But before you cross the county border, swing a left sign-posted Glencar Lake and waterfall to the carpark.
With a 150m vertical drop, the Devil’s Chimney is the tallest waterfall in Ireland.
But you can only see either when it’s raining, or after heavy rainfall. And when coupled with string winds there’s a fascinating natural phenomena that happens where the wind literally blows to waterfall upwards and back over the cliff. You can see it here.
The 1.2km walking trail involves an ascent for around 30 minutes and then a descent of about 15 minutes. It pretty steep and as you can imagine gets quite muddy so wear appropriate footwear and don’t forget a waterproof too.
Caves of Keash
Another of the more unusual things to do in Sligo is take a peek inside the Caves of Keash. Or Caves of Keshcorran to give them their full name. Astonishingly these Sligo caves are thought to predate the pyramids of Egypt by more than 500 years.
The naturally formed 17 limestone caves are located on the western side of Keshcorran mountain and some are even internally connected.
It’s a 3km trail through farmland from the church car-park in the village of Keash. The Fox’s Den pub has an info centre about the caves and when you’ve finished exploring is an excellent place for a post-adventure pint.
This easy 7km Sligo hike starts in Strandhill. The Killaspugbrone Loop passes the ancient Killaspugbrone church and lots of pretty landscapes such as sand dunes, salt marshes and pine forests. The terrain is flat and it should take less than 2 hours.
The 8km coastal walk around Mullaghmore Head is a seriously pretty one. Starting from the carpark in Mullaghmore village. Walkers and surfers alike are in their element around here. Although it is very much a tourist village and it mostly unoccupied over winter months.
This elongated, flat topped mountain is the most prominent and dominant feature of the west Sligo skyline. And hiking up it should be high up on your list of things to do in Sligo Ireland.
Gazing up at the top from Knocknarea’s base, we really weren’t sure it would be possible to get to it’s peak and back down within two hours. Which is all the time we had before we needed to head to the airport.
It’s so big it casts a brooding shadow over the entire area. But we decided to go for it and from the moment we set off were rewarded with amazing scenery. And made it up and down with plenty of time to spare.
There are three sections to the Queen Maeve Trail The first part is covered in gorse, the pretty yellow wild flower found across much of Ireland. The second section has a raised walkway which works its way through woodland. The last section leads you to the top.
Where there are breathtaking panoramic views across Sligo and out to sea. As well as an enormous cairn, which is said to be the grave of the Queen Maeve of Connacht. It’s never been excavated but she is supposedly buried upright in there with a spear in her hand.
Bonus Sligo Attraction
This is for all you late 90s early 2000s pop boy band heads out there. The chart conquering, white suit sporting legends that are Westlife were actually originally formed in Sligo.
So the story goes, they were a 6 piece made up of local lads who got signed by pop impresario Louis Walsh following his colossal success with Boyzone.
When he introduced them to Simon Cowell, he liked them but insisted that they got rid of at least half of them as they were far too ugly to be in a pop band. So 3 sackings later and a couple of new recruits saw them turn into the heartthrobs we know today.
Some locals told us that a couple of them still live in the local area and not only can you see their houses from the top of Knocknarea, but if you’re lucky you might catch them in the local supermarket or pub.
This 10km loop through spectacular woodland scenery should take you approximately two and a half hours. It is a must for what to do in Sligo Ireland. The backdrop to this Sligo hike of the Darty mountain range is particularly impressive.
And if you don’t fancy walking the Gleniff Horseshoe, you can also drive or cycle it.
This 6km Sligo hike traces the shore of Lough Easkey and should take less than 2 hours. There is a carpark but it’s probably the most remote Sligo hiking trail we’ve mentioned here. It is so tranquil and provides a serious dose of nature.
There’s lots of wildlife, birds, fish and reptiles. And the name Easkey literally means plentiful in fish, of which it is. It can get very marshy, so do be sure to wear waterproof footwear.
A 15 minute drive from Sligo town, visiting Lough Gill is one of the most popular Sligo tourist attractions. It’s a seriously picturesque freshwater lake framed by ancient woodland with oak trees as old as 250 years.
The drive around it is 37km in length or you could bike it if you like. During summer months there are boat tours running that also take in the Isle Innisfree. Or if you’re feeling a little more energetic you can explore the tranquil waters of Lough Gill by Kayak too.
The surrounding forests of Slish Wood, Dooney Rock, and Hazelwood also have lots of nature hiking trails if you want to spend some more time in this beautiful part of Sligo.
Sligo Historic Monuments
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
This 5,500 year old cairn has a collection of 60 tombs and they are the oldest of their kind in Ireland. DNA analysis on the graveyard has suggested that the monuments were built and used by people who came from from Brittany in France slightly over 6,000 years ago.
This gothic monastery built in 1253 has a turbulent history. All but destroyed by a huge fire in 1414, then severely damaged during the Nine Years’ War of 1595 and finally wrecked during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
The legend goes that its silver bell was saved but thrown into Lough Gill and apparently those free from sin can hear it chime if they listen carefully enough. Sligo Abbey was subsequently abandoned in the 1700’s but was restored by a British Prime minister in in the 1850’s.
Drumcliffe Parish Church
This resting place of Ireland’s most famous poet, W.B. Yeats, visiting his gravestone is one of the most popular places to visit in Sligo.
This cracker of a building holds some fantastic art exhibitions in its gallery. The Model also a bookshop, cafe and panoramic views of Sligo town from the top floor.
Technically this isn’t in County Sligo, it’s in neighbouring Country Leitrim. However because it’s situated on the shore of tranquil Lough Gill, which spans both counties we think it worth a mention.
This historic Sligo attraction dates back to the times of English conquest and tainted by executions of Irish rebels. There’s tours running during the summer months. And it’s right near where the Rose of Innisfree boats leave from.
Lissadell House and Gardens
This large Neoclassical country house has a dramatic setting between Sligo Bay and the Dartry Mountain range. Its surrounding gardens are stunning. There are tours of the premises running over the summer.
It’s one of the most important houses in Ireland and has housed lots of famous names over the years. Including Constance Markievicz, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Tobernalt Holy Well
Situated on the south shore of Lough Gill south shore, this natural spring is actually an old pagen meeting place. Don’t miss it off your list of Sligo attractions when you visit Lough Gill.
Carrowkeel Neolithic Cemetery
Another of Sligo’s ancient graveyards, this 5,400 year old one has a cluster of 14 interconnecting passage tombs. Also known as Bricklieve tombs, the resting places overlook pretty Lough Arrow.
Sligo County Museum & Art Gallery
Located in Sligo town centre on Stephen Street, is another of the top Sligo tourist attractions. This museum holds various works of W.B. Yeats. But also has paintings by his brother, Jack Butler Yeats who is also considered to be one of Ireland’s artistic greats.
Overlooked by Knocknarea, Dolly’s cottage is a tiny building with a huge history. In fact it’s the oldest building of its kind in the area. It’s white stone exterior is topped with a fetching thatched roof that gives a clue to its age of over 200 years.
It’s open to the public during the summer months and provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, as it’s survived largely without alteration.
It’s named after its last occupant, Dolly Higgins who lived there until 1970, when it was bought by the Irish Countrywomen’s Association and opened as a museum.
Best Pubs In Sligo
As with most Irish towns, Sligo has no shortage of cracking traditional pubs. But we were surprised by just how lively the nightlife was in Sligo. There are dozens of pubs with live music, bars and restaurants that work together to create a fantastic local night scene.
Not only that, but Sligo was one of the friendliest places we visited in all of Ireland. Now for those of you who have visited Ireland, or even just met an Irish person, you’ll understand that’s saying something.
And it’s for that reason that you can’t really go wrong with any of them but just in case you don’t know where to start. Here’s our pick of the best pubs in Sligo.
Licensed in 1861, it is named after an old mayor of Sligo who first owned it. It’s a wonderfully traditional Irish pub with very friendly patron and top notch live music. If you only visit one pub on your Sligo visit, this should be it.
Address: Markievicz Rd, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland.
Complete with a roaring open fire right in the centre during cold months, this Sligo pub is one to pop into if you’re feeling the chill of the Wild Atlantic Way coast. Plus the fire and a cracking pint of the black stuff is usually accompanied by a live Irish band to boot.
Address: O’Connell St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland.
With it’s gorgeous paneled snugs, stone floors and live music, this Sligo pub simply just oozes that good old Irish charm. It also has a really tasty food menu if you’re feeling peckish.
Address: O’Connell St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland.
Best Sligo Restaurants
Thanks to the creation of the Sligo Food Trail, there’s a hugely popular and growing food scene in this Irish town. You really will be spoilt for choice. But just in case you can’t choose here’s our pick of the bunch when it comes to restaurants in Sligo.
Coach Lane Restaurant
Situated in Donaghy’s Bar, this award winning pub has a varied menu of seafood, steaks and pasta. With its exposed beams and cosy atmosphere you’ll feel like settling in for the whole evening, we sure did.
Address: 2 Lord Edward St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland.
Sligo’s first Korean Japanese fusion restaurant, this stylishly minimalistic place is where to head if you’re after something a little different. The ramen is as delicious as the sushi so if you want our opinion, try both.
Address: Calry Court, Stephen St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland.
WB’s Coffee House
If you’re garnering after trying Sligo’s world famous oysters, the best way to indulge it is the Sligo Oyster Experience at this magical spot. As well as tasting the best oysters in County Sligo you’ll learn about the history and farming methods of the Wild Atlantic Way oysters.
Address: 10 Stephen St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland
This trendy bistro-style cafe first and foremost serves locally sourced food. Their breakfast, brunch and dinner menus are both varied and reasonably priced. They also do a seriously good cup of coffee if you’re in need of a fix.
Address: 3-4 Rockwood Parade, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland
If you’re looking for somewhere special to eat in Sligo, Hooked’s posher older sister is where it’s at. The name Eala Bhán means ’White Swan’ in Gaelic and this Sligo restaurant does fine dining at it’s finest. The local seafood is hand-selected and is absolutely divine.
Address: 5 Rockwood Parade, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, Ireland
Best Time To Go To Sligo
Ireland has a notoriously poor climate and Sligo weather is no different. Sligo has it’s best weather in June to September. But it’s never guaranteed because although the temps are warmer, it won’t necessarily be drier.
Obviously peak season is when visitor numbers peak and prices are at their highest. So if you want to avoid those you’ll want to visit Sligo either side of that. October is a good shout because there’s Sligo Live, the annual music festival.
How To Get To Sligo Ireland
You have a couple of options for how to get to Sligo, by plane, by ferry, by train, by car, or a combination. We’ll run you through the different options here.
Flight to Sligo Ireland
Sligo Airport hasn’t been operating passenger flights since 2011, but nearby Ireland West Airport Knock in County Mayo has flight routes operating from Europe, especially the UK.
It’s an easy 45 minute drive between Knock airport and Sligo town.
If you’re arriving from Europe, there’s several low cost airlines that fly into Knock airport from most major cities. Irish owned, Ryanair typically have the most frequent and cheapest flights to Ireland. But Easyjet, Flybe, Aer Lingus and Bmibaby also have plenty of flights to Sligo.
If you’re travelling from further afield we recommend comparing the best prices through a flight comparison site. We always use Kiwi.com. Because if you miss a connecting flight they guarantee to put you on the next one.
Ferry To Sligo Ireland
From the UK mainland, there are two ports from which you can take a ferry to Dublin. There’s Holyhead in Wales and Liverpool in England.
The crossing from Holyhead to Dublin is around 3 hours and services from Holyhead port are operated by Stena Line and Irish Ferries. The Liverpool to Dublin ferry is operated by P&O ferries and will take around 8 hours.
If you’re not taking a car over from the mainland, Rail & Sail tickets are good options.
These include train travel to Holyhead port from UK mainline train stations, and the ferry trip over to Dublin Port.
Obviously this method of travel will take longer than flying. And then you’ll still have to get from Dublin to Sligo which is around 3 hours by train. Find trains from Dublin to Sligo here.
But taking the ferry is a good option if you are planning on visiting other places in Ireland, want to take your pets or a shit load of luggage. Stena Line ferries don’t have any luggage limitations and Irish Ferries allow two 22kg suitcases per person.
How To Get Around Sligo Ireland
Sligo town is built around the Garavogue River, which winds its way right through its heart before finally heading out to the Atlantic. Walking around the centre of Sligo doesn’t take long as it’s so small, but this is how we really began to fall for the city’s charms.
Colourful buildings are packed into narrow streets which all seem to lead to the river. Walking along the Garavogue’s edge in the early evening was magical as the buildings that line it began to light up.
Criss crossing the three bridges that lie just a few dozen metres from each other gave us winning views of the quaint buildings reflected in the water.
It’s for this reason that the best way to get around Sligo town is by walking. But in order to visit the rest of things to do in Sligo County that we’ve mentioned, you’ll want to hire a car.
We always find that Auto Europe has great car rental deals with lots of different vehicle options. And you can pick them up either at Knock airport or in Sligo town centre.
Best Places To Stay In Sligo
Because it’s a relatively small place, the best hotels in Sligo Ireland do tend to get booked up pretty quickly over the summer months. So if you have have you travel dates already, it’s best to book your Sligo accommodation as soon as possible.
Cheap & Cheerful: The Beehive Hostel
The centrally located Beehive Hostel is in huge old house that has been recently renovated to an exceptional standard. The decor is beautiful. Expect to be welcomed by possibly the coolest pugs in Ireland. When it comes to places to stay in Sligo this is our number one
The kitchen is well stocked and there’s a big open plan social area, split into a dining and relaxing area with a TV and board games. It’s the perfect space to meet people. There’s lots of different sized homely rooms and the hosts are so helpful and friendly.
Mid-Range: The Driftwood
Located near Rosses Point Beach, this classy Sligo B&B has 7 individually decorated rooms. The TV’s have Netflix, there’s good WiFi and cute complimentary toiletries included.
The staff are friendly and efficient. There’s free parking. The whole place has a lovely chilled ambience and the onsite restaurant serves an excellent à la carte breakfast.
Affordable Luxury: The Glasshouse
This stunning modern Sligo hotel is set on the Garravogue River. The chic and stylish rooms are spacious and each features a 26’ TV, great WiFi Rooms, private bathrooms, hairdryer, individual climate control and tea and coffee facilities.
There’s also an award-winning restaurant serving full Irish breakfasts, a well equipped gym and a classy bar boasting fantastic river views, floor-to-ceiling windows, and luxurious decor.
Recommended Ireland Guide Books
Travel Insurance For Sligo Ireland
Even though Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world, we don’t recommend travelling anywhere without a good quality travel insurance in place.
Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. They have a no bullshit approach to policy wording & you can even buy a policy even if you’ve already set off on your travels.
Get a no obligation quote here:
More Cracking Places In Ireland
If you’re spending a while travelling around Ireland, you might find these blog posts helpful too:
- Your Complete Guide To Killarney
- 33 Stellar Things To Do In Galway
- The Very Best Things To Do in Derry
- Guide To Dublin On A Budget
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Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.