Visting Sligo - A Short Stay in Yeats' Country

We try to get to Donegal every year - it's my favourite place in the country and I have written about our visits there a few times - you can read some of my more recent posts here - Road Trip Home and Exploring Donegal and the North West. We've always tended to just drive by Sligo as we're usually tired at that point of the journey and in a hurry to get to Donegal. This year, however, we decided to spend two nights in County Sligo on the way back and take the time to have a proper look around. We had booked into the Coach House at Kingsfort. I want to give a special mention to this, as it was really lovely and good value. Our room was bright and airy and overlooking the family garden, continental breakfast was delicious and very substantial and the hosts were so welcoming and friendly. It just had a gorgeous relaxed vibe and was a great location in terms of getting out and about and visiting various places. The hosts recommended some places which was brill and the area is really gorgeous, very near Lough Gill.
But I am getting slightly ahead of myself - our first stop (coming from Donegal) was the Gleniff Barytes Mill area - I wasn't aware of this before but it's the perfect spot for a picnic. Maybe it was the sunshine but it felt a little bit magical and special. The sound of the river was murmuring in the background and we went a little way along the woodland path by the river and it just seemed a little bit dreamy and otherworldly with the lush green and mossy path. We didn't have a picnic but just stopped for a wee while before we continued on to the Horseshoe.

Barytes Mill Stream

Wooden Mushroom Barytes Mill

Barytes Mill River Walk

You can walk to the horseshoe from here - it's a 10k loop - unfortunately I have a chronic glutes injury which causes me huge pain if I walk too much - and also slightly embarrassing to explain to people that it's my butt that is the problem! So we drove around the horseshoe and it was absolutely stunning, I'm so glad we got there. Incredible views of Ben Bulben and you can also glimpse the sea in the distance - there are a few places along the route that you can pull in and take pictures or just look around.

Gleniff Horseshoe Sligo

Gleniff Horseshoe View from the Road

Mountain View Gleniff Horseshoe

Trees and Mountain Gleniff Horseshoe

We then went to have a look at Ballindoon Priory and if you like ruins (as I do!) it is well worth a visit. Worth noting though, that there isn't parking and it's necessary to park at the farmhouse opposite the field where the ruin is. We did ask permission so it was fine, but it felt a bit intrusive all the same. The Priory is also known as St. Mary's Priory and was founded in 1507 by Thomas O'Farrell and is a Middle English Gothic style church (source: Megalithic Ireland Website). There are a set of stone steps outside which lead to an upper level. The steps looked pretty precarious so we didn't go up them but they are an interesting feature for sure!

Ballindoon Priory

Ballindoon Priory Outside Steps

Arched doorway at Ballindoon Priory

The following morning, on the recommendation of our host, we headed to Cullenamore beach for a relaxed walk. It is less busy than Strandhill and being quieter, suits me much better. Loads of rocks with fossils there if you have kids who like fossil hunting! Also lots of biodiversity and pretty flowers and butterflies in the grassy areas.

Cullenamore Beach Sligo

Cullenamore Beach County Sligo

After that we headed to Sligo for food and sat outside Sweet Beet CafĂ© (another recommendation from our hosts) with a delicious vegan wrap and great coffee.  I really enjoyed Sligo - it's a bit weird to be back in a bustling place again after almost two weeks of remote places but it has a lovely vibe. Lots of pedestrianised areas and nice shop fronts and places to eat. We got vegan carrot cake in the Sligo Wellness Centre - seriously delicious!

Flowers in Sligo Town

Shop Fronts Sligo

Pigeon on bridge Sligo

We had just paid for 2 hours parking and that was plenty of time.
Back to our room then for a bit of rest and on our final evening in Ballintogher, we went to Slishwood for a walk. It's a Coillte owned forest right by Lough Gill and this whole area inspired W.B. Yeats - Slishwood is referred to in 'The Stolen Child' as 'Sleuth Wood in the lake' and it's not hard to see how it might inspire. We went quite late and didn't do the full walk, but the sense of peace was incredible - the lake stretches out into the distance, as still as glass, with reflections of different colours and a view of Ben Bulben in the far distance.

Slishwood Trees

View of Lough Gill from Slishwood

It was a beautiful way to spend the last evening but all good things must come to an end and the next day we had to set off for home.
First however, we did a quick visit to Parkes Castle which is very near Ballintogher -and also on Lough Gill. There is another Yeats reference here as the Lake Isle of Inisfree sits within Lough Gill. Pre covid it was possible to do a boat tour of the lake, passing by Inisfree, but sadly this is not going at the moment., Parkes Castle is an OPW site and although it is not possible (at time of writing) to see inside the castle because of Covid, the guide did say that it might be an option in the future when they can work out the social distancing aspects. There was no charge on the day we were there and there is a one way system in with sanitiser at the entrance. We could just see the courtyard and the forge but it was well worth a visit - it's an imposing building and the views are amazing. I would love to come back at some stage and see the inside also, as the guide said it had been meticulously restored.

Parkes Castle Sligo View of Lake

Parkes Castle Leitrim

Parkes Castle Courtyard

Forge Parkes Castle Leitrim

Well, that brings me to the end of our Sligo visit, I hope you have gotten some ideas for places to go.

Click here for more of my Places to Visit

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