County Sligo Tourist Attractions: Your Ultimate Guide

Sligo Highlights

Attractions of County Sligo

  • County Sligo offers a diverse range of tourist attractions, from majestic to historical sites and stunning beaches.
  • Benbulben Mountain, with its table-top shape, offers breathtaking views and is a popular spot for hikers.
  • Sligo Abbey Ruins are a must-visit for history enthusiasts, with their impressive architecture and rich historical significance.
  • Lough Gill is a scenic lake perfect for outdoor adventures like fishing and bird-watching.
  • Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery takes visitors on a journey back in time with its ancient tombs and archaeological wonders.
  • The Model, home of the Niland Collection, is a cultural hub showcasing contemporary art and the works of renowned Irish artists.

Exploring County Sligo

County Sligo, located in northwest Ireland, is a hidden gem that offers a wide range of attractions for travelers seeking natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural experiences. This majestic Irish county is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with its crystal-clear lakes, dazzling rivers, and dramatic mountains. Sligo is also known as W.B. Yeats country, as it is the birthplace of Ireland's most famous poet. As Yeats captured so eloquently in his works, this stretch of northwest Ireland is wild, unspoiled, and decidedly romantic, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Dublin and the larger cities. As the popularity of County Sligo as a tourist destination is rising, it's the perfect time to discover all that this stunning county has to offer.

Sligo town, the county's vibrant capital, serves as the perfect base for exploring all that County Sligo has to offer. From here, visitors can embark on a road trip to discover the best of this remote and unspoiled part of Ireland.


Top County Sligo Attractions


1. Majestic Benbulben Mountain

Majestic Benbulben Mountain, also known as "Table Mountain," is one of the most iconic landmarks in County Sligo. Its distinctive flat-topped peak rises dramatically from the lush countryside, creating a breathtaking sight that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Benbulben is a popular spot for hikers, offering a variety of trails that lead to its summit. From the top, visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of Donegal Bay, Slieve League, and Mullaghmore, making it a must-see for anyone exploring County Sligo. The unique shape of Benbulben is the result of erosion over thousands of years, creating a natural marvel that is truly awe-inspiring. Whether you're an experienced hiker or a beginner, a visit to Benbulben, located just 4 miles from the grave of Yeats in Drumcliffe, is a must for anyone exploring County Sligo.


2. Historical Sligo Abbey Ruins

Step back in time and explore the historical Sligo Abbey Ruins, a Dominican friary founded in 1253 by the Norman baron Maurice Fitzgerald. The abbey was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1416, but its remnants still stand as a testament to its former grandeur. Visitors can wander through the ruins and admire the impressive architecture, including the canopied tomb of Cormack O'Crean and the 15th-century cloister. The abbey is steeped in history, and guided tours are available to provide a deeper understanding of its significance. As you explore the abbey, you'll feel transported to a different era, surrounded by the echoes of the past. Sligo Abbey Ruins is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and those interested in delving into the rich heritage of County Sligo.


3. Scenic Lough Gill Adventures

Experience the beauty of Lough Gill, a picturesque lake located just a short drive from Sligo town. This eight-kilometer-long lake is an angler's paradise, stocked with salmon, trout, and pike. Nature lovers will appreciate the woodland trails and viewing points that offer stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape. The lush hills of Slieve Killery and Slieve Daean provide a striking backdrop to the tranquil waters of Lough Gill. Bird-watchers will be delighted by the variety of species that call this area home, while photographers will find endless opportunities to capture the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. A drive around Lough Gill is one of the best things to do in Sligo, offering a truly exceptional experience of County Sligo's natural splendor. For a more active adventure, take on the Mullaghmore Head Walk, a scenic 8km trek that offers breathtaking coastal views.


4. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery: A Journey Back in Time

Embark on a journey back in time at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, the largest collection of megaliths in Ireland. Located just five kilometers from Sligo town, this Bronze Age graveyard consists of over 60 graves, including the famous Carrowkeel tombs, dating back to between 3000 and 2500 BC. Although some of the graves have been damaged or destroyed over the centuries, the site still holds great archaeological significance. Visitors can explore the mixture of passage graves and dolmens, marveling at the ancient tombs and the stories they hold. The cemetery is also home to Queen Maeve's tomb on Knocknarea, a limestone hill that overlooks the site. Guided tours and self-guided options are available, providing insights into Irish origins and connections to distant lands, including France. A visit to Carrowmore is a fascinating experience that offers a glimpse into Ireland's ancient past.


5. The Cultural Hub: The Model, Home of the Niland Collection

Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene of County Sligo at The Model, a contemporary art gallery and cultural center. Housed in a beautiful 19th-century building on Hyde Bridge, The Model is one of Ireland's premier centers for contemporary art. It features an impressive collection of works, including those from the renowned Niland Collection, which showcases the works of Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Estella Solomons, Louis Le Brocquy, and Paul Henry. The Model also offers a range of programs and resources for those interested in exploring Irish art and culture, including a summer school, poetry circle, and reference library. Visitors can enjoy exhibitions, performances, and stunning views of Sligo and the surrounding countryside from the top-floor artist studios. A visit to The Model, located near the scenic River Garavogue, is a must for art enthusiasts and those seeking a cultural experience in County Sligo.


6. Surf and Sand at Strandhill Beach

Head to Strandhill Beach for an unforgettable day of surf and sand. Located just outside of Sligo town, this sandy stretch is a paradise for surfers of all levels. With its consistent waves coming in off the Atlantic, Strandhill has become a popular spot for surfers from around the world. If you're new to surfing, there are surf schools that offer lessons and equipment rental. After catching some waves, relax on the beach and take in the stunning views of the Sligo coastline. Strandhill is also home to a vibrant beachfront village, with plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. Whether you're a seasoned surfer or just looking to enjoy some time by the sea, a visit to Strandhill Beach is a must-do in County Sligo.


7. Yeats Society Sligo & Visitors Centre: Following the Poet's Footsteps

Delve into the world of renowned poet W.B. Yeats at the Yeats Society Sligo & Visitors Centre. Located just a short stroll from Sligo County Museum, the Yeats Society offers a range of programs and resources for those interested in exploring Yeats' life and work. The art gallery hosts periodic exhibitions and showcases the connection between Yeats and Sligo through an audiovisual show. Visitors can also participate in poetry circles, attend summer schools, and explore the society's reference library. The Yeats Society is a must-visit for literature enthusiasts and those seeking to follow in the footsteps of one of Ireland's most celebrated poets, with the added bonus of being able to visit Yeats' Grave at the Drumcliffe Cemetery just outside of Sligo town for good reason.


8. Enigmatic Inishmurray Island Excursions

Embark on a journey to the secluded Inishmurray Island and discover its enigmatic beauty. Located just a short drive from Sligo town, this hidden gem is a small blip on Donegal Bay, measuring less than one square kilometer in size. The island was inhabited until the mid-1900s and is home to a well-preserved monastic establishment founded by St. Molaise in the early 6th century. Explore the island's ancient ruins, including an old school and the former islanders' homes. From St. Patrick's Memorial, enjoy breathtaking views of the mainland. Access to Inishmurray Island can be arranged from Grange or Mullaghmore. A visit to this unique and secluded island is a truly unforgettable experience in County Sligo.


9. Stroll through the Historic Lissadell House

Step back in time with a visit to the historic Lissadell House, located just north of Sligo town. This beautiful estate, overlooking Sligo Bay, was built in 1830 and has become one of the top tourist attractions in Sligo in recent years. Wander through the woodland trails, explore the gardens, and enjoy afternoon tea in the tearoom. Lissadell House also has a special connection to W.B. Yeats, who was often a here. A small exhibit in the visitor center commemorates Yeats' time at Lissadell House. Whether you're interested in history, architecture, or simply want to enjoy the tranquil surroundings, a stroll through Lissadell House is a must-do in Sligo.


10. Climb Knocknarea - Queen Maeve's Final Resting Place

Embark on a challenging hike to the summit of Knocknarea and discover the final resting place of legendary Queen Maeve. This iconic mountain, located just west of Sligo town, offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and neighboring bays. The hike to the summit takes approximately one hour and is suitable for experienced hikers. Along the way, you'll pass by ancient tombs and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Knocknarea Mountain. At the top, you'll find Queen Maeve's cairn, a large stone mound believed to house her burial site and offering stunning mountain views. Legend has it that only those free from sin can hear the sound of her bell. A climb up Knocknarea Mountain is a must-do for those seeking adventure and stunning views in County Sligo.


11. Discovering the Hidden Gems: Hazelwood Forest

Escape to the serene beauty of Hazelwood Forest, located just a short drive from Sligo town. This hidden gem offers a tranquil retreat with its woodland trails and panoramic views of Lough Gill. Explore the forest on foot or by bike, taking in the scenic beauty and the captivating wildlife. Hazelwood Forest is also home to Church Island, Cottage Island, and Goat Island, which can be admired from various viewpoints along the trails. Whether you're a nature lover or simply seeking a peaceful escape along the shores of Lough Gill, a visit to Hazelwood Forest is a must-do in County Sligo.


12. O'Dowd Castle's Ancient Stories

Uncover the ancient stories of O'Dowd Castle, a historic landmark located on the misty coast of West Sligo. This 13th-century tower house was once owned by the O'Dowd chieftains and offers stunning views of the northern coast of Ireland. Although only a tower remains, visitors can climb to the top for panoramic views and a glimpse into the castle's past. O'Dowd Castle is a hidden gem in County Sligo, known for its rich history and captivating stories.


Frequently Asked Questions


What are the must-see hidden gems in County Sligo?

County Sligo is home to many hidden gems, including Hazelwood Forest with its scenic beauty, and the Caves of Keash, a cluster of ancient passage tombs. These off-the-beaten-path attractions offer unique experiences for visitors seeking something different.


How can I make the most out of my visit to Benbulben Mountain?

To make the most of your visit to Benbulben Mountain, pack comfortable hiking gear and choose a trail that suits your fitness level. Don't forget to bring a camera to capture the stunning views from the summit.


Are there guided tours available for Sligo Abbey and other historical sites?

Yes, guided tours are available for Sligo Abbey and other historical sites in County Sligo. These tours provide valuable insights into the history and significance of these sites and enhance the visitor's experience.


Can you recommend activities for families in County Sligo?

County Sligo offers a range of family-friendly activities, including adventures on Lough Gill, visits to adventure parks, and exploring the sandy beaches along the Sligo coastline. There's something for everyone in the family to enjoy.


What are the best spots for experiencing Sligo's culinary scene?

To experience Sligo's culinary scene, head to Strandhill, where you'll find a variety of restaurants serving up delicious local cuisine. Enjoy a meal while listening to traditional Irish music in one of the many cozy pubs.


Tips for first-time visitors to County Sligo?

For first-time visitors to County Sligo, a visit to Sligo town is a must. Take time to explore the historic sites, sample the local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene. Don't forget to pack comfortable walking shoes and dress for the changeable weather.


What is the best time of year to visit County Sligo for outdoor activities?

The best time of year to visit County Sligo for outdoor activities is during the summer months when the weather is mild and the days are longer. However, outdoor activities can be enjoyed year-round, so plan according to your preferences.


How accessible are County Sligo's tourist attractions for international visitors?

County Sligo's tourist attractions are accessible for international visitors, with many offering guided tours and visitor centers with multilingual staff. The county is well-connected by roads and public transport, making it easy to explore the attractions.