If you’re looking for a great weekend away from Dublin or elsewhere then consider Sligo, an underrated historic town steeped in culture in the Northwest of Ireland. Known for its rich history, landscape and beaches, while also being the former home and final resting place of one of the world’s leading playwrights William Butler Yeats, it offers a fantastic weekend away.
Sligo is about 2.5 hours drive from Dublin, or 1.5 hours from Galway city. If taking public transport it’s easily accessible with a train from Connolly station in Dublin or a bus from Busaras and other locations. From Galway there are buses although less frequent.
If arriving by bus you’ll arrive at the town’s main station next to Lord Edward street. Right behind you’ll find the main train station.
By train: A return train ticket from Dublin price can be found on the Irish rail website. The same train passes through Longford, Mullingar, Carrick on Shannon and other stops, with discounted fares for students. By bus: BusEireann, the National bus service has regular routes from Dublin to Sligo (Route 23 – prices and timetable). Galway city, 200 kms south of Sligo is another destination with services to Sligo (Route 64 – prices and timetable). Besides BusEireann there are other private bus companies who provide a regular service between major towns and cities.
Friday night: Pubbing & Clubbing
If you’re looking to meet locals, enjoy local craft beers and some of the finest local produce then a visit to the Swagmans bar and restaurant is a must. The premises provide a cozy environment and an impressive collection of whiskies and spirits, with an enthusiastic owner who’s happy to talk you through what’s on offer..
The Swagmans is a small pub and bar, so if you’re planning on getting some food you may want to book a seat. For vegetarians the veggie lasagna is delicious and comes with a tasty side salad and chips.
Saturday Morning: Breakfast and exploring the town
A great way to start your way is by wandering through the center of Sligo, where you can enjoy the Italian quarters or a nice riverside walk. For breakfast a visit to the Lyon’s cafe, an extension of the Henry Lyons & Co department store, will provide you with a taste of good local produce that’s been very popular with locals since 1824. There you can grab your full Irish breakfast or a delicious vegetarian alternative, setting you up for the day ahead.
Saturday Afternoon: A stunning walk and WB Yeats
Sligo and its surrounding areas have some of the best scenery and landscape in Ireland, so why not take a trip to the Benbulben Forest Walk. The entrance is about 10 minutes north of Sligo town by car, and well worth the visit due to the incredible views of the historic mountain and Sligo coastline.
The walk is a relatively easy walk, under 6km’s long and with a 60 metres ascent. It can be completed in little over an hour by walking at a leisurely pace.
If you prefer to climb the mountain itself, as opposed to a base forest walk, the hike commences at Lukes Bridge. This bridge is not connected with the first walk. The 8km hike is moderate and should take the average hiker over 3 hours to reach the summit plateau, which provides the most incredible views. Hiking or professional walking gear is highly recommended, with very marshy and wet lands crossed. There is no gravelled or elevated path along the top however it is worthwhile exploring the caves, the rocky formation and fauna on your journey. .
When you’ve completed your walk be sure to visit the grave of William Butler Yeats, at Drumcliffe cemetery, one of the most renowned poets and writers that ever lived. His name is synonymous with Sligo, where, along with neighbouring Leitrim, provided the inspiration and subject of some of his most well known work.
If you don’t have access to a car or prefer to remain within Sligo then luckily there is an excellent river walk for you to enjoy within the town boundary. This particular walk is called the Garavogue River Walk and you’ll be wandering through the Doorly Park nature trail, sharing your afternoon with ducks, swans and the odd fisherman. The walk will make you question whether you’re still in the town, such is the scenery similar to being in real countryside Ireland. This walk is also suitable for families, with a children’s playground the rewards as you pass through the meandering woodland.
Saturday Evening: Pub Grub and an Irish experience
If you’re looking for a very Irish experience visit the Hardgadon Pub, which provides live music on many nights and excellent quality Irish food. Start off with a seafood chowder, fresh off the boat, accompanied with some soda bread. The pub has managed to retain many of it’s old features and is top of the list for visitors and locals alike when it comes to good quality pub fare and affordable prices.
If you prefer something a bit more exotic than Irish food you can try Jalan Jalan which is an excellent Asian street food style restaurant. With fair prices and top quality dishes it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with locals since opening a couple of years ago as a second location of the Galway city original. If planning to visit, be sure to book in advance.
Sunday Morning: Breakfast and Beach
There’s no shortage of cafes in Sligo town, so start your day with a coffee and pastry at the fantastic Le Fournil cafe and bakery, with plenty of award winning sweet treats and breads to give you the energy boost for the day ahead. This little gem gets super busy, so if you’re unlucky with your timing there’s a wide range of nearby cafes.
After getting fueled up make your way to Strandhill Beach, a beach known worldwide as a leading surfing destination. Along with being a great destination for surfing enthusiasts the strand itself offers one of the finest stretches of coastline in Ireland, making it a great place to paddle, walk or simply grab an ice cream or sandwich from Shells Cafe and people watch.
If you’re visiting Strandhill during the summer months you can easily spend most of the day enjoying the summer weather, surfing, paddling or relaxing. During the colder months you may wish to combine the visit with a hike on Knocknarea, a sacred burial place with a 6km hike with some amazing coastal views. In addition you’ll enjoy the sights of passage tombs, circular house foundations and an extensive system of stone banks to the summit, with the largest measuring 55 meters across and 10 meters in height, possibly built around 3400BC.
After returning from your trip to Strandhill you’ll be ready for some refreshments or for some locally sourced artesian food at Hooked restaurant and cafe, in the town’s Italian quarters. While not specifically serving Italian food this award winning venue provides excellent food in beautiful surroundings, served by friendly staff.
After tucking into some fine food you may wish to visit Sligo Abbey, just a short walk away, before wandering back to the center of town to enjoy some traditional live music at Shoot The Crows bar, one of Irelad’s best traditional Irish music experiences.
So if you are thinking of a weekend away from Dublin put the land of heats desire on your to do list, you won’t regret it!