The Insider’s Guide to Sligo: 9 Special Spots You Shouldn’t Miss

With its untamed coastal beauty, rich cultural heritage and laidback surf spirit, Ireland’s best-kept secret is well and truly out – here we chat to Sligo’s resident artists and adventurers about why you need to make a beeline for this buzzing, blissed out county…

Something special is happening in Sligo. From its flourishing foodie scene to its thriving creative community and well-earned title of Ireland’s adventure capital, it has evolved into a must-visit destination and the country’s newest design hub – a home away from home for droves of adrenaline junkies, outdoor enthusiasts and art lovers looking to the wave-ravaged periphery of Europe for inspiration.

We took a salt-tinged tour through the not-so-hidden gem of the west with some Sligo creatives and found out the spots that shouldn’t be missed on a visit…

Surf booties drying at the seafront in Strandhill –

Surf booties drying at the seafront in Strandhill.

1. FOR AWE-INSPIRING WAVES. “Mullaghmore is my favourite place in Sligo. It’s a world-class big-wave spot that commands respect. I make a point of always being there when the wave off the headland breaks.” Barry Mottershead, Sligo Kayak Tours

2. FOR DINNER WITH A VIEW. “One of my favourite spots is The Beach Bar thatched cottage at Aughris Head. I go for a pint and a plate of mussels with the view of the ocean.” John Monahan, NOJI Architects

3. FOR A SEAWEED BLISS-OUT. “A climb up Knocknarea is a must – pack a picnic and a wind jacket for the top. A visit to Voya Seaweed baths is another treat I highly recommend; try a massage too, as the therapists are amazing.” Jane Lamberth, Shells Café and Little Shop

A canvas satchel by Ashleigh Smith of The Atlantic Equipment Project –

A canvas satchel by Ashleigh Smith of The Atlantic Equipment Project.

4. FOR RAVE-WORTHY VIEWS. “Benbulben is a never-ending font of beauty. Every time I hike up there, I find a new angle or see something that drops my jaw. That mountain is special.” Christian McLeod, photographer

5. FOR BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS. “The Alpine Garden at Lissadell House is my favourite spot. I love the colours of the plants and flowers, but also, on a clear day, the sea looks a most beautiful sea-green and you can look back on Knocknarea and Strandhill.” Denise Rushe, Starling Digital Media Direction

6. FOR A MYSTICAL WALK. My studio is beside the Deerpark Forest and the Giant’s Grave. I love walking there early in the morning when the mist is lying low. Alternatively, I’ll take a drive around the Gleniff Horseshoe, or a picnic out to Beezies Island on Lough Gill. And of course it wouldn’t be a visit to Sligo without taking in the stunning coastline! Walk it, swim it, surf it … it’s amazing! No tips here – go explore!” Rebecca Marsden, fashion designer

A tasty, healthy smoothie from The Sweet Beat café, Sligo. Photo by Andrea Flanagan –

A tasty, healthy smoothie from the Sweet Beat Café, Sligo. Photo by Andrea Flanagan.

7. FOR A POST-SURF WARM-UP. “I love picnicking with friends in the dunes on Strandhill Beach on a sunny day covered in salt from a little surf. A close second would be catching up with the whole village outside Shells on a Sunday morning. It’s the new mass!” Aoife Porter, Swell Sligo

8. FOR SOME ALONE TIME. “I have one or two really favourite spots, but for sure the top one is a little piece of exposed cliff near where I used to surf growing up. It’s on the edge of our bogland just before the Atlantic, and it is where the reason I am here becomes most clear.” Ashleigh Smith, Atlantic Equipment Project

9. FOR A WARM-WEATHER WANDER. “Coney Island, off Rosses Point, near my home, can be accessed by foot or by car at low tide. There’s a lovely beach with waves, a calm harbour for pier-jumping, blackberries for picking, and a pub that, as a child, I remember often going to for mass!” Elizabeth Clyne, Salt of the Earth Studio.

A  handplane by local design studio Salt of the Earth –

A handplane by local design studio Salt of the Earth.

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