The Northwest: Places to Explore


Sligo Town

Sligo, the only sizable town in the whole of Northwest Ireland, is the best place to begin a tour of Yeats Country. Squeezed onto a patch of land between Sligo Bay and Lough Gill, Sligo Town is clustered on the south shore between two bridges that span the River Garavogue, just east of where the river opens into the bay. Thanks to the pedestrian zone along the south shore of the river (between the two bridges), you can enjoy vistas of the river while right in the center of town.

Sligo was often a battleground in its earlier days. It was attacked by Viking invaders in 807; later, it was invaded by a succession of rival Irish and Anglo-Norman conquerors. In 1642 the British soldiers of Sir Frederick Hamilton fell upon Sligo, killing every visible inhabitant, burning the town, and destroying the interior of the beautiful medieval abbey. Between 1845 and 1849, more than a million inhabitants of Sligo County died in the potato famine or fled to escape it.

Since the early 2000s, the streets have been ringing with the bite of buzz saws as apartments, shopping malls, and cinema complexes have been erected behind tasteful, traditional facades, although with the demise of the Celtic Tiger building development has tapered off, and the area has been affected by the recession like most other parts of Ireland.

By day Sligo is as lively and crowded as its considerably larger neighbor to the southwest, Galway, with locals, students from the town's college, and tourists bustling past its historic buildings and along its narrow sidewalks and winding streets, and crowding its one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and traditional pubs. More than any other town in Northwest Ireland, the Sligo of today has an energy that would surprise anyone who hasn't been here in the past few years.