Planning Your Time

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Planning Your Time

The Northwest is one of Ireland's most compact regions, and beautifully designed so that you can see the best of it with a three- or five-day trip. The best starting place, of course, is the gateway town where all the trains deposit you: Sligo, an excellent base thanks to its first-class hotels and facilities.

If You Have 3 Days

Start your tour with Sligo's walking trail, a signposted trail of the town with a free tourist-board booklet to help you identify the important buildings and architectural surprises. Whatever else you do, don't forget to call into Hargadon's time-burnished bar—unchanged in 160 years—for some fresh mussels and a glass of stout. You can drive or take an organized tour in the afternoon to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, south of Sligo town. Start early on day two for a short trip out to catch the sea breezes at Rosses Point or Mullaghmore on the coast followed by an onward drive north to Donegal. Stop en route at Drumcliff churchyard to pay your respects at Yeats's grave. Donegal town, with its Irish tweed shops, is good for a spot of shopping followed by a tour of the 15th-century Donegal Castle. After an hour's drive west over twisting roads and amid glorious mountain scenery via the fishing port of Killybegs, you will come to the "back of the beyonds," aka Glencolumbkille, where you can happily potter around the Folk Village Museum. You can overnight here or drive north to Letterkenny, a modest-sized town with decent hotels, cafés, and restaurants. After a morning pottering Letterkenny's streets you should devote the entire afternoon to Glenveagh: tour the castle and rhododendron-filled gardens, follow one of the short nature trails in search of the golden eagles that are found here, or join a ranger-guided hill walk and take a picnic with you.

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