Sligo is the best place to begin a tour of Yeats Country. Squeezed on to 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 AD 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 people throughout Ireland died in the potato famine or fled to escape it.
The Sligo of the 21st century 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.
They certainly enjoy their music in Sligo. Organized by the umbrella group Con Brio, event highlights encompass chamber music in Drumcliff in May, the Baroque Festival of Music at the end of September, the weeklong Sligo Live Music Festival at the end of October, and the annual Choral Festival in November. Informal musical offerings include the Rosses Point Wild Atlantic Sea Shanty Festival held in mid-June with its hub at Austies Bar, a place filled with maritime memorabilia and redolent of the sea. If you want some social lubricant, try traditional music in pubs such as Shoot the Crows, Hargadons, or the Harp Tavern.