Things to do in Sligo

Must-see Sligo sights

The land of Yeats’ poetry, surfing champions, deserted beaches and flat-topped mountains, Sligo is exactly how you’d picture Ireland’s rugged and romantic West Coast. So, wrap up in your windbreaker jacket and get into the Celtic spirit.

  1. Surfing in Strandhill
  2. Seafood lunch at Mullaghmore
  3. Walk to Coney Island
  4. Look around Lissadell House
  5. An arty afternoon
  6. Swim at Rosses Point
  7. Cycle around Lough Gill

What to do in Sligo? This slice of the Wild Atlantic Way delivers exhilarating walks across deserted beaches and sandbars, the dramatic flat-topped Dartry Mountains and roaring waves that draw a global surfing scene. A day out in the elements is all the more fun when you have a world-renowned pub culture, to the tune of a live band on their flutes and fiddles.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Surfing in Strandhill

This tiny seaside town comes with its own slogan, “The Thrill of Strandhill”, thanks to its thriving surf scene. If you fancy catching one of those huge Atlantic breakers yourself there are surf schools dotted along here - or, grab a bacon buttie from the Shells Café and watch the pros in action. Strandhills sunsets are notorious so head down to the beach each night to watch the red glow. Then it’s on to the Strand Bar for Rock Beer – the local lager – and live music at weekends. If you’re after a cheap holiday in Sligo, Strandhill is the place to base yourself. If you’re tempted to book a break away here, check out our fantastic selection of hotels in Sligo.

Best for: A digital detox – it’s just you and the waves, man

While you’re there: Come in August for the local surfing comp, Sligo Open Championship

2. Seafood lunch at Mullaghmore

A glorious sandy beach all to yourself? That’s the beauty of Sligo holidays. One of its renowned beauty spots is the dramatic peninsula of Mullaghmore. Start with local oysters or cracked crab claws in the laid-back restaurant Eithna's by the Sea, then wander down to the harbour leading and onto the beach which stretches as far as the eye can see.

Best for: Wannabe photographers, you’ll need to snap these mountain and ocean views

While you’re there: With 30ft waves, you might be lucky enough to spot thrill seekers riding high

3. Walk to Coney Island

This little landmass just 1.5 miles across couldn’t be more different from its New York namesake. And the 40-minute walk to reach it is one you’ll never forget. A sandbar to get there from mainland appears at low tide, marked by 14 stone pillars like a causeway leading to a fairytale land. Time it right and you might even have time for a pint at McGowens, the island’s only pub.

Best for: A swim off what must be Sligo’s most secluded beach, Carty’s Strand

While you’re there: It’s all a bit Moby Dick, but look out for the remains of a washed-up whale

4. Look around Lissadell House

As brilliant as blustery walks and pubs are, a bit of history always helps to bring a place to life. Lissadell House is one of the best things to do in Sligo. The 19th-century manor was the holiday retreat of the poet W. B. Yeats and the childhood home of Constance Gore-Booth, who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. This lot were far from boring – the Billiard Room is full of relics from Henry Gore-Booth’s expedition to the Arctic.

Best for: Feeling like lord or lady of the manor for a day

While you’re there: If the sun’s out (thank you, Irish weather gods), take a stroll around the 2.5-acre Victorian walled garden

5. An arty afternoon

The town centre might seem bumbly – but it’s packed full of culture and the place to start when you’re planning things to do in Sligo. On the steep Mall stands one of Ireland’s finest art galleries, The Model. You’d never think this spacious and airy gallery was inside this old grey schoolhouse. There’s always something experimental and eye-catching on show, as well as classic pieces by Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry. Plus, the café does a banging sausage roll.

Best for: Brushing shoulders with the cool and arty types of Sligo

While you’re there: Take the back door to Yeats Secret Garden, a wildflower area behind the gallery

6. Swim at Rosses Point

While the water’s too choppy to swim along much of Sligo, here you can splash in the sea till your heart’s content (or at least, until your toes go numb). This sweet seaside resort has not moved with the times and is all the better for its lapse. Sligo pulls in creatives from all over Ireland – and you’ll often find painters and photographers here eager to catch the majestic light on the bay.

Best for: Creative inspiration

While you’re there: Beautiful, blustery, walks lead around the headland.

7. Cycle around Lough Gill

Set yourself a challenge with the 25-mile Lough Gill Cycle Route, which loops around the lake. Don’t worry, you won’t get too saddle sore – the gentle route, beneath wooded slopes and along the shoreline, can be done in less than a day’s cycling. You’ll dip down to County Leitrim, where an old Gaelic castle is reflected in the lake. It’s a fun activity to throw into your Sligo holiday package - and will make that evening Guinness taste all the sweeter.

Best for: One of the most scenic cycle rides in Ireland

While you’re there: The tea rooms at Dromahair mark the halfway point – perfect!

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