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Slotted between Donegal and Mayo, and looking out northwards into the Atlantic to the south side of Donegal Bay, on the west coast of Ireland, Sligo is a county of rugged countryside and lyrical poets. More than 5,000 archaeological sites are scattered throughout the county, including the amazingly massive megalithic grave complex which is to be found at Carrowkeel. The county town of Sligo originally takes its name from the abundance of shellfish found in the Garavogue River and estuary.
Things to do in Sligo
Benbulben – This dramatic flat-topped peak is part of the Dartry Mountains, and dominates the landscape for miles around; it is an imposing sight for travellers approaching on one of the main routes through the county. At Drumcliffe, just ten minutes from Sligo Town, the Church, Round Tower and 10th century High Cross are adjacent to the site of W B Yeats’ grave, and the settlement itself dates from 574 AD, when St Colmcille founded a monastery here.
Carrowkeel – Above the western shores of Lough Arrow, a series of Neolithic cairns date back to between 3,800 and 3,300 BC; an impressive passage tomb cemetery is set in the beautiful limestone uplands of the Bricklieve Mountains. Fourteen cairns at Carrowkeel, and a further six extending west to Keshcorran Mountain (the mountain itself capped with a large monument, known as ‘Maeve’s cairn’), make this a highly significant location for archaeological enthusiasts.
Sligo Abbey – A Dominican Friary founded in 1252, and damaged first by fire in 1414 and then by rebellion in 1641, the Abbey is notable for still retaining a wealth of Gothic and Renaissance carvings and tomb sculptures, together with a well preserved cloister and a fine 15th century sculptured high altar.
Ballinafad Castle – Four storeys high, the ruins of Ballinafad Castle are located on the ancient ‘Red Earls’ road that runs between Ballymote and Boyle.
Ballindoon Abbey – The 14th century Abbey comprises the remains of a church, chancel, tower and transept, and the ruins lie on the eastern shore of Lough Arrow. The monastery is unusual in that it was built entirely in a single architectural style, that of the Middle English Gothic.
Knocknashee – ‘The Hill of Fairies’ is a fortified hilltop, located seven kilometres from the town of Tubbercurry, on a spectacular limestone table-top plateau, commanding amazing views over the north Connaught plain.
Rathdooney Beg – Another fine example of a small barrow cemetery, with three monuments situated prominently on the summit of a drumlin ridge, Rathdooney Beg is close to the town of Ballymote.
Mullaghmore – A small fishing village which also acts as a popular holiday centre, Mullaghmore offers a Blue Flag certified beach, is a well known base from which to charter boats, and is also one of the best ‘big wave’ surfing locations to be found anywhere in the world.
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