Part 1: Wild Atlantic Way: Sligo
If you haven’t made it to the North-West on holiday yet, 2023 is the year to visit and where better to start a Wild Atlantic Way trip than County Sligo.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of Benbulben, Sligo’s sparkling beaches, rolling hills and untamed woodlands make it the perfect destination for an outdoor holiday.
Day 1 – Sligo – Get Active
Start your holiday in the North-West with an exhilarating day of activity. Sligo is the surfing capital of the Wild Atlantic Way. Surfers from all over Ireland and the world come to beaches like Enniscrone, Easkey and Streedagh to test their skills on the wild Atlantic waves.
But, the most popular beach for surfing is Strandhill. As a long beach, it is capable of hosting huge waves given the right conditions. But don’t worry, if you are a beginner, our first activity takes place in the shallows.
Strandhill Surf School, Strandhill
Give this thrilling sport a go with a surf lesson at Strandhill Surf School on the Wild Atlantic Way in Sligo. In the hands of a fully qualified surf instructor and lifeguard you can develop or grow your surf skills, depending on your previous experience. Wetsuits and boards are provided, all you need is your sense of adventure.
Shells Café, Strandhill
You are sure to build up an appetite in the water so stop by nearby Shells Café and Bakery for a delicious lunch made from the highest quality, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients with some great Vegan options. Afterwards explore the carefully curated lifestyle store for a memento of your trip.
An institution in Sligo, no visit to Strandhill would be complete without a visit to Mammy Johnstons for one of their delectable ice-creams. Made in-house every day you can expect a mix of old favourites along with seasonal favourites. The biggest challenge will be which flavour to choose?
Sligo Kayak Tours
Return to Sligo town for a leisurely kayak tour of Ballisodare Bay where you will use the tide to paddle around to a nearby seal colony. You can spend a few minutes watching the seals dive and play in their natural habitat. From there you will be brought to see the grave of legendary Queen Maeve of Connacht from the water. The sheltered and tidal nature of this route makes it the perfect choice for kayakers of all experience and none. A wonderful way to finish off a fantastic first day.
Day 2 – Sligo – Relax
Lissadell House and Gardens
After all the activity yesterday, we take day two at a more leisurely pace with a visit to Lissadell House and Gardens. Lissadell House is famous in Irish history as the childhood home of Constance Markievicz and her sister Eva Gore Booth who went on to play important roles in the rebellion and the suffrage movement respectively. It was also visited on several occasions by WB Yates. Visitors can tour the house and wander around the ornate Victorian and Alpine Gardens. The house and gardens will be open for June, July and August.
Voya Seaweed Baths
After a stroll around Lissadell, enjoy a seaweed bath or treatment at Voya Seaweed Baths for the ultimate in luxury. Take some time out at the home of this world-renowned spa and skincare brand to allow the therapeutic power of nature to rejuvenate you from the outside in. Filled with anti-ageing and anti-cellulite properties, seaweed baths have long been known to detoxify, cleanse and smooth skin, leaving you feeling relaxed and radiant.
Day 3 – Sligo – Explore
Sometimes the true hidden gems on the Wild Atlantic Way can be found off the coastal route itself. We always recommend taking some time to explore the counties along the route more fully. This is especially the case in Sligo where there is so much to see and do in the wider county.
Caves of Kesh Corran
Start the day with an invigorating walk to visit the limestone caves found on the side of Keshcorran hill near the village of Keash, Co. Sligo. A reasonably easy climb for anyone it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get up and back to the caves. You will want to allow some time to explore while you are up there too. These off the beaten path caves were used by ancient people in the region as passage tombs 500-800 years before
An afternoon in Eagles Flying is fantastic fun for all the family. Get up-close to the masters of the sky. During entertaining and interactive bird shows you may even have a bird land on your own hand. After the show the animals in the petting zoo are waiting to meet you.
Day 4 – Step back in time
On your fourth day in Sligo, step back in time to explore life in years gone by with a visit to two places steeped in local history:
Carrowcrory cottage is a restored thatched cottage near Ballymote, Co. Sligo. Lovingly restored by the current owner at a time when the vernacular cottage building that was once commonplace in the Irish countryside was in danger of disappearing into the sands of time. Visitors to the cottage can explore five labyrinth gardens and enjoy one of the many outdoor events that link visitors to their surroundings. Current events centre around Nature Folklore.
Sligo Folk Park
Experience rural life and Irish heritage at the turn of the late 19th Century with a visit to Sligo Folk Park. Set in the grounds of the faithfully restored Millview House, built-in 1873 by George Reid a farmer, shoemaker and the local church sexton. With 12 different exhibits and 6 acres of space, social distancing is easy. End the day immersing yourself in Ireland’s rural past as you stroll around the park and visit the museum and exhibition hall which houses one of Ireland’s finest collections of agricultural artefacts.
Day 5 – North Mayo
Only a short drive west from Sligo is the dramatic scenery and historical sites of North Mayo. Day 5 includes a stop for coffee and cake at the highly-rated Pudding Row.
Pudding Row, Co Sligo
Pudding Row is located in the picturesque village of Easkey on the Wild Atlantic Way, halfway between Ballina and Sligo Town. Open 6 days a week serving takeaway food, sandwiches, soup, fresh homemade bread, bagels and cakes every day as well as a large range of the best Irish Food available. It’s the perfect place to stop for coffee and a treat or a picnic beside the 11th Century Easkey Castle or to watch the surfers in this popular coastal village.
Ceide Fields and Downpatrick Head
From here a trip to the Ceide fields and nearby Downpatrick head is a must for anyone travelling the Wild Atlantic Way. The Ceide Fields are a system of fields found beneath Mayo bogland that are thought to make up the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. Extending for hundreds of hectares the fields date back 6,000 years. Learn the full story behind the fields and their discovery at the award-winning visitor centre followed by a tour of the archaeological dig itself.
After that, a short drive will bring you to the stunning coastal scenery at Downpatrick head. Breathe the fresh sea air as you explore the former church thought to be founded by St Patrick, soak up the stunning views of Dún Briste sea stack and discover one of about 84 Eire signs imprinted on the headlands around the coast during World War 2 to mark neutral Irish territory.
Harbour Sup and Sailing Club
From here the town of Ballina provides our activity for the day, Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). Harbour SUP and Sailing Club offer paddleboarding sessions with beginner-friendly equipment and fully trained instructors. If surfing was not for you but you are eager to get out on the water, paddleboarding might be the perfect alternative. In calm waters participants propel themselves standing on a surfboard using an oar. It requires similar core strength to surfing but allows you to relax and take in your surroundings as you float majestically through the water.
Hotels on the Wild Atlantic Way Sligo
Set on beautiful grounds overlooked by majestic Benbulben, Clayton Hotel Sligo is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the Wild Atlantic Way in Sligo and North Mayo. We have a selection of double, executive and family rooms so we can cater to your needs whether you are travelling with family, friends or as a couple. Each morning you can look forward to starting your day the right way with our Vitality breakfast. Complete with a leisure centre, indoor swimming pool and spa it is the perfect place to relax after a long day on the road exploring the best the North-West has to offer.