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County Sligo

Currently known as a centre for traditional Irish music, County Sligo can be found on the western coast of Ireland, bounded by the sea and counties Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim. The name Sligo translates to ‘place of shells’ and can be attributed to the area's beautiful coastal area, made up of rugged cliffs and hills, along with miles of beautiful beaches. Sligo Town is the administrative centre for the county, and offers visitors a wide array of activities, including museums, galleries, fine dining, pubs and entertainment venues. The town comes alive with traditional music in the summer when the annual music and dance festivals take place at Queen Maeve International Summer School every August. The Sligo region provided deep inspiration to the poet W.B. Yeats. He spent plenty of time here and mentioned Sligo’s idyllic scenery in several of his works. 

Highlights

Those interested in Ireland’s ancient past will not be disappointed by a visit to Carrowmore Megalithic Burial Ground, where forty acres of passage tombs, dolmens and other ancient stone and earthworks are loosely arranged in a mysterious spiral layout. It is the largest and oldest site of its kind in Ireland. Newer and more genteel surroundings can be experienced by visiting the area of Lissadel House, the former home of the Gore-Booth family. One of its more famous members, Countess Constance Markievicz, once lived here, and W.B. Yeats frequently visited the mansion. It sits on a majestic hill overlooking Sligo Bay. Due to dispute with the current owners over a public right-of-way, the house is unfortunately closed, but the beach and woodlands of Lissadell, which so inspired the young poet, are still open to the public, and worth a visit. Another house of interest is Parkes Castle, a 17th century fortified homestead located near Sligo Town. Parts of the structure date back to its origin in the 12th century. Sligo Town itself offers shopping, restaurants, and pubs that feature a variety of traditional music and dance performances. Walking through the streets of this charming town on Sligo Bay, visitors can enjoy unique shops, pubs and eateries housed in traditional Irish style buildings. Historic places of interest in Sligo Town include the Yeats Memorial Building, home to an art gallery and poetry institute dedicated to the life of the famous Irish writer. Sligo Abbey is a fascinating authentic medieval ruin that has been partially renovated. Sligo County Museum, located in a former church building, displays works of art as well as relics of local history. Opportunities for outdoor enjoyment in County Sligo are numerous, starting with the beaches near Sligo Town. The short, pretty River Garavogue -- from the Irish Garbh Og, meaning Young Rough -- runs through the centre of the town, into the nearby sea. Rosses Point is a scenic resort area that looks out over the sea to Oyster and Coney Islands. Yachting and golf are also available nearby. North of Sligo Town lies Glencar Waterfall and Lake, mentioned in the poetry of Yeats. It is a romantic and serene place from which to absorb the outdoor beauty of the region at its finest. 

History

Sligo’s name (Sligeach in Irish) was derived from the bounty of shellfish found just off its shores, which served as a reliable food source for early settlers during the months when weather made agricultural pursuits impossible. The historic tombs located at Carrowmore Megalithic Burial Ground indicate that people inhabited County Sligo from around 5,000 B.C. Sligo Town was founded by Vikings, and the many castles and fortified homes that once occupied the region are indicative of the need for protection. Because of its location, Sligo Town was vulnerable to attack from a variety of sources throughout its long history. County Sligo was deeply involved in the Rebellion of 1798, and Sligo Town contains a statue of Bartholomew Teeling, a local participant, to memorialise the events. The Great Famine of the mid 1800’s affected County Sligo extensively, and many of its residents were forced to emigrate in order to survive. Memorials to those painful years can be seen at Sligo Town, a place which put forth a valiant recovery effort and is today a busy commerce centre and modern city that proudly remember and displays its traditional roots. Another famous son of County Sligo is Ambrose O'Higgins, Royal Governor of Chile, and father of the country's celebrated independence leader, Bernardo O'Higgins. A plaque near the Garavogue river commemorates father and son.

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