Sligo Town sits in a scenic valley between Benbulben and Knocknarea mountains. The River Garavogue runs through its centre, taking only a few kilometers to emerge from nearby Lough Gill to enter the sea at Sligo Bay. Indeed, the town gets its name from the Irish Sligeach, meaning "Shelly Bay / River". While there are no shells now, there is water everywhere, and there are fine beaches, lakes and waterfalls nearby. It is the largest town in the region, and lends its name to the surrounding County Sligo. Sligo Town’s attractive centre affords expansive river views, and scenic Benbulben Mountain, with its flat top and appearance that evolves along with the changing light of the day provides an interesting backdrop.
Shopping / Eating / Nightlife
Sligo has many gift shops for visitors -- particular craft shops, selling items such as Celtic jewellery, pottery and other handmade gifts. The region is home to many artisan types, who eschew the life of the big city and opt for a better quality of life here in the northwest. Traditional Music is still alive and well in the local pubs. You may have ask at your accommodation where you can find a live "trad session", but there's usually one on somewhere on any given evening, particularly towards the end of the week. Sligo also has a nice selection of cafes, restaurants and other eateries. Many of them are situated close to the town centre -- just walk by the river edge and you'll be sure to find a few.
The Yeats Brothers
The recent history of Sligo Town is popularly centred on the brothers William and Jack Butler Yeats, who spent many holidays with their cousins in the area and have claimed the area as an important inspiration for many of their works of poetry (W.B. Yeats) and painting (Jack Yeats).
The ancient history of Sligo Town is much more painful and violent. The area was prone to regular invasion, first by Vikings in 807, and followed by Anglo Normans and various rival Irish factions over the years. It was a frequent battleground. In 1642, British forces led by Sir Fredrick Hamilton destroyed the abbey, killed virtually everyone in sight and then burned the entire town. The potato famine arrived in Sligo Town with a vengeance between 1845 and 1849, when over one million Irish citizens died from starvation and illness or emigrated. The future looked extremely bleak for residents in those days, as evidenced by the following sentiment, written by Owen Larkin in 1850 to his son in America and inscribed on a brass plaque near the riverfront: “I am now may I say alone in the world, all my brothers and sisters are dead and children but yourself. We are all ejected out of Lord Ardilaun’s ground, the times was so bad and all Ireland in such a state of poverty that no person could pay rent. My only hope now rests with you, as I am without one shilling and I must either beg or go to the poorhouse.”
Today’s Sligo Town presents a sharp contrast to the years of the Potato Famine. This energetic town features plenty of pretty, traditional style buildings, as well as shopping malls, apartments, a local college and a cineplex. The streets are usually busy, though never touristy. Residents mingle with visitors and college students. All enjoy the historical buildings, pubs, unique shops, and restaurants. An area known as the Italian Quarter offers some of the town's most popular eateries.
Interesting Places to Visit in Sligo
- The Yeats Memorial Building -- a distinctive former bank, now a summer school and cafe
- Sligo Library and Museum -- a pretty, converted church
- The Yeats Statue -- a distinctive statue of W.B. Yeats
- Rosses Point -- a fine beach, 5km from the centre of the town
Garavogue river in Sligo town. Image by Eugene Kaspersky.