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Travel Guide – Donegal, Sligo & Northwest Ireland

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Travel Guide – Donegal, Sligo & Northwest Ireland


When it comes to sheer wild beauty, the landscapes of Ireland’s Northwest have no equal, on the Emerald Isle or perhaps anywhere else. Rugged coastlines, windswept moors and plunging valleys capture a sense of poetic drama which the Yeats brothers, proud natives of this region, could scarcely have expressed in their own artistic works.

Sligo Town & Surrounding Areas


Sligo town offers much of the “authentic Ireland” feel which many seek out on the West Coast but, without the sheer volume of tourists, there is perhaps more opportunity to mingle with the locals and feel the beating heart of Ireland for yourself.

Sligo invites you into its myriad pedestrian streets with small, independent shops guiding you from one entertaining diversion to the next. As you would further south toward County Clare, listen out for traditional music and dancing, as the Irish folk music nights (“trad sessions”) and céilidhs invite you into traditional Irish pubs along the way.

Recovering after a Friday night session with the locals, head for one of Sligo’s Saturday-morning markets: Beltra Country Market, Benbulben Craft Village Farmers Market, Sligo Farmers Market and Sligo Flea Market all offer a great local atmosphere and, while you might not need to buy many groceries while you’re here in Ireland, there will plenty of other little temptations to keep you entertained.

Donegal Town & Surrounding Areas


Like Sligo, Donegal town makes an ideal base for its surrounding attractions and should be viewed as such, rather than as a thriving tourist destination in its own right. Visitors will find plenty of pleasant places to eat, drink and make merry, as well as lots of places to lay their weary heads in comfort. The town itself will provide curiosities and distractions for a daytime of discovery, but the region’s most engaging attractions arguably lie outside the towns themselves.

Historically, Donegal owes its prominence to its strategic location at the mouth of the Donegal bay, a fact borne out by the presence of the impressive and imposing Donegal Castle. Located on a curve of the River Eske, the castle was built in 1474 and would remain an enduring monument to the power of the O’Donnells until the downfall in 1607. When all was lost, leader Rory O’Donnell destroyed the castle himself before fleeing to France.

Restored in 1623 and again in the 1990s, the castle which visitors find today is in very good condition and, with guided tours every hour, it certainly merits a visit.

Leitrim’s Lakes and Loughs

With less mileage on the Wild Atlantic Way, and a more inland location, County Leitrim is perhaps overshadowed by the neighbouring counties of Sligo and Donegal. But visitors who pass by without exploring the glens, lakes and loughs for which Leitrim is famed will most certainly be missing out.

Slieve League

Their southern cousins, the Cliffs of Moher, may get more attention and publicity, not to mention more footfall in terms of tourist traffic, but the cliffs ofSlieve League are their equal in beauty and their superior in height. In fact, plunging some 600m into the sea below, these cliffs are thought to be the highest in Europe.

Approaching by car, you can almost reach the clifftops themselves without getting your boots dirty; a carpark is within a very short distance of the astonishing views which have brought you here. The more adventurous visitor might consider hiking the Pilgrim Path to Slieve League’s summit. At five miles and with a fair incline, the journey will demand up to six hours depending on group make-up.

The Glengesh Pass

This part of Ireland has some fantastic country routes, and self-drive visitors to Sligo and Donegal will not be short of photo opportunities along the way. One which is sure to please is The Glengesh Pass which runs from Ardara to Glencolumbcille. Passengers with a delicate stomach might want to take their travel sickness tablets before they embark on this narrow and tumbling sequence of tight hairpins, but if you keep you camera at hand you will have every excuse to make regular stops.

Errigal Mountain


This ascent will require more than just your walking boots: a knowledge of mountain safety and possibly a local guide might be called for, especially on days where the weather is anything less than bright and dry. At a fairly towering 752 metres, Errigal Mountain is a pleasant but challenging climb for any hobbyist hillwalker, and the main paths are not of the best quality.

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Situated 50 minutes’ drive from Donegal Town or 25 minutes from the fishing port of Killybegs, theGlencolmcille Folk Village (also known as Father McDyer’s Folk Village Museum) is a thatched-roof replica of a traditional Irish rural village. Comprising a number of small cottages, called a “clachan”, the village atops a hillside with a commanding sea view over Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. A popular living-history museum, Glencolmcille was built and is maintained by the people of the local area.

Maghera Beach and Caves


If you have enjoyed the Glengesh Pass, then rest up and take the family on the kind of adventure that demands a barbecue and a bucket and spade. Although weather-dependent, this is an old-school family day out which won’t cost much but is sure to please.

The beach itself looks like it belongs in a different hemisphere: stretches soft white sand are gently ironed flat by an enticing turquoise sea.

The caves are no less beautiful than the beach itself, with multicoloured rock formations forming an artistic array of dizzying shapes. A very atmospheric space away from the more established tourist destinations.

Find out more about IT Sligo in Sligo Town

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