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Review: Discover south and west Sligo this summer

As Claire McKeever discovered on a recent visit, there is much more to Sligo than one would think.

By Claire McKeever

From a trail of adventure that included horse rides in the wildest parts of the county, culinary feasts by the beach and a few hidden surprises along the way, the lesser-known south and west Sligo is a great option for those wanting something different this summer.

From city to countryside

Driving from Belfast to Sligo, I am met by picturesque hillsides and lakes as I pass through the counties of Armagh and Fermanagh. The busy vibe of the city seems a distant memory and I am excited about my time in south and south west Sligo, an area of Ireland I had never ventured to before.

As I near Sligo Town, I find great pleasure in veering off course towards Tubbercurry, my first stop. After getting lost a few times, I did eventually arrive at Coill Dara House, my accommodation for the night. Patricia, one of the owners, gives me a warm welcome at the door before leading me up to a spacious and beautifully decorated bedroom. I’m then invited into the conversatory where tea, homemade cake and panoramic views are lined up for the afternoon. 

Dinner that evening is at Cawley’s, a pub and restaurant in the middle of the village and a stop along the increasingly popular Sligo Food Trail. I start with a local delicacy of freshly caught oysters with a side shot of Guinness (a clever accompaniment, I thought). For the main, I opt for a sizzling steak and roasted veg as a side, all washed down with a glass of malbec. To finish up, a trio of chocolate desserts to perfectly end my foodie experience at Cawley’s.

The next morning I enjoy Coill Dara’s award-winning breakfast and views out over the house’s surrounding countryside. Along the breakfast bar are a choice of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurts, seeds, dried fruit and a great selection of cooked options on the menu to choose from. I try Patricia’s delicious homemade wheaten bread with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs before Roger, her husband, takes me out to experience the adjoining farm and where I’m given the opportunity to feed Dolly, the farm’s pet lamb.

Basking in Banada

From Tubbercurry I make my way to the rural village and area of Banada, where a horse ride at Banada Stables was on the agenda. Caroline, the Stables owner, greeted me and immediately got me stuck into preparing my horse for his ride. She then led us on a spectacular ride through the best of south Sligo’s countryside; riding among charming forests, along lakes and past quaint cottages. 

Surfing & Tasty Eats 

After a delicious carvery lunch at Murphy’s back in Tubbercurry, I drove to Enniscrone, a town which lies up over south Sligo’s hills and beyond the majestic Lake Talt. As I reached the town’s waterfront I could see 7th Wave Surf School sat along the beach and my surf instructor waiting for me.

After a tiresome yet fun surf, I was more than ready for dinner that evening at Ait Eile, a restaurant tucked beneath Gilroy’s Bar in Enniscrone. Anne, a co-owner with her husband Mark, greeted me at the door and took me to a great seat overlooking the restaurant and in a great position for soaking up the restaurant’s buzzy atmosphere. What followed was a delicious meal that included coconut breaded prawns, seafood linguine and a gin & tonic cheesecake to finish.  The restaurant also had an impressive gin menu from which I sampled Conncullin, a gin made only moments away from the restaurant.

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Sensational Seaweed Baths

After a night’s sleep in one of the apartments overlooking Enniscrone beach, I ventured over to the family-run Kilcullen Seaweed Baths. Originally built in the early 1900s, these seaweed baths are now an institution and I was very honoured to have Edward Kilcullen, grandson to the original owner, guide me through the building before taking my own seaweed bath. From the ornate baths to the old-school steam cubicles, I was in awe of the resource put into keeping these baths alive all these years. Soon enough I was left on my own to enjoy a bath filled with heated seawater and seaweed, followed by a magnificent massage by the in-house masseuse.

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Easkey to Aughris

From Enniscrone I headed to Aughris Head and stopped at Easkey for a coffee stop at Pudding Row, a cafe many locals had told me to check out. Inside, the 50s esque interior, trays lined with freshly baked goods and smell of fresh coffee certainly won me over. 

At my final stop at Aughris Head, I was stunned by the pretty beach and views across to Knocknarea Mountain. With Aughris Beach bar only a stone’s throw away from the beach, I thought it only right to end my trip with a pint of Guinness whilst I soaked up the gorgeous views on offer.

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