Visit Sligo - a true gem of the Emerald Isle
It's not very often you come across a place that ticks virtually every box and has something for everyone, writes Lisa Wright.
It's not very often you come across a place that ticks virtually every box and has something for everyone,
But, on my visit to Sligo in north west Ireland, I struggled to find something not to please even the fussiest of visitor.
Whether it is food, wildlife, walking, history, art, shopping or family days out, there is literally something for everyone in this gem of a place.
First and foremost it couldn't be easier to get to, flying direct from Birmingham into Ireland West Knock airport, the flight is less than an hour long and on arrival, the commute from the airport to Sligo town is lush with green fields and scenic countryside.
A perfect bolthole to explore the town by foot is The Glasshouse Hotel.
Centrally located the stylish hotel is just a few minutes walk from the best shops and restaurants in the town and has great views of the Garavogue River.
From here you can saunter down the road to Wine Street and see woodcarver Michael Quirke in his workshop.
Here Michael will have you entranced with storytelling and folklore that inspires his sculptures which are on display in the shop.
And make sure you don't leave without one of his charming handwritten business cards.
Culture vultures should also consider a visit to the Model Art Gallery on The Mall.
Much more than an art gallery, the space boasts impressive installations, a restaurant and coffee shop and even a suite of artist studios where artists can live and work on projects.
It is also home to the Niland Collection of art, one of the most notable collections in Ireland, with works including John and Jack B Yeats, Estella Solomons, Paul Henry and Louis Le Broquy.
And if you have a car – and the time – it is also worth taking a drive out to Drumcliff Cemetery to see the grave of famous poet and playwright William Butler Yeats' grave.
If you're anything like me, massive importance is placed on food on my trips abroad and for foodies there is no shortage of good restaurants on offer.
Coach Lane on Lord Edward Street is a delight. Despite looking small on the outside, inside the restaurant is cavernous and has stylish exposed brick walls, intimate lighting and a delicious menu with the likes of pork belly and scallops, lobster, Irish Angus Steaks and lamb.
Meanwhile, the Source Sligo restaurant, wine bar and cookery school is a food lovers' heaven.
The modern eatery. complete with ground floor delicatessen. serves up well-cooked dishes such as smoked duck and chicken terrine and seabass on a bed of samphire, crab fritter and brandy sauce. But what makes this place so special is the next floor up you can have a glass of wine at the bar and watch the live musicians, in walls decked with bottles of the finest red wines, while even further up and you have the cookery school.
Here you can either watch a demonstration, book your own dining space and chef and have dinner cooked and served in front of you, but best of all there's a range of packages open to groups and for parties – a great hen do activity or birthday treat.
Being in Ireland there are of course plenty of places to have a drink after dinner. For a lively pub atmosphere I'd recommend Hargadon's Pub on O'Connell Street, while younger holidaymakers can party the night away at Garavogue, on Stephen Street along the Garavogue River, a lively bar which is open into the early hours of the morning.
Sligo has reasonable shopping but with the exchange rate on the euro, and so much else to see, it's well worth avoiding the shops and ploughing your time into getting a proper look at the town and the county.
If you don't have a car, there are various walking tours, with even a signposted option available.
A must-see for families is the incredible Eagles Flying which also houses the Irish Raptor Research Centre, a sanctuary for birds of prey and owls, located in Ballymote within County Sligo. Just a short drive out of Sligo town, the centre is run by scientists and once inside you can take a look around and see the hour-long show, getting up close and personal with the magnificent birds of prey.
Delivered with charm and wit by director and zoologist Lothar Muschketat and his team, the attraction is a bargain at just nine euros for adults.
And if you're shattered after that lot, get yourself down to experience a traditional seaweed bath at Voya in Strandhill. You'll come out relaxed and silky smooth following the unique steam and seaweed treatment, and afterwards, if you have the energy, you can take a lazy stroll up the road for a bite to eat at The Strand Bar in Shore Road, Strandhill, which serves up fantastic soups and sandwiches.
For such a short distance from Birmingham and no trouble to get to, Sligo is definitely well worth a city-break holiday, family getaway, golfing or angling trip or a romantic break.
A real gem of the Emerald Isle.
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