We arrived in Sligo around lunch time after a lengthy drive from our B&B in Galway. Once again, our GPS favored a meandering route once we left the motorway, but I didn’t mind this time, heart and mind too caught up in soaking up every detail as we hugged Knocknarea’s base. The rest of Sligo town sprawled below us, Benbulben looming in the distance. We’d made it to Yeats Country at last.
Before setting off to see all that the town had to offer, we made our way to Strandhill per the suggestion of a local we’d met during our tour of the Gap of Dunloe a few days earlier. She’d assured us the promenade was the best in town and the perfect place for a Yeats lover to begin their journey.
We stopped in at The Strand Bar for some Guinness Irish Stew and were simply blown away by both the flavor and the portion size – one order would have been enough for both of us! The meat was cooked exactly the way it should be, tender while still retaining texture, and the vegetables were too rich to want to waste a single bite. I can certainly see why the bar boasts their stew’s famous – I know if I’m ever in Sligo again, I’ll definitely seek it out a second time.
Afterwards we walked the short distance to the promenade and ventured down to the beach along the Wild Atlantic Way.
We couldn’t walk on the beach itself easily as there was little sand, only large water-rounded stones, but we did pick our way down worn paths through the grassy hills for a time. Knocknarea dominated our view on the right, even more impressive from a distance.
From Strandhill we headed back inland to see Carrowmore, the large megalithic complex I had imagined would be one of the trip’s highlights. However, I must admit, I was a bit disappointed, especially now with Loughcrew for comparison.
We arrived shortly before a tour group did and were invited to wait for them and tag along on their guided walkthrough. Unaware that the group was rather large, we’d decided to take the guide up on the offer but quickly regretted our decision. We’d become used to walking at our own pace and avoiding large crowds for the most part (a definite advantage when taking photos), but with the group, we had little choice but to maintain the pace or risk missing what the guide had to say.
I’d still recommend visiting the site, especially if in the area, and do acknowledge I might have enjoyed seeing it more had we not gone with the tour group. Even going on a cooler day might have helped – Ireland was in the midst of a heat wave, and I had been badly sunburned the previous day in the Gap of Dunloe. But as it was, it had a very developed feel to it, especially inside Listoghil, where the rebuilt cairn’s stones were held in place by wire mesh.
After getting turned around once again, we decided to check in at our bed and breakfast before time got away from us. Mary at St. Martin de Porres made us feel welcome the moment we stepped out of the car. Originally we’d planned to merely drop in long enough to introduce ourselves and get our room keys, but Mary had tea and cookies ready and invited us to unwind a while. It was a nice, surprising bit of calm in what sometimes felt like a constant race to do all we’d set out to accomplish, and something I’m quite thankful for.
From there, we followed the edge of Lough Gill to Slish Wood, experiencing some more GPS troubles along the way. (A hint: When the GPS says to drive through a barbwire fence into the lake to reach Slish Wood, don’t listen – it’s really the next left.) But the trouble along the way was worth it, merely for the quiet beauty that awaited us.
Walking through Slish Wood reminded me of walking through the woods back home in some ways, just without the risk of my mom catching poison ivy. But at the same time, the forest’s age is clearly evident. Thick moss blankets most of the older trees, and barely any sunlight reached the trail. What did filtered in through the trees nearest the lake, not through the canopy above.
One thing puts me ill at ease about Slish Wood’s future, and feel even stronger about encouraging anyone who wishes to see it to go when they can -we found wild rhododendron bushes growing near the trail’s mouth.
It might sound strange to worry about a seemingly harmless plant like the rhododendron, but in our travels we quickly learned they crowd out native plants. No matter where we went, if there was a rhododendron, someone was complaining about them, simply due to their invasive nature. Ireland unfortunately provides optimal growing conditions for the plants, and due to their prolific seed production, once you have one rhododendron, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have nothing but rhododendrons.
Slish Wood in particular, with its acidic soil due to its ancient oaks, is the perfect environment for rhododendrons to thrive. Hopefully the plants at the trailhead won’t spread, but if they do, I believe it unlikely the woods will ever look the same again.
With the evening quickly slipping away, we left Slish Wood behind and sought out Rosses Point. As the woman we’d met in the Gap had said, the Point wasn’t as interesting to explore as Strandhill, but we found another wonderful restaurant to eat at for dinner.
Harry’s Bar and Gastro Pub looks right out on the bay and serves local seafood, as would be expected. But it also handles other dishes well, as my mom learned when she tried their ribs. Still very stuffed from lunch, I opted for an appetizer only and tried their seafood chowder. The portion size was on the large side, filling me quite easily, all while giving a peak at what creatures lived in Sligo’s waters.
The next morning, we made one final Yeats stop before starting our journey to the North. Skirting the other side of the peninsula, we headed to the Sligo-Letrim border, where the Glencar Waterfall straddles the two counties. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined it would be, the waterfall’s spray keeping the air cool and the ferns moist even with the ongoing heatwave.
Our short walk there and back certainly became the highlight of our day, as we’d soon become so hopelessly lost we’d give up on seeing any other sights, ready to simply eat and fall into bed.
For more information about Carrowmore and following Yeats’ Stolen Child, please see my previous blog posts and their additional links here and here. Also, many more pictures from my Sligo adventures are available on my dA account here.