Magical Sligo on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
Just returned from a wonderful weekend getaway on the shores of Lough Gill in Co. Sligo, and having visited Sligo in the past was surprised and blown away by the stunningly beautiful scenery of the Lough Gill area. The weekend began with typical Irish downpours and it seemed with the incessant rain the beautiful Sligo landscape of Ireland's famous Wild Atlantic Way would remain shrouded in cloud.
Cabin in the WoodsWe headed to our lakeside cabin, to recover from a wet morning at Strandhill for a restorative cup of tea. I feared the budget accommodation we had booked last minute was going to be a 'Granny flat' attached to someone's house, the only thing near to it in price had been a room over a café in the town of Dru”In the woods”mshanbo. However I was more than pleasantly surprised by the lovely cabin or mini house called In the Woods that felt more like luxury glamping or a French chalet with beautiful hazel oak log beams and flagstone floor. The chalet was also set up a little hill and far enough away from the owners house so that there was plenty of privacy. It felt like your own private cabin in the woods, there was no feeling of tiptoeing around someone's private property that I had expected. I couldn't believe our luck. Granny flat it was not – for one thing your Granny wouldn't be able to get up these stairs!! The owner Declan was really welcoming, showed us around everything in the chalet and even gave us a run down of all the sights in the area and best places to eat and drink. He also offered us use of some mountain bikes and told us where to follow a forest trail bike route from the cabin. If we had longer to stay we would definitely have taken him up on it. There was also a barbeque on the little patio at the front of the chalet that would have been great in the summer. The cabin was clean, well kept and beautifully decorated with some antique furniture in the loft style bedroom and the generous bathroom had a large clean modern shower. The only difficulty with In the Woods was finding it. It really is a well kept secret, the only distinguishing landmark from the road is the postbox on the stone gates, it is very difficult to find from the road. Trying to find the entrance in the dark was almost impossible, we passed it several times before finding it. However when arriving at the property it is best to pull in at the Slishwood forest park 1km up the road and ring Declan who is kind enough to drive down and guide you up to the property.
Lough Gill forest parks
In the late afternoon we headed back towards Sligo town for dinner which was only 10km away, a short 20 minute drive. The rain and clouds had cleared to reveal a beautiful Autumn evening and the magnificent Sligo landscape had emerged from the blanket of cloud. It was that magical time for photography 'The Golden Hour' and we stopped off at a forest park just up the road Dooney Rock. The small park has a 1.2km trail along the shore of a little headland that juts out into the lake with stunning views on both sides. From Dooney Rock there were fabulous views across to Cottage Island which reminded me of The Lake Isle of Inishfree in the setting autumn sun. Sligo is of course Yeats Country and those who love the poetry of W.B. Yeats the island of Inishfree can be seen from a viewing point a couple of km back past Slishwood. Dooney Rock itself is featured in another Yeats poem The Fiddler of Dooney, Yeats seems to be everywhere you look in Sligo.
KnocknareaOn the road back to Sligo town we got great views of Knocknarea with Queen Maeve's Cairn silhouetted on the top of the mountain. Maeve's Cairn is a Neolithic passage grave on top of the mountain which according to legend is the tomb of Queen Maebh of Irish mythology.
Ben BulbenThe other legendary mountain Ben Bulben – a tabletop mountain was to be seen from the quays in Sligo town, and although there are far better places to view it along the Wild Atlantic Way it was lit up by that lovely autumn sun despite the housing estate in the foreground! Ben Bulben is the setting for many Irish legends of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his legendary band of warriors the Fianna. It is said to be the last resting place of the tragic lovers of legend Diarmaid and Gráinne.
Ben Bulben in the distance from Sligo quayside
Sligo town centre
Where to eatTo eat we went to Bistro Bianconi and caught their brilliant early bird menu for a truly delicious meal. Although it is an Italian restaurant it has a fairly broad menu with something for everyone – more than just pizzas and pastas. With the 3 course menu for under 20 euro it really was fabulous food and beat some big name Dublin restaurants I have visited recently hands down. It is also large and spacious and beautifully decorated with Italian frescoes on the walls throughout. Cannot recommend it highly enough.
A pint in the Harp Tavern