Ahead of the weekend that puts Ireland on the world stage, this week we feature the best that Sligo has to offer, and encourage you to walk some if not all of these walks over the St. Patrick’s weekend. After the Parade, many of our visitors to Sligo will want to get out and explore the countryside, so adopt a visitor, and show off some of the walking highlights on offer around the county.
The Queen Maeve Trail – Knocknarea
One of the most accessible walks in Sligo, as it’s located along the main road from Sligo to Strandhill, nonetheless the Queen Maeve Trail at Knocknarea is a tough enough 2 hour walk that requires a certain level of fitness as well as suitable footwear. There are 3 access points, but for the sake of convenience we have identified the entrance across from Sligo Rugby Club as the starting point.
A flat gravel surface at the start of the walk soon gives way to a steep rise along a series of steps. When you reach the top of that section, turn right along the path until you reach the wooden steps on your left that will bring you up through forestry. Watch out for other walkers and give way to those on their descent as the steps can be slippy at this time of year. Once you clear the forestry a spectacular view over Sligo Bay awaits while you draw breath before continuing on to the Cairn and Queen Maeve’s final resting place. Do not walk on the cairn!!
Your descent is via the older Glen Road route which leads away from the way you summited the mountain. The path is generally over rougher terrain, so good boots are a requirement for this walk. When you arrive at Glen Road car park, you can take a sharp left turn along a new clearly defined path which brings you along the new looped section of walk. Signage is still being erected here so the best advice is to bear left where you don’t see any directional signs. You’ll eventually skirt around the bottom of Knocknarea before connecting back with the top of the path leading back to Sligo Rugby Club and the start of the walk.
Length & Time: 4km, 2 hours
Walking Tip: Walking boots are important this time of year.
Aprés Walk: Strandhill People’s Market is open on a Saturday and is located at the entrance to the airport.
A really lovely and peaceful walk located in the south of the county. No matter what time of year, this is a great walk to unwind and to clear the head. It’s a looped walk around the lake so no fear of getting lost, and the terrain is good as it’s along a track and road. Directions to get there can be a little complicated so I recommend you head to the SligoWalks.ie website where clear instructions are available.
The first section of this walk is along a lakeshore track with the return journey along a busy road. For this reason families with young children may prefer to make their return back along the same track. Follow the track along the western shore of the lake. Head uphill from the lake, past the ruins of some houses, through the gates and onto an old road. Take a right turn onto the R294 near the gap and follow the main road back along the eastern side of the lakeshore.
Length & Time: 5.5km, 1 hour
Walking Tip: The lake and its surroundings are home to a diverse range of bird life, with wild ducks, swans and dippers to be seen overhead. The lake also boasts an abundance of brown trout, making it a popular destination with anglers.
Aprés Walk: Call in to Murphy’s in Tubbercurry for a great carvery lunch.
One to consider at any time of year, but one which is short enough for the kids to enjoy, is almost completely flat to cater for almost any level of fitness. There is also great tree cover which acts as a canopy if it’s raining. Bring a waterproof jacket just in case but the trees should save you from most of the rain.
Drive or cycle from Sligo Town along the R286 towards Dromohair. Around 3km after you pass the traffic lights at IT Sligo turn right for Hazelwood. Towards the end of that road turn left and park at Half Moon Bay in the car park.
This is a looped walk and you can start by following either the left or right hand path. I prefer to follow the path which runs along the lakeside and at breaks in the trees you get a lovely view across the full expanse of Lough Gill.
You’ll arrive at a junction to the right which brings you back towards the car park. However this will shorten your walk considerably, so instead walk on until you reach the next right hand turn. Take this, and then the next right hand turn and you’ll follow the path back to the starting point.
This short and quiet walk is a great family-friendly walk and very popular with walkers, runners and dog owners. Don’t forget to clean up after your pet!
Length & Time: 3km, 1 hour
Walking Tip: Don’t miss the second turn or you’ll end up at a dead end and will need to retrace your steps.
Aprés Walk: Back to town for a soup and sandwich at the Model Gallery.
Duneil River Walk
A newly developed walk located along the N59 between Sligo and Ballina. Arriving into the village of Dromore West park beside Feeney’s filling station located in the centre of the village. Follow the footpath from the starting point until you reach a small metal gate located opposite the traffic island. This will lead you onto a path which takes the direction towards the coast.
The path then leads you along the banks of the Duneil River through the trees. The route winds its way towards the sea through mature woodlands which contain many varieties of hardwoods and softwoods and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. When you reach the public road, turn right and follow the path that runs along the left hand side of the road. When you arrive at the Flying Horse pub, take a right turn and this will bring you back into Dromore West and back to the starting point.
Length & Time: 3km, 1 hour
Walking Tip: Look out for the recently restored Ballygilcash and Donaghintraine Bridges which date from 1836.
Aprés Walk: Head over to Pudding Row in Easkey for lunch and a well earned dessert!
Mullaghmore Coastal Walk
Probably the most straightforward of any of our recommended walks, but among the most spectacular walks anywhere in this county or beyond. Head north from Sligo Town along the N15 for around 21km until you see the signs for Mullaghmore. Park in the centre of the village above the pier.
Follow along the road past the Pier Head Hotel along the coastal road which will bring you right along the edge of the sea, offering spectacular views across Sligo Bay to Innismurray Island and towards Slieve League in Donegal. Three quarters way around the looped walk Classiebawn Castle will come into view, and as you pass the entrance to the castle you’ll also take in spectacular views across to Ben Bulben. If you haven’t already done so, this is the picture perfect opportunity for that holiday selfie!
Upon reaching the junction with the main road between Mullaghmore and Cliffoney, turn left back towards the village and your starting point. If you still feel energetic, once you reach the car park at the beach, you can incorporate this into your walk. I tend to walk across the path at the back of the dunes, and when you reach the end, turn back along the beach. Do however, keep an eye out for cattle as this area isn’t fenced off.
This coastal walk is one that you can do in just a pair of runners and is suitable for people with a reasonable level of fitness as there are a couple of short but steep inclines. It’s a signature location along the Wild Atlantic Way, we don’t think you’ll find a more spectacular walk along the entire west coast!
Length & Duration: 5km for the coastal route, add 3 km for the beach.
Walking Tip: Cars often use this route so keep an eye out for drivers distracted by those Wild Atlantic Way views!
Aprés Walk: Into Ethna’s Restaurant overlooking the harbour for scones and coffee.
Finally today, Sligo Walks is delighted to partner with the stunning 4* Strandhill Lodge & Suites for our Spring Competition. The prize includes a two-night stay for two in Strandhill with balcony views overlooking Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and includes breakfast each morning.
One lucky winner will be chosen from correct competition entries on March 17th. Head over to our Facebook page for details: facebook.com/sligowalks
For details on all aspects of walking in Sligo, visit www.SligoWalks.ie.