The Yeats Society recently announced details of their upcoming Yeats Winter School between 26th-29th January next. So this week, in the company of newly appointed Director of the Yeats Society Susan O’Keeffe, we bring you the 5 best Yeats walks in Sligo. All of these walks are located near areas Yeats mentioned in his poetry, and it’s easy to see how their beauty inspired one of Ireland’s greatest poets.
“Where dips the rocky highland of Sleuth Wood in the lake.”
Easily located just off the R287 between Sligo and Ballintogher, Slish (or Sleuth) Wood is a 3km looped walk which runs mainly along the shores of Lough Gill, with the option of linking up with a section of the Sligo Way for a longer linear walk.
According to Susan, the Sligo landscape provided Yeats’ poetry with a mythical quality:
SOK: “When you come to Sligo and walk in some of the places like Slish Wood or Dooney Rock, you feel that mystical thing, the landscape is so untouched, so wild, that you can feel quite easily how he could have been moved by that landscape.”
“Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car”
OK, so Glencar is in Leitrim and perish the thought we’d lay claim to it, but the waterfall is located closer to Sligo than to any other urban area, so we wanted to include it in this list. Located along the shores of Glencar Lake, it’s a short walk to the waterfall from the car park.
SOK: “I can only imagine what Glencar was like back then. He had that real connection with water, he always wrote about water and he sought out the water.”
“The clouds are bundled up high over Knocknarea”
Knocknarea has two access routes, the first is along the Glen Road – exiting Sligo via Maugheraboy and driving for approximately 5km before turning to the right into the car park. The second, more recent access route, is from the Strandhill side, parking near Sligo Rugby Club and taking the clearly marked route from there. Pretty arduous, and good footwear essential. And there are plans to link both routes in 2018.
SOK: “I don’t think people associate Knocknarea so much with Yeats, but he understood always that there was magic in mountains and he talked also about putting your ear to Mother Earth and he loved looking at the landscape over Knocknarea.”
“Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid”
Yeats’ final resting place (though subject to some debate) is at Drumcliff, close to the turn for Lissadell, a quiet place for a moment of reflection as you look out towards Ben Bulben. A nearby drive north from here will bring you to the base of the iconic mountain, where a beautiful looped forest walk awaits.
SOK: “The majesty of the mountain certainly inspired him all his life, but he also had the belief and understanding from all the mythology and faery stories that there was indeed a trap door in the side of Ben Bulben.”
“In a field by the river,
My love and I did stand”
Located near Union Wood and the many different walkways there, Yeats found inspiration for his famous poem Down by the Salley Gardens in Ballisodare.
SOK: “It’s one of his best loved poems. It’s well rooted in people’s hearts and minds. Ballisodare was home to the Middleton Mills and they were part of his mother’s side of the family and he spent a lot of time in Ballisodare, he loved visiting there, he loved the folklore, he loved the river, he loved to fish, he loved to walk around in Ballisodare.”
In addition, we have other locations, such as Rosses Point, Cummeen Strand, Lissadell and of course the Lake Isle of Innisfree, to name but a few. All close to Sligo, all accessible either by road or boat, and all worth putting on your must-do list for the weeks and months ahead.
For details on these and many other walks, visit sligowalks.ie.