Art in Nature on the Walks of Sligo

Many of our beautiful walks in Sligo have, over the years, been embellished by art installations. These give both a reference point for a broader understanding of the history of the walk, or simply provide a discussion point for people as they ramble along the trail. 

Some of these installations go back to time immemorial. For example, it’s unlikely that the people who built Queen Maeve’s Cairn on Knocknarea ever considered that recreational walkers would climb to the summit to admire the view. But, no doubt, they had their own reasons for building these passage tombs on top of mountains, in tribute to some great person and for all to see and admire.

In more modern times, communities have come together to celebrate the heritage of the trails in their locality. Local landowner Benjamin Murrow installed a cannon at the foreshore in Strandhill as a way of attracting visitors back at the turn of the 20th century. Today, the cannon remains a popular meeting point for those heading out on the Killaspugbrone Coastal Walk. Last year, Sligo County Council launched the Yeats Trail, celebrating many of the places that appeared in the great poet’s works, with an installation at each, as well as a seating area where you can read the lines from one of W.B.’s poems.

Today we visit some of the other places which are home to a range of installations that reflect the depth and variety of the history of Sligo. If there are others in your community that we’ve missed and that you’d like to highlight, please let us know. 

Mullaghmore Coastal Walk

Sundial at Mullaghmore – photo

As one of Sligo’s most scenic walks, it hardly needs additional art to embellish its natural beauty. This installation – a sundial – is located on the approach to Classiebawn Castle and is a reminder of the changing nature of these once busy communities. Just a single house remains, the former home of local man Freddie McHugh and he, together with the lost community of Mullach Gearr, are remembered here. The sundial marks the passage of time, and like Shelley’s great poem Ozymandias, it hints at the fact that nothing is permanent and that as times change we need to be reminded of the footprints that were here before us.

Ballymote Heritage Trail

Brother Walfrid on Ballymote Heritage Trail – photo

A walk with plenty of heritage and history, when you pause outside of Ballymote Trail Station, you’ll see the bronze head and bust of Brother Walfrid. He was the founding father of Celtic FC in Scotland (and another statue in his honour stands outside their ground at Parkhead). But he grew up as Andrew Kerins in a small house outside of Ballymote, and upon leaving Sligo (possibly by train) ended up in a religious order in Glasgow, where he recognised the importance of sport in helping the Irish in the city deal with extreme poverty. The connection between Celtic and Ireland remains strong to the present day, and many followers of Celtic honour Walfrid in his native town. 

Garavogue River Walk

Sligo, like many counties in Ireland, had a complicated relationship with World War I (1914-1918). As Ireland entered the peak of its own revolutionary phase which would culminate in the 1916 Rising that ultimately led to Irish independence, others fought on the English side during the Great War against Germany. Dire economic circumstances, as well as the expectation that a short war would ensue, not to mention the existential threat from the German aggressor, encouraged many Sligo men to sign up. More than 600 of them never returned. Now their memory is suitably marked by a recent installation at the gates of Cleveragh Regional Park, which is part of the Garavogue River Walk.

WWI Monument at Cleveragh Park, Sligo – photo

De Cuéllar Trail

The Spanish Armada had a tragic end on the Irish coast, nowhere more than at Streedagh Beach, where, in September 1588, three Armada ships were wrecked in a storm and an estimated 1,100 men lost their lives. One of the few who escaped was Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, in whose memory this trail is named. An Armada monument overlooks the beach at Streedagh and was built in 1988 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Armada. Streedagh is one of Sligo’s most beautiful beaches, but its tragic past should not be forgotten and the Armada is commemorated annually here each September.

Armada Monument at Streedagh – photo

Sligo Way

The Sligo Way extends from Lough Talt to Dromohair, and at places like Lough Lumman and Slish Wood, you’ll find these beautiful hand carved limestone markers created by local artist Martha Quinn. They act as milestones, indicating to the walker the length they still have to travel, in the same that that markers populated the highways and byways of Ireland for many decades. Each marker carries a symbol that represents the flora of the area, and also includes a hare, the emblem of the Sligo Way. 

Sligo Way marker – photo

Hazelwood Forest Walk

This is one of the stops on the aforementioned Yeats Trail and features a metal sculpture facing towards Lough Gill at Half Moon Bay. This represents a figure from the poem The Song of Wandering Aengus. Having loved and lost, as they say, his broken heart is also represented in this work by artist Noel Molloy. Aengus is likely to be Yeats himself and his unrequited love for his muse Maud Gonne. The installation is located at the start of the walk, which meanders its way through the woods on this lovely family-friendly trail.

Yeats Trail at Hazelwood – photo

Rosses Point Coastal Walk

As a coastal county, our relationship with the sea is ever present, and the seasonal changes can dictate the nature of that relationship. From overtopping waves to swimming in gentler waters, the Waiting on Shoreinstallation at Rosses Point represents the dangers that many people face, particularly fishermen and others who make their living at sea. A woman, arms outstretched and hair streaming behind her in the wind, appeals to the sea to give safe return to her loved one.  

Rosses Point, Sligo – photo

If there’s an art installation on a walk in your area that you’d like us to highlight, send us a photo and description of what it means to you to