Simple ideas are often the most effective, especially in relation to raising the profile of local places of interest. The launch last Wednesday at the Glasshouse Hotel of a new free brochure aimed at tourists and Sligo people alike describes some of the important historical locations in Sligo Town, and the famous people associated with them.
The brochure, produced by Sligo Tidy Towns and which drew on the local knowledge, expertise and participation of many others, outlines 20 locations of interest along a 5km looped route around the centre of town, one which will make for an informative as well as healthy walk.
These locations, which include Sligo Abbey, The Yeats Memorial Building, The Green Fort, Abbeyquarter North Passage Tomb and Sligo Gaol, are all located within easy walking distance of one another, and this brochure provides a brief description of their history, and a special commemorative plaque has also been erected at each location.
The idea was driven by Jim Lawlor, Chair of the Heritage Project Team of Sligo Tidy Towns, who said at the launch: “When I started looking at it, I began to realize how much value is in this, how little I knew about the town I’d been living in for the past 38 years, and I felt that it would not only be of benefit to tourism, but it would also be of benefit to the people of Sligo.”
Sligo Tidy Towns were able to call on several local historians to first of all draw up a list of potential locations, and then to provide the editorial content for the brochure.
Fiona Gallagher was a member of the historical team of local experts responsible for the creation of the content for the brochure.
“It touches on most of the major historical structures in the centre of Sligo. They are ones we walk past each day without giving much thought to, and in that sense, this brochure is a great way for local people to engage with their heritage and history.
“In terms of tourism promotion, this is a trail, like the Wild Atlantic Way, you put it on a list, you put it on a map, you effectively make it very easy for people who are interested in local history to navigate their way around the different locations.”
Some of the locations on the tour have strong links with many of Sligo’s famous sons and daughters. These include William Pollexfen – grandfather of WB Yeats, and who was a successful shipping and milling entrepreneur based at Wine Street, Bernard Colleary, the original owner of Hargadon’s Bar on Knox (O’Connell) St., Charlotte Thornley, mother of ‘Dracula’ author Bran Stoker, and Martin Moffat, the last Irishman to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery during World War 1.
The committee also had support from Sligo BID, Sligo Tourism and Sligo County Council. Siobhán Ryan is Heritage Officer with Sligo County Council, and she says: “The new tourism strategy recognizes that what hooks people into places like Sligo is Yeats, archaeology, cultural tourism, good food, good stories, meeting people, being authentic. The tourism experience that we have along the Wild Atlantic Way are the culturally curious, independent travellers, who are looking to discover for themselves, and that is a sea change in terms of what has been traditional tourism in Ireland. It’s the tourism of discovery.”
Jim Lawlor says that he hopes that not only will tourists pick up one of these brochures to help navigate the centre of Sligo but that local people, and schoolchildren in particular, will acquaint themselves with the history on our doorstep.
And looking ahead, he says that his vision is that free guided tours of these locations will be made available to tourists, building on the work done in this area previously by others. In this way, tourists will know that at certain specific times, tours of a fixed distance and duration will take place in the company of a local guide or historian, something which should help improve the overall visitor experience for tourists coming to Sligo.