Our coastal trails are some of the gems of the Sligo landscape. From Enniscrone to Aughris, Streedagh to Mullaghmore Head and other places besides, we are so lucky to have these trails on our doorstep to enjoy throughout the four seasons of the year.
Now a new walk has been added, the Raghly Loop Trail, which overlooks the sea in one of the most picturesque parts of the county. The trail was recently launched by Leas-Chathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Cllr. Tom Fox with great local support from the Maugherow Community Development Company. The walk, while open for some time, had some finishing touches to be completed and now signage provides the visitor with all of the information they need to navigate the walk and to discover more about the local area.
First, how to get there. From Sligo it will take approximately 20 minutes by car. Heading north for Donegal, turn left at Drumcliffe for Carney, where the road sweeps left again past the entrance for Lissadell. Continuing along this road until you reach Dunleavy’s pub and shop. Turn left here and continue on until just before Raghly Harbour, where roadside parking is available.
This is a looped trail, so you can take either direction, but we preferred going anti-clockwise for better views. So, heading slightly uphill past a row of houses on your left, you reach the entrance to the cliff walk on your right after a short distance. The walk brings you along a gravel path, with sheep grazing in fields to your left and unrivalled sea views to your right. The path is fenced in so you can feel as close as possible to the Atlantic without having any concerns about the proximity of the cliff edge.
You arrive at the main feature of this walk before long. These are, as local people well know, the blowholes. These are features formed where the sea has gradually eroded pockets of land over millennia, leading to the creation of these unusual formations. The more unusual one, to the left on private land, forms a circular shape where water gushes into the air during heavy weather, creating a spectacular display. The signage installed nearby informs us how in the 1800s, the blowholes were described in a report as: “the agitated waters roar, boil and foam, to an extent which is often terrific; at all times the hoarse murmuring of the retiring waves through the low vaulted caverns is sublime.” The writer obviously got a more dramatic day than we did, when the tide was flat calm. But we will return when conditions are more conducive for this display of the power of our oceans.
Before you begin to turn inland, a low bench has been installed for you to take a breather and drink in those Atlantic views. As you turn away from the coast, you join a minor road, where you turn right, heading downhill towards the harbour. Again, sea views quickly come back into view. The topography of the walk is such that you are almost always surrounded by views of the ocean. The walk is circular, hugging the edges of the land, and the result is that you can enjoy spectacular views all the way around.
As you approach the harbour you’ll pass the ruins of an old coastguard station to your right, evidence of the area’s long seafaring tradition. Up until recently the area was also a popular departure point for boat trips to Innismurray, sadly no longer permitted due to the absence of a safe landing area on the island. The signage also reminds us that Sligo was once the most important port located between Derry and Galway and you can be sure that Raghly’s community provided many of the people involved in the maritime activities of the time.
Arriving at the harbour, the road veers left, and you follow this until you are back at your starting point. Stunning views across the bay towards Knocknarea make a lovely walk even better as you head back towards the car.
All told, for such a short walk – at approximately 3km, this is a truly spectacular trail, one which is well worth doing, and with a relatively gentle incline, this is one that anyone of any level of fitness should be able for. It’s also one where you’ll get very varied experiences at different times of the year. So even if the weather isn’t great, wrap up well and head out to enjoy what is one of our most scenic walks, and you might even get to enjoy an aquatic display at the blowholes, something that is unique to this Sligo walk.
Note: The Raghly Loop Trail was created with funding from the Dept of Rural and Community Development through the Town & Village Renewal scheme, with support from Sligo County Council and the Maugherow Community Development Company. It is also important to acknowledge the support from landowners who generously facilitated access and without which the trail we all enjoy would not have been possible.
For details visit www.sligowalks.ie/walks/raghly-loop-trail.