The De Cuellar Trail

  • Trailhead: Streedagh Beach Car Park
  • Length: 3.5 km
  • Ascent: Minimal
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Suggested Gear: Sturdy Shoes
  • Longitude: 54.404344
  • Latitude: -8.560336

The Trail Map:- OSI Series 16

Spanish Armada
Beneath the waves at Streedagh lie the wrecks of three great ships of the Spanish Armada. On a fateful day in September 1588, La Lavia, La Juliana and Santa Maria De Visón, were driven to destruction here, by a storm of hurricane proportions. Over 1,100 souls were lost in this great maritime disaster; among them sailors, soldiers and noblemen, drawn from all the nations of Europe.
Many of the survivors, who escaped drowning and struggled ashore, were killed by locally based English forces, though a handful escaped and sought refuge with the Irish chieftains fighting against Tudor rule. The most famous survivor Captain Francisco De Cuellar has left us a fascinating account of his journey through the North West of Ireland and Scotland until his eventual escape back to Spain. It is an invaluable record of 16th Century Ireland and this trail retraces his footsteps through this iconic landscape. Visit for further details and to access the local visitor centre.

Streedagh Beach, Sligo – photo

The Route
Starting at Streedagh Beach, first of all we suggest walking the stunning 3km stretch of unspoiled sand and sea, before returning to this point. While on the beach, keep a look out for the wreck of the Butter Boat, which appears at low tide. Note that while the remains of this boat are roughly in the same location as two of the Armada ships, this is not one of them, and sank many years later! Once you return to the starting point of the walk, continue up the road, and you’ll pass the Spanish Armada monument which overlooks the beach. Proceeding along the public road, take the right hand turn approximately 0.5km after the Armada monument. Continue along this side road, continuing straight along a new path, until you reach a T junction, where you turn right for Staad Abbey, the ruins of which can be seen from some distance away.
This is an exposed beach with reef breaks which create ideal surfing conditions all year round.

Please be advised that the beach is subject to tide and that caution should be exhibited particularly during periods of severe weather. Also please note that vehicles should not be parked in the area behind the beachfront close to high tide.

Staad Abbey
The gable end is all that survives of Staad Abbey which is linked to the monastic settlement on Innishmurray Island, clearly visible 6.5km offshore. What we see here today may date back as far as the 10th Century but there is evidence of an earlier medieval settlement that suggests that Staid was a mainland hostel or departure point for clergy, pilgrims or other travelers to Innishmurray. The Island contains an extensive complex of monastic ruins dating back to the 6th Century and is associated with Saint Molaise, confessor to St Columcille.
Captain Francisco De Cuellar, grievously wounded, struggled here seeking shelter from the monks only to find the building destroyed and twelve of his comrades strung up within the church. Starving, exhausted and overcome with grief he returned to the wrecking shore and a shocking scene of devastation, before continuing his journey to Glencar and beyond.

What remains of the Butter Boat at Streedagh
What remains of the Butter Boat – sometimes mistaken as an Armada shipwreck at Streedagh – photo

Natural Environment
Streedagh Point Dunes SAC is a sand dune and estuary system and consists of a tombolo formation, with a shingle spit overlain by sand dunes joining Conor’s Island to Streedagh Point.
The dunes are dominated by Marram but are also colonised by Sea Sandwort, Sea Campion, Sand Couch, Colt’s-foot, clovers, Ribwort Plantain and Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil. The fixed dunes, which are a priority habitat on Annex I of the E.U. Habitats Directive, are well-developed. They contain some large sand hills and dune slacks, and are rich in plant species, particularly small herbs. Species include Daisy, Wild Pansy, Wild Carrot, Bulbous Buttercup, Field Wood-rush, Bramble, Wild Thyme, Biting Stonecrop, Common Cornsalad, Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Bee Orchid and Pyramidal Orchid. The estuary of the River Grange consists of intertidal sandflats with areas of saltmarsh around the margins. Saltmarsh on the site supports Thrift, Sea Plantain, Red Fescue , Lax-flavoured Sea-lavender, Sea Rush, Common Scurvygrass, glassworts and turf fucoids.
The rare snail, Vertigo angustior, has recently been recorded from sand dunes on the site. Common Seals haul out on sand banks in the site and Grey Seals have also been noted in the area. The locally-occurring butterfly, Dingy Skipper, has also been recorded on the site. The estuary is also used by wintering waterfowl including Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Brent Geese, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank . The site is also used by Terns and Chough, although these species do not nest here.

Streedagh Point can be considered one of the finest geological sites in all of Ireland. Located on the coastline, with near horizontal layers of rock, this is an ideal hunting ground for fossils.
The bedrock is Carboniferous limestone formed around 340 million years ago when a shallow tropical sea covered the entire area. Whilst this is seen in many other locations, what makes Streedagh so special is the entire area is blanketed with the fossil remains of sea creatures. There are a great multitude of animals seen here including corals, brachiopods (a type of sea shell), crinoids (a type of animal also known as a sea-lily), and more rarely trilobites have also been found. They are very easy to spot both in the bedrock and in the loose pebbles that litter the beach.

Please do not hammer or remove any of the material at Streedagh. This is a protected site so please leave the wonderful fossils as you find them.
This site is tide dependent and can become very slippery so please exercise extreme caution.

Directions - How to get to the Trailhead.

Take the N15 to Grange and the L3203 Signposted to Streedagh. Turn right after 1.1km again following signage for Streedagh. Car Parking is available at the beach.