There are MILLIONS of things to do in Sligo…
OK… maybe not millions, but this mighty little county is home to an almost endless number of things to do and places to explore.
In this guide, we tackle everything from castles and coastal walks to unique attractions in Sligo and some very hidden gems worth visiting on your Sligo road trip.
You’ll also discover things to do in Sligo in the rain, along with great places to eat, ancient pubs and loads more.
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Sligo (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a speedy overview of the most popular places to visit in Sligo, with everything from towns and villages to walks and beaches.
1. Mighty towns and villages
Before you decide on what to do in Sligo, it’s worth taking a bit of time to think about where you’ll kip while you’re there.
There’s a mix of sleepy villages and lively coastal towns in Sligo, each of which is great to explore the county from. Here are some of our favourites:
2. Hikes and walks
Arguably some of the best things to do in Sligo involve throwing on a pair of hiking boots and heading up into the hills or out along the coast.
Now, for some of the rambles in our guide to the best walks in Sligo, you won’t need much planning, while for others you’ll need to have your route ready in advance. Here are some of our favourite walks in Sligo:
- The Knocknarea Walk
- The Benbulben Forest Walk
- The Knocknashee Walk
- The walks in Union Wood
- The Gleniff Horseshoe Walk
- The Glencar Waterfall walk (Leitrim)
3. Unique places to visit in Sligo
If you’re wondering what to do in Sligo that’ll treat you to a unique experience, you’re in luck – there’s plenty of unique and unusual things to do in Sligo.
Many of which never make the covers of shiny tourist handbooks – which make them all the more enjoyable to have a nosey around! Here are our favourites:
4. Beaches galore
Some of the best places to visit in Sligo are the countless sandy stretches that you’ll find dotted along the glorious Sligo coastline.
Although we go into them in detail in our guide to the best beaches in Sligo, here are a few of our favourites:
What to do in Sligo if you fancy an active break
If you’re wondering what to do in Sligo that’ll give your legs a big aul stretch, you’re in luck – County Sligo is home to a fine mix of hikes, ranging from grand and handy to long and tricky.
From some of the county’s most beautiful peaks and its gorgeous coastline to some lesser known hills and valleys, here are some great Sligo walks to head off on.
1. The Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail
The Queen Maeve trail up Knocknarea Mountain is, in my opinion, is one of the best walks in Sligo. It takes you up to Knocknarea’s summit and treats you to incredible views out over Sligo and Ballisodare Bay.
If you give this walk a bash, you’ll make your way up the northern slopes of Knocknarea, through forests along a raised boardwalk to the summit.
If you reach the summit on a clear day, you’ll have views that stretch out as far the Slieve League sea cliffs in Donegal.
2. The Knocknashee Walk
If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo that’ll take you away from the summer crowds, take note of our next walk.
The Knocknashee Walk is tough, but it’s very straightforward and the views from the top on a clear day are out of this world.
Part of the Ox Mountain range, Knocknashee is home to a 1-1.5 hour walk that’ll have your legs burning from beginning to end.
There’s limited parking at the entrance but you should be able to nab a spot if you arrive early. There’s a nice trail right up to the top. See our guide to the walk.
3. Union Wood
You’ll find Union Wood a handy 15-minute spin from Sligo Town. There are two trails here: the Oakwood Trail (2 hours) and the Union Rock Trail (1.5 hours).
These are two relatively easy going trails and the views and ever-changing scenery here keeps you entertained throughout.
On a clear day, you’ll see everything from the Ox Mountain Range and Knocknarea to Ballygawley Lake and more. Here’s a guide to the trails.
4. The Benbulben Forest Walk
This Benbulben Forest Walk is one of the best strolls in this section of the Wild Atlantic Way, in my opinion. I did it first 2 or 3 years ago with a group of friends and I’ve been recommending it to people wondering what to do in Sligo ever since.
Benbulben is arguably Ireland’s most distinctive mountain. It’s almost table-top-like appearance makes it hard to miss and even harder to forget.
One of the best ways to see it is on the Benbulben Forest Walk, a 1.5-hour, handy stroll that’ll treat you to views of Donegal Bay, Slieve League, and Mullaghmore along the way.
5. The Gleniff Horseshoe Walk
So, you can do the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive or walk, depending on the weather and whether or not you fancy a ramble.
This is one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. That is until you do it on a misty day (happened to me a couple of months ago) and you can barely see out of your windscreen…
This drive (or walk/cycle) takes you on a short loop that’s enveloped from start to finish by spectacular mountain views. Here’s a guide with a Google Map of the route.
6. Mullaghmore Head Walk
If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo that’ll banish the stickiest of post-pint cobwebs, get yourself out on the Mullaghmore Head Walk.
Although it’ll take you around 2.5 hours to finish (it’s 8km), this is a handy enough walk that’ll treat you to some brilliant coastal views.
7. Hazelwood Forest
If you do the brilliant Lough Gill Drive, one of the first stops you’ll come to is Hazelwood Forest. And there are few places as fine for a wander.
The gorgeous Hazelwood Demesne is found a stone’s throw from Sligo town at Half Moon Bay, along the shores of Lough Gill.
There are several short walks you can head off on here that’ll provide you with spectacular views of Church Island, Cottage Island and Goat Island, along with the tranquil waters of Lough Gill.
If you’re wondering what to do in Sligo with a group of friends, head out to Strandhill Beach and give surfing a lash (there’s plenty of other places to surf in Sligo!)
Strandhill, similar to Lahinch in Clare and Bundoran in Donegal, is known and loved by surfers the country over.
9. The Sligo Way
The Sligo Way is a long-distance ramble that’s best completed over the course of three days. The route kick-starts at Lough Talt and finishes in Dromahair in Leitrim.
The route is waymarked, so you’ll be able to follow wooden marker posts and metal fingerposts throughout the walk (you’ll still need to plan the walk well in advance).
The entire route is 78km long and can take several days to complete. A moderate level of fitness is needed, as is a good clear plan on where you’ll stay each night.
10. The Easkey Cliffs
There’s a lovely little cliff walk from the village of Easkey in Sligo. Now, here’s a solid little walk/treat combo for you.
Nip into Pudding Row in Easkey village first and grab a coffee and a cake (the stuff these lads bake is ridiculously good!) and then head off on your merry way.
There’s a nice walk here that takes you from the village centre up along Easkey River, on to the castle and then out towards the gorgeous Atlantic coast.
11. Lough Gill
The Lough Gill Drive is a great way to spend a day. Although this is a driving route, 3 of the stops (Dooney Rock, Slish Wood and Hazelwood Forest) have lovely walks.
It’s very close to Sligo Town and, if you follow the route here, you’ll combine the scenic drive with 3 class walks.
This is one of our favourite places to visit in Sligo, as it’s a straightforward spin, it’s close to Sligo Town, and there’s a great stop for lunch halfway through.
Unique Sligo attractions
Some of the top things to do in Sligo are, in my opinion, the places that either 1, take you off-the-beaten-path or 2, treat you to a nice, unique experience.
This section of the guide is packed with places to visit and things to see in Sligo that tend to get missed by many visiting the county.
1. The Glen
This gorgeous spot is a result of a natural phenomenon that took place thousands of years ago, with theories on how it came to be ranging from earthquakes to glaciers.
The entry point to The Glen can be very tricky to find. Find out all about getting to it in our guide here. As always, leave no trace behind you.
2. The Caves of Keash
The Caves of Keash are an ancient passage tomb cluster that are believed to predate the Pyramids of Egypt by a whopping 500-800 years.
Geological and archaeological inspections in the 1900s revealed that early man used and lived in the caves at Keash.
There are 17 caves in total here and you can visit them on a walk that comes with one big warning. Read all about getting to them in this guide.
3. Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird
If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo when it’s raining, then a visit to the Devil’s Chimney is just the job, as it only runs during or after heavy rainfall.
At a staggering 150m, Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird (also referred to as ‘the Devil’s Chimney’ online) is one of Ireland’s highest waterfalls.
There’s a 45-minute moderately strenuous walk that’ll take you up to see it in action. Here’s a handy guide to the walk to follow.
4. Coney Island
Now, you can either take a boat trip over to the island or you can walk, cycle or drive it. If you plan on making your way there yourself, it’s ESSENTIAL to understand the tide times.
Luckily, there’s a handy text service that tells you when the tide is out. Read all about it in our Coney Island guide.
5. The grave of W. B Yeats
Drumcliffe Church is one of the more popular Sligo tourist attractions amongst those visiting Ireland, and for good reason.
This place is best known as the final resting place of literary giant W.B. Yeats. Beautifully set against the backdrop of Benbulben, Drumcliffe has become a Mecca, of sorts, for Yeats fans visiting Sligo.
His grave is marked with a simple headstone with an inscription that reads, ‘cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by‘. There’s a coffee shop on-site if you fancy taking some time out.
You’ll find the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland at Carrowmore in Sligo. Archaeologists have discovered over 60 tombs here (only 30 are visible) that range from 5,000 to 5,800 years old.
That’s pretty incredible when you think about it! New information from DNA suggests that the monuments at Carrowmore were used by people from France who travelled to Ireland by sea over 6,000 years ago.
It’s said that these people brought the first cattle to Ireland and they also re-introduced the red deer to Ireland. There’s a guided tour here that lasts between 45 minutes and an hour.
7. Unique accommodation
There’s plenty of great (but bog-standard) hotels in Sligo that make the perfect base for a visit, however, there are also some unique places to stay.
If you fancy a very memorable experience, the likes of Markree Castle (above) are worth checking out. There are also plenty of places to go camping in Sligo, with everything from wild camping to campsites by the sea on offer.
Things to do in Sligo Town
The next section of the guide is packed with things to do in Sligo Town, from the oldest pub in Sligo to the very old Sligo Abbey, there’s something to tickle most fancies.
There’s also an endless number of great spots to grab a bite to eat and to kip, if you fancy staying in Sligo Town.
1. The oldest pub in Sligo
I love a good pub. I love an old pub that plays trad music a whole lot more. Places like Thomas Connolly make me very happy altogether.
This pub was first licensed way back in 1861. It was then bought by Thomas Connolly in 1890. The same year that he became the Mayor of Sligo.
If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo at night, get into this old-school pub, grab a bite to eat, sample some of the best Guinness in the west and kick-back with some live music.
2. Sligo Abbey
Sligo Abbey was built back in 1252 and it was accidentally burnt to the ground in 1414 when a candle left lighting in the building set the whole place alight.
It was damaged even more during the 1641 rebellion. According to legend, worshippers saved the abbey’s silver bell by throwing it into Lough Gill. It’s said that only those free from sin can hear it ring.
You can visit the Sligo Abbey visitor centre for more insight into its history. There’s also plenty more to see, like a Renaissance tomb sculpture and the only sculptured 15th Century high altar to survive in any Irish church.
3. Yeats Building
You’ll find the Yeats building on Hyde Bridge in a beautiful 19th-century red brick structure. The building is the Headquarters of the international Yeats Society.
It houses a permanent exhibition along with a fine library that’s packed with over 3,000 books. If you visit, make sure to check out the ‘Yeats in the West’ exhibition.
It offers an insight into the Yeats family genealogy, the people and places that influenced him, and much more. Guided tours are available upon request from a local volunteer.
4. Hargadon Bros.
When you take a little detour off Sligo main street and ramble into Hargadon’s, it’ll feel like you’ve just taken a step back in time (and I mean that in the best way possible!)
Established in 1868, Hardagon’s is home to gorgeous paneled snugs, stone floors, and the charm and character that’s becoming increasingly hard to find in an Irish pub these days.
Visit for the Guinness and stay for the old-world brilliance that comes with a carefully preserved traditional Irish pub.
5. Sligo County Museum
The free-to-enter Sligo County Museum has a host of exhibits and displays covering a huge chunk of history. Some highlights include the stone-age display (showcasing ancient tools and crafts discovered in the area), and a 100-year-old firkin of ‘bog butter’.
The Yeat’s Room displays a number of manuscripts and letters from the iconic W.B. Yeats, as well as a copy of his 1923 Nobel Prize winning medal.
You’ll also find a complete collection of his poems, and paintings by Jack B. Yeats and other iconic Irish artists, such as Sean Keating and George Russell.
6. The Model
Art lovers will be right at home at The Model, a contemporary art centre and gallery. Throughout the year, a number of exhibits are on display, showcasing works from local and international artists alike.
The main attraction is the Niland Collection, which contains more than 300 works by renowned artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Paul Henry, Estella Solomons, George Russell, and Louis Le Brocquy.
Within the Model, there’s also a cinema/concert venue, with regular movie showings and events to indulge in. If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo Town when it’s raining, this is a great shout.
Places to see in Sligo: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there’s plenty of places to visit in Sligo that we’ve unintentionally missed in the guide above.
If there’s something that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and we’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best things to do in Sligo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Sligo if you only have a day to what to do in Sligo for couples.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the most unique places to visit in Sligo?
I’d argue the the most unique places to go in Sligo are The Glen beside Knocknarea, the Caves of Kesh, Sruth in Aghaidh An Aird and Coney Island.
What are the best things to do in Sligo for an active break?
If you fancy an active break, some of the best places to visit in Sligo are Benbulben Forest, Knocknashee, Knocknarea, Union Wood, Lough Gill and more (see above).
What Sligo attractions are the most impressive?
Benbulben tends to be one of the places to visit in Sligo that usually impress people the most, however the likes of Knocknashee and Mullaghmore Head are incredibly impressive, too.