If you’re looking for things to do in Sligo on a fine day, you can’t go wrong with the Union Wood Walk.
Union Wood, which was at one time part of the Cooper estate, is now managed by Coillte and it’s a fine place for a ramble.
The wood is home to 2 of my favourite walks in Sligo, each of which are relatively easy going and shouldn’t take you any longer than 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.
Below, you’ll find info on parking, each of the trails and what to expect when you arrive (plus some places to visit nearby!).
Some quick need-to-knows about Union Wood in Sligo
Although a visit to Union Wood in Sligo is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The Union Wood is located between Coolooney, Ballygawley and Ballisodare. It’s a 15-minute drive from Sligo Town, a 20-minute drive from Strandhill, a 25-minute drive from Rosses Point and a 35-minute drive from Mullaghmore.
2. Walk overview
Union Rock provides magnificent views – you can see so much of the north west of Ireland from this vantage point. There’s the Oakwood Trail (2 hours) and the Union Rock Trail (1.5 hours).
3. Where to park
There’s a nice bit of parking for Union Wood (I’ve marked the spot on Google Maps here). You shouldn’t have much hassle getting parking during the week, but it can get busy here at weekends, especially when the weather’s good.
The Union Wood walk
Union Wood showcases fallow deer, bluebells in May and rhododendrons. The boundaries enclose part of the Sligo Way that runs through Slish Wood and on to the village of Dromahair.
An area of old Oak woodland is fenced off from the fallow deer and the adjoining trail links into the Sligo way and there you can see some fabulous views of Knocknarea, the Ox mountain range and Sligo/Leitrim to the east.
Walk 1: The Oakwood Trail
The Oakwood Trail is a gentle looped walk suitable for most fitness levels. This walk is 5.5km in length and should take you roughly 2 hours to complete.
The trail takes you along the edge of the old oak woodland and it offers amazing views of the Ox mountain range, Knocknarea, Ballygawley Lake and the surrounding Sligo and Leitrim countryside.
Walk 2: The Union Rock Trail
The Union Rock Trail is another one you can tackle. This trail stretches for 4km and it should take you around 1.5 hours to complete.
It begins in an area that is managed for biodiversity and then takes walkers to the ascent of Union Rock – a climb of 100 metres. This climb rewards walkers with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
Things to do near Union Wood
One of the beauties of Union Wood in Sligo is that it’s a short spin away from many other things to do and places to visit.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do after you’ve finished one of the Union Wood Walks (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. The Lough Gill Drive
Lough Gill is a freshwater lake (lough) in Sligo famous for being the setting for the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. You can drive around it—the drive takes about an hour in total—but more time is needed as there are lots of walks on the way. See our guide to the Lough Gill Drive.
Strandhill is a small coastal village popular with surfers because of its beach. It’s a great place to base yourself in because there are so many things to do close by. You can head for a stroll on Strandhill Beach, grab some food in the town or do one of the other activities in our Strandhill guide.
Knocknarea is a hill west of Sligo town with a height of 327 metres. It is supposed to be the burial place of Queen Maedbh of Connacht, the legendary Celtic warrior queen said to have lived about 2,000 years ago. The hill stands on the Cúil Irra peninsula and overlooks the Atlantic coast.
4. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
Carrowmore is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland and an awe-inspiring place to visit. It is close to Sligo town and is right in the heart of territory rich in prehistoric significance. There are more than 30 stone tombs – passage tombs and stone circles. The most ancient of them is supposed to be about 6,000 years old. The area has the remains of ancient forts and standing stones too.
FAQs about Union Wood in Sligo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long the Union Wood Walk takes to where to get parking.
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.
How long is the Union Wood Walk?
If you do the Oakwood Trail (looped walk) it’ll take you around 2 hours. If you do the Union Rock Trail (also looped), it’ll take you roughly 1.5 hours.
Are the walks at Union Woods hard?
No. The walks here only ascend around 20 m in total, and the trail is well kept, for the most part, so it should suit most fitness levels.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.