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FOUR DAY WEST COAST DRIVING TOUR - Sligo


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TOWN ROUTE DISTANCE (miles) TIME hr/min ROUTE CHANGE
Sligo   0 0:00  
Drumcliff N15 5 0:08  
Grange N15 9 0:16  
Cliffony N15 13 0:22  
Bundoran N15 21 0:35  
Ballyshannon N15 25 0:42  
Donegal N15 38 1:02 N15 -> N56
Killybegs N56 55 1:35  
Donegal N15 72 2:09 N56 -> N15
Sligo N15 110 3:11 N15 -> N4
Ballysadare N4 115 3:21  
Collooney N4 118 3:24  
Castlebaldwin N4 126 3:40  
Boyle N4 134 3:54  
Carrick on Shannon N4 145 4:10  

Distance & times are do not allow for stops
or visiting areas of interest

Site Index

This is a proposed 4-day tour itinary covering the West Coast of Ireland and the River Shannon. The tour is optimised with four starting points which will enable you to begin your tour from you own location. This tour will allow you to follow a leisurely pace, seeing as much as possible of the area as your time allows. Many suggestions will be made for each area which will allow you to plan your activities.

Starting points:     Limerick    Galway    Sligo    Carrick-on-Shannon    Photo Gallery   Index

Starting Point 3 - Sligo

The northern part of this beautiful area consists of gentle coastal scenery combined with the mountains and hills of co. Sligo and north Leitrim. The single most distinctive feature is the flat-topped Benbulben, north of Sligo town. This curious-looking mountain seems to be visible all over the region. Its strange haunting beauty never fails to intrigue the visitor. For the poet W.B. Yeats it became an object of great devotion, being situated in the centre of what is generally referred to as the Yeats County.

Sligo town is worth getting to know and offers much to the visitor. There is a good range of shops, restaurants and evening entertainment to choose from. A recent waterside development has made the town centre very pleasent with riverside cafes and shops. The architectural design of the courthouse is very unusual and worth seeing. Sligo town was home to William Butler Yeats, the 19 century poet. Sligo is a crossroads with routes heading west, south and north into Donegal, and it is this route north that we will follow.

For some breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, great swimming beaches and Ben Bulben, take the N51 north till you see the sign for Rosses Point (R219). Across the bay is Coney Island, here you can see the Iron Man pointing in the direction the fishermen should take to get shelter behind the Island. On the north side of Rosses Pt. is Drumcliff Bay where there is an 18th hole golf course. Now return to the N15 and head north, on your right is Ben Bulben, this is a "sugar loaf" style mountain, but on the far side in a col is one of Ireland's best optical illusions. You will need a map (and local knowledge - ask a farmer) to reach the forest park (about 5Km from main road) in the col and a narrow road follows the outline of the col. At a point on this road near a sign the road appears to go downhill, stop your car, put it into neutral gear and release your brake - your brain will not believe what happens next!!

Other places and antiquities worth visiting in Sligo include;

  • Sligo County Museum, Stephen Street, Sligo: folklife, archaeology, history, paintings, rare painted books, manuscripts, section on W.B.Yeats.
  • Lissadell House, 8 miles (13km) north of Sligo on Bundoran Road (N 15); former home of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markievicz and still home of the Gore-Booth family. Many associations with W.B.Yeats.
  • Sligo Abbey, Sligo town: Dominican abbey founded 1252 and destroyed by fire 1414; the present ruin dates from the rebellion of 1641 and the sack of Sligo; beautiful examples of Irish medieval stone carving. The most ancient of Sligo's churches is the 17th century St. John's Church.
  • PLACES
    of
    INTEREST

    Co. Sligo
  • Sligo County Museum, Sligo
  • Lissadell House, 13km north of Sligo on Bundoran Road
  • Sligo Abbey, Sligo town
  • Formoyle, 6.5km east of Sligo
  • Carrowmore, 3km west of Sligo
  • Drumcliff, 6.5km north of Sligo
  • Queen Maeve's Mound, 6.5km west of Sligo
  • Parkes Castle, 8km east of Sligo
  • Heapstown Passage Grave: near Riverstown
  • Tullaghan Cross: main Sligo-Bundoran road.

    Co. Leitrim

  • Manorhamilton:
  • Hamilton Castle, Dromahair:

    Co. Donegal

  • Belleek Pottery:
  • Kilbarron Castle: 2 miles south of Rossnowlagh:
  • Ard Fothadh: 2 miles north-west of Ballintra:
  • Donegal Castle: in Donegal town.
  • Donegal Abbey:
  • Castle Magrath: 1.5 miles from Pettigo:
  • Lough Derg:
  • Tamlaght: 3 miles north of Pettigo:
  • Glencolumbkille:
  • Malinmore:
  • Dunmore Head: west of Portnoo:

    Co. Longford

  • Hollybrook, west shore of Lough Arrow:
  • Carrowkeel, west of Lough Arrow:
  • Longford Diocesan Museum:
  • Formoyle, 4 miles (6.5km) east of Sligo: immense megalithic tomb of Leacht Con Mhic Ruis.
  • Carrowmore, 2 miles (3km) west of Sligo: a low hill with the largest group of megalithic remains in Ireland - dolmens, stone circles and cairns with sepulchral chambers.
  • Drumcliff, 4 miles (6.5km) north of Sligo: ancient cross by roadside with particularly good panel of Adam and Eve; close by is a lower portion of a round tower. In the nearby churchyard is the grave of W.B. Yeats.
  • Queen Maeve's Mound, on Knockarea Hill, 4 miles (6.5km) west of Sligo: a gigantic cairn said to commemorate a queen of Connaught in the first century AD.
  • Parkes Castle, 5 miles ( 8km) east of Sligo: ruined Plantation castle and bawn, on the east shore of Lough Gill with view of 'the lake isle of Innisfree'.
  • Heapstown Passage Grave: the great Heapstown cairn is located near Riverstown. Nearby is the Labby Rock, an enormous portal dolmen dating back about 4,500 years.
  • Tullaghan Cross: Tullaghan is on the main Sligo-Bundoran road. Cross dates from the 9th or 10th century.

    More information on Co. Sligo

    Continue on the N15 towards Bundoran but take the R279 to Mullaghmore for some more breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean. Mullaghmore is a typical fishing village with a fine beach nearby. Further along the coast is Bundoran, another seaside resort, all these resorts have good, safe beaches for swimming. Another 4 miles will bring you in to Ballyshannon, built on the banks of the River Erne where an annual poetry festival takes place on the 29th July-1st August to commemorate the poet William Allingham (1824). The River Erne through the Lower and Upper Lough Erne lakes is part of the waterways of Ireland which stretches the length of the River Shannon, the Royal and Grand Canals to Dublin - all of which are navigable.

    The river Erne, from Belturbet in Co. Cavan to Belleek on the Fermanagh-Donegal border, forms a continuous navigable waterway of about 55 miles (88 km). For most of its length it broadens to become Upper and Lower Lough Erne, several miles wide at some points and containing 154 islands. The build-up of fleets of hire cruisers has made the Erne Valley one of Ireland's most popular holiday centres. Ballyshannon is home to the Donegal Parian China.

    Also worth visiting in Co. Leitrim are;

  • Manorhamilton: has the ruins of a baronial mansion built in 1638 by Sir Frederick Hamilton.
  • Hamilton Castle, Dromahair: built between 1634 and 1638; originally heavily fortified. Proved impregnable during 1641 war.

    More information on Co. Leitrim

    Donegal town, like Dublin is a Viking town. It is globally famous for its widely acclaimed lively evenings of folk music and dance. From the Diamond shaped market area there is a15th century castle (walking distance) that looks out over the river Eske and Blue Stack Mountains to the north. It was home to the O'Donnell clan, in fact much of Donegal county was under their rule.

    The next destination is Killybegs. The journey there (N56) will be very picturesque, through the rugged heather covered landscape. Killybegs is Ireland's largest fishing port where one can talk to the fishermen and taste the mornings catch at any one of the numerous restaurants and hotels. To explore the rest of Donegal would take another day and this will be covered later. For now we will re-trace our steps back to Sligo town. An alternate route would be from Donegal town along the north side of Lower Lough Erne, through Enniskillen and back to Sligo on the N16, but as this route passes through Northern Ireland, it is outside the scope of this website.

    Some of the many antiquities worth seeing are:

  • Belleek Pottery: founded in 1857, this famous pottery produces only Irish designs and many beautiful specimens are on display.
  • Kilbarron Castle: 2 miles (3 km) south of Rossnowlagh: 13th-14th century ruins with, to the north, remains of 14th century Kilbarron Church on the site of the original church of St.Barron, c.545.
  • Ard Fothadh: 2 miles (3 km) north-west of Ballintra: also known as McGonigle's Fort: earthen rampart 870 ft. (264 m) around with beehive mound 190 ft (57 m) around, believed to be the burial place of a 6th century king, Hugh McAinmire. Other ancient tombs in the vicinity.
  • Donegal Castle: in Donegal town, on bank of river Eske: in 1505 an earlier castle was rebuilt as the main stronghold of Red Hugh O'Donnell.
  • Donegal Abbey: ruins of 15th century Franciscan friary.
  • Castle Magrath: 1.1/2 miles (2.5 km) from Pettigo: 16th century castle of the traditional guardians of Lough Derg monastery.
  • Lough Derg: contains Station Island, traditional scene of "St.Patrick's Purgatory"; the small island has the 'penitential beds' and the remains of the monks' cells, also two modern churches and hospices.
  • Tamlaght: 3 miles (5 km) north of Pettigo: large oval cairn covering rectangular chamber; south-west of cairn is a dolmen and ancient burial place with a Mass shelter from penal times.
  • Glencolumbkille: many pre-Christian monuments - portal dolmens, souterrians and cairns - dating from Bronze Age and earlier.
  • Malinmore: a large number of prehistoric tombs including a fine horned cairn called Cloghanmore.
  • Dunmore Head: west of Portnoo: has two ancient ring forts; a massive circular fort of stone, in good preservation, is on an island in Lough Doon 1.1/2 miles (2.5 km) south of Portnoo.

    More information on Co. Donegal

    From Sligo town heading south on the N4 (Dublin road) to Ballinafad, on your left you will see Lough Arrow, overlooked by The Chieftan ( a huge metal statue of a warrior mounted on a horse). Another 6 miles should bring you to Boyle. Here you'll immediatly see Boyle abbey , a well preserved 12th century monastery. A daughter house to Mellifont, Irelands first Cisterian Abbey (Dublin). A further 10 miles brings you to Carrick-on-Shannon, one of the main places to hire pleasure craft and cruisers to explore the River Shannon and other waterways of Ireland. There are two main companies hiring craft here both for a single day or longer. The sizes range from double berth to cruisers capable of sleeping more than a dozen people.

    Lakes are an important part of this area. This region forms the heart of Ireland's central lakelands. Quiet farmlands, extensive peat bogs and low hills all combine with lakes and rivers to make up a landscape which is full of interest and contrast. To the west lies the river Shannon which flows south to form Lough Ree in the south-west of this area. Among the larger lakes are Lough Melvin to the north; the enchanting Lough Gill outside Sligo; Lough Key with its adjoining forest park near Boyle; and Lough Allen, the first of the great lakes of the river Shannon. The centre of the area is a cluster of smaller lakes noted for the quality of their fishing. For those interested in river cruising and angling, this is the place to be. River cruising is an important tourist attraction, with a large well-equipped marina at Carrick-on-Shannon. The Shannon is the longest river in the British Isles and is navigable for its length. This will be covered in another tour later - THE WATERWAYS OF IRELAND.

    Also worth seeing are;

  • Hollybrook, on the west shore of Lough Arrow: here is the ancient church of Aghanagh. (This district was the setting for the romantic stories of 'the Colleen Bawn').
  • Carrowkeel, on a hilltop west of Lough Arrow: remains of a Stone Age village.
  • Longford Diocesan Museum: situated behind St. Mel's Cathedral, the museum contains vestments and objects dating back to Ireland's 'penal' days.

    More information on Co. Longford

    This days tour ends in Carrick-on-Shannon.

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