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Best things to do in Sligo, Ireland

Updated On 21st March, 2024

Welcome to your Sligo travel guide.

Sligo is a hidden gem on Ireland‘s stunning west coast and after just spending a long weekend there, I am so excited to share all the best spots and places I’d recommend for your Sligo adventure. In this blog post, I will share the best things to do in Sligo, the best places to eat and the best places to soak up the incredible Irish history and culture.

Located in the province of Connacht, Sligo is a coastal town surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. Sligo boasts a vibrant food scene, offering fresh seafood, traditional Irish dishes, and a growing craft beer and whiskey culture that will leave your heart and tummy very happy. But more than that, Sligo is the perfect base location for exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, surfing the world-famous surf breaks and the grand landscapes surrounding it.

Sligo’s tapestry of culture and history is rich, alive and well-preserved. You can immerse yourself in the local traditions, local delicacies, explore ancient Celtic sites, and visit landmarks connected to the renowned poet W.B. Yeats, whose influence can still be felt throughout the region.

Being only a one-hour flight from the UK and a 2.5-hour drive from Dublin, Sligo makes for an easy, no-hassle weekend break filled with a plethora of amazing food and adventure.

Continue reading for all my best things to do in Sligo!

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The best time to visit Sligo?

The best time to visit Sligo, Ireland, depends on your interests and reason for visiting. Summer (June to August) offers mild temperatures averaging around 15-20°C so if you’re keen on hikes and outdoor activities, this could be a good time to plan to visit. However on the flip side, spring and autumn provide fewer crowds and you can get better deals on flights and accommodation.

Winter can be cold with temperatures around 5-10°C but still enjoyable if you pack well as there is still plenty to keep you occupied (see rest of post!). Surfers tend to flock to Sligo in the autumn and winter months for optimal wave conditions, though surfing is possible year-round and for beginners – the summer may be a better option.

Consider timing your visit with an annual event like the Sligo Live Music Festival, Sligo St. Patrick’s Day and Fleadh Cheoil. Many others throughout the year add cultural charm to your visit! The Irish sure know how to throw a party!

Ultimately, for the best time to visit Sligo, think about what your priority is to experience and choose the time that aligns, whether its for surfing, outdoor adventures, or experiencing local festivities.

We stayed at The Glasshouse Hotel during our stay in Sligo. It was an insane location to have as a base. Right on River Sligo, walking distance from all the best restaurants and pubs and only a 20-minute radius from most of the activities in this guide! Oh and they have FREE underground parking too for hotel guests!

The best places to eat and drink in Sligo

We experienced some incredible food and drink during our time in Sligo. I had to make a little section here for recommendations!

Eala Bhan £££

Located in a charming riverside setting, Eala Bhan offers a diverse menu focused on fresh seafood and Irish cuisine. Elegant atmosphere and attentive service. One for a memorable dining experience.

Shell’s Café £

Located on Strandhill Beach, Shell’s Café offers stunning views and wholesome dishes like homemade soups, gourmet sandwiches, and freshly baked goods. Amazing takeaway coffee and bakery in the shop too!

Hargadon Bros £

A super fun pub with great Guinness stew!

Lillie’s Cocktail Bar ££ 

A lovely cosy spot to grab a cocktail and some live music! Pornstar martinis were fab!

Otto Pizza ££

Best pizza in town! Wow. Sexy vibes, Neapolitan pizzas and small plates. Great date night spot!

Thomas Connolly Bar £

Supposedly the best Guinness in Ireland! It has to be tried!

Milligram Coffee £

Amazing little coffee shop with sweet treats too. Few indoor seats.

Baker Boys £

Fresh baked good, need I say more!

Stoked ££

Cocktails and tapas with friends vibes. We didn’t get time to go but were highly recommended by many people!

The Little Cottage Cafe £

Lovely little cosy cafe with an open fire ready to serve you hot drinks and food after a long walk or outdoor activity!

Hooked ££

Informal riverside restaurant with locally sourced and delicious food! I would say they do their Asian dishes best! The slow-cooked pork and Korean fried chicken were the show-stoppers!

Sligo, Ireland is a hidden gem on the west coast, offering stunning landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. If you’re planning a visit, here are the best things to do in Sligo:

The Best Things to Do in Sligo, Ireland

1. Explore one of the Benbulben hikes / trails

If you’re up for a challenge and breathtaking views, don’t miss the opportunity to climb Benbulben Mountain, it’s one of the best things to do in Sligo. Reaching the summit itself is a moderately challenging hike but there are other options (listed below) that will allow you to enjoy the views at a more leisurely pace.

  • Benbulben Summit (6km round trip): The most popular hike to the summit of Benbulbin is via the Gortarowey Trail. From the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including Sligo Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Pack for the weather – it can be windy and exposed up there!
  • Gleniff Horseshoe (10km loop): This looped trail offers breathtaking views of Benbulbin and the surrounding valleys. The trail is moderately challenging and takes you through varied terrain, including lush forests and open moorland.
  • Benbulbin Forest Walk (5km loop): This gentle walk through Benbulbin Forest allows you to immerse in the woodland and enjoy epic views of Benbulben as a backdrop. Typically takes 1.5-2 hours.
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2. Take the scenic drive up to Eagles Rock

If hiking isn’t your thing, fear not. So many of Sligo’s incredible surrounding landscapes can be enjoyed from the comfort of your car and simply driving around the lush green landscapes is one of the best things to do in Sligo.

You should consider taking the scenic route along the Dartry Mountains, passing Eagles Rock viewpoint, which offers panoramic views of Benbulbin and the surrounding landscape.

Another option is to drive around Mullaghmore Head (you can drive right around the coastline) and then the road back to Sligo gives pretty awesome views of Benbulbin Mountain. You can extend the adventure by driving through some of the side roads to get views like the one pictured below!

3. Explore Sligo’s Culture and History

Immerse yourself in Sligo’s rich cultural heritage whilst you’re here! There’s SO much to see and learn.

Begin your adventure by stepping back in time at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, an expansive site that holds the secrets of ancient rituals and beliefs.

Continue your exploration at the historic Sligo Abbey, a medieval friary that offers a glimpse into the life of the past. You can wander through the well-preserved ruins and let your imagination transport you to a bygone era of knights and monks. Then there’s the pilgrimage to Drumcliffe Churchyard, where legendary poet W.B. Yeats rests in eternal peace. The iconic and postcard backdrop of Benbulben Mountain adds an ethereal touch to your visit, as you take a moment to reflect on his timeless words.

4. Enjoy the world-famous waves rolling in at Mullaghmore Head

The best time for surfing (if you’re experienced) or watching the surf at Mullaghmore Head is during the winter months when Atlantic swells are at their peak.

Experienced surfers travel from around the world to soak up the towering cliffs here, the rugged scenery, and the powerful Atlantic waves. However, you can also enjoy the stunning beauty of Mullaghmore Head year-round by hiking along the coastal trails and marvelling at the majestic Classiebawn Castle (pictured below).

5. Experience St. Patrick’s Day in Sligo!

Sligo is renowned for its vibrant festivals and there are a few to choose from in the calendar! One of the best things to do in Sligo is to experience The Sligo Live Music Festival, held in October, bringing together renowned musicians for an incredible week of live performances across various venues in the city.

Another one that I just experienced myself, is St. Patrick’s Day. Every year on March 17, across Ireland you’ll find towns and communities coming together to celebrate in the form of parades, music and parties.

St. Patrick’s Day in Sligo was incredible!! They had a stage in the centre of town with live music all weekend, the whole town got involved with the St.Paddys Day parade, pubs were filled with local Irish talent and the town was 50 shades of green! There was fun and traditional Irish dancing around every corner and it was so awesome to experience.

I’d say one of the best things to do in Sligo is to time your visit with Paddy’s Day!

6. Surf the Wild Atlantic Waves

Surfing is one of the best things to do in Sligo as its coastline is a haven for surfers of all abilities.

There’s no better way to start the day than immersing yourself in the ocean and then grabbing a freshly roasted coffee!

Head to Mullaghmore, Strandhill, Easky, or Streedagh to get out in the surf and experience the Wild Atlantic waves. If you’re a beginner, you can hire equipment and take surf lessons with local surf schools (I highly recommend Rebelle Surf in Strandhill). For the more advanced surfers, Mullaghmore is renowned for its huge waves!

If you surf in Strandhill, be sure to grab breakfast at Shell’s Cafe afterwards!

7. Enjoy Pub-Crawling in Sligo

Immerse yourself in Ireland’s beer culture by going on a pub crawl, it’s without a doubt one of the best things to do in Sligo.

Sample local brews, tuck into an iconic Guinness, and soak up the warm and hospitable pub atmosphere that Ireland does so well. Hopping around the pubs in Sligo is a delightful way to meet new people, chat with the locals and experience the vibrant pub culture.

Connolly’s Bar is a popular spot for an authentic Irish pub experience – it’s also said to serve the best Guinness in Ireland! You’ll have to let me know! Shoot the Crows is another great spot and Fiddlers Creek.

8. Relax at Voya Seaweed Baths on Strandhill Beach

For a unique and rejuvenating experience, one of the best things to do in Sligo is to visit Voya Seaweed Baths.

Immerse in natural wellness and restore your energy after a night on the town or a big hike. Their baths, infused with hand-harvested Irish seaweed, provide therapeutic benefits for the skin and body, promoting deep relaxation, remineralisation and detoxification. Seaweed therapy is a centuries-old tradition that will leave you glowing and nourished from the inside out.

We booked a 2 person spa room that had two seaweed baths and a steam room. We then had a 50-minute session to enjoy before putting on our robes and heading to the relaxation room where we lay on the spa beds and enjoyed views across the beach with herbal tea and water.

9. Bird-Watching at Sligo’s Nature Reserves

Sligo is a paradise for bird watchers with its diverse range of habitats that attract numerous bird species. If you love nature, visiting nature reserves like Lough Gill, where you can spot a variety of waterfowl and wading birds is one of the best things to do in Sligo.

  • Head to the Caves of Kesh to observe raptors soaring in the skies.
  • The Sligo Bay Estuary is another great spot for bird-watching, especially during migratory seasons when you can see rare species passing through.

10. Book a yoga class or sound bath at Salt And Soul Studio

There are so many physically demanding adventures and activities to engage in whilst in Sligo, you’re spoilt for choice.

If you’re looking to balance out your body, get a full-body stretch in and restore on an energetic and spiritual level, there’s a gorgeous little studio I’d highly recommend – Salt and Soul.

The beautiful studio where you can breathe move and play is not too far from Strandhill and they offer a variety of classes and immersions to suit any level of Yogi. This was the perfect compliment to a morning in the water! Book a class here.

11. Visit one of Sligos Market

If you’re seeking an authentic taste of Sligo and want to try some local produce, don’t miss the Sligo Markets! Here’s a few to explore during your time in Sligo:

  • Head over to Rathcormac Country Market, a hidden gem where you can discover homemade goods and local crafts. From freshly baked pastries to beautiful artisanal products, this market exudes charm and warmth.
  • Beltra Country Market, situated in the picturesque village of Beltra, offers a delightful mix of local produce, baked goods, and handmade crafts. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the stalls and meet the friendly vendors.
  • Drummartin Market, nestled in the serene countryside, is a true gem. It features fresh produce, homemade treats, and unique crafts.

12. Enjoy a sunset sauna and sea dip at Hot Box Saunas

Hot Box Saunas in Sligo are one of the best things to do if you love a landscape and you’re into your hot and cold therapy.

You can book a slot to enjoy the wood-fired saunas and they also have also a cold plunge (pictured below). The saunas are located right on the water so there is easy access to the sea to alternate your temperature immersion.

The combination of intense heat from the sauna and invigorating cold plunges provides numerous health benefits, including improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and enhanced mental clarity. It’s one of the best things to do in Sligo because it’s not weather dependant! Perhaps a good rainy day activity if you’re stuck with things to do in Sligo!

Have you been to Sligo?

What are the best things to do in Sligo? Anything you’d add to this Sligo bucket list?

Love as always and happy adventuring… 

Mollie Bylett

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IT’S LOVELY TO MEET YOU

I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. 

I’D LOVE TO SHARE THE JOURNEY WITH YOU, WE’VE GROWN A LOT SINCE THEN!

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