Welcome to Sligo Town audio guide
This Sligo Town audio guide tells you some of the more interesting stories about the people and places of the town. Yeats is not the only writer who has Sligo and its environs to thank for inspiring some of his best work; writers as diverse as Spike Milligan, Sebastian Barry and even Bram Stoker have used the streets and stories of Sligo in their works as we’ll tell you. There’s an emphasis on heritage and cultural, but there are plenty of humorous moments and a few surprises along the way.
Besides being a cultural hot spot, Sligo Town has lot to offer anyone making inroads on the Wild Atlantic Way’s many must-see spots. It offers all of the best features of this iconic route: blue flag beaches, numerous golf courses, sea sports, hiking routes and good restaurants. Less manic than Killarney or Galway, it is a great base from which to explore all parts of the west being within easy reach of Westport, or the northwest for Donegal Town and right into Enniskillen.
Map of Sligo Town Points of Interest (POIs) locations
Click on each POI for more info
The tourist office marks the starting point of the walking tour and is a one stop shop for all tourist information in the north west. Open all year. We designed this tour way back in 2010 when the tourist office was opposite Summerhill college, so there is method in our madness in getting you to the college next! Once done, you’ll be following a natural line of places of interest with relative ease.
To get to Summerhill college, you will need to turn left down O’Connell Street, then right briefly onto John Street before turning up Charles Street which leads onto The Lurgy. At the end of The Lurgy, you’ll be facing Summerhill college across the road of Temple Street.
The school is shown for illustrative purposes only – there’s no need to visit it! The College of the Immaculate Conception was founded by the then Bishop of Elphin, Dr Gillooly in Summerhill, Athlone in 1857. It was transferred to Sligo in 1880 but the original name stuck.
The boarding school was the alma mater to some great Irishmen, including legendary tenor, Count John McCormack as you’ll hear. We like how it was within its walls that the count perfected his trademark diction skills out of an embarrassing episode!
Hawk’s Well Theatre
The north west’s leading venue for theatre, music, dance, comedy and the main Yeats summer school events. Sligo is spoilt for theatrical choice with Blue Raincoat Theatre Company at the Factory.
The curious name of the theatre comes from a 1917 one act play by Yeats – there is an actual hawk’s well near Coolaney south west of Sligo. We tell you more about it on when at the Tobernalt Holy Well on Yeats Country Guide Day One.
From the theatre’s website, here’s more information about the theatre’s history: ‘The history of the Hawk’s Well Theatre began in Sligo’s long and deep tradition of amateur dramatics. Sligo had a theatre as far back as 1750, according to Wood-Martins’ History of Sligo, and often “her Majesty’s servants from the Theatre Royal, Crow Street …. visited Sligo, even during the Dublin season, showing that in those days the townsfolk appreciated the Drama, for in some instances the company remained during several months”.
Back in 1975, Equus, a Peter Shaffer play telling the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious fascination with horses, played here. The frontal nudity led to protests outside from the Legion of Mary no less. Down with that sort of thing!
Built in 1874, Sligo Cathedral serves as Sligo’s primary place of worship for Catholics. This occured in 1961 after St. Mary’s Cathedral in Elphin was destroyed by a storm – the Lord works in mysterious ways!
Look out for the light streaming through the 69 stained glass windows. St. Patrick appointed the curiously titled, but multi-talented Asicus as first abbot-bishop of the Elphin diocese in the fifth century. St. Asicus is depicted both in a stained-glass window in our cathedral as well as on a carved wooden statue which was discovered in London in 1960 and is situated at the rear of the cathedral.
One of Sligo’s oldest streets and a key part of Sebastian Barry’s book, ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’. Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the finest book to come out of Europe this year,” The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty is acclaimed Irish playwright Sebastian Barry’s lyrical tale of a fugitive everyman.
You’ll be looking out for St. John the Baptist church on the right hand side of the street as the next stop on this tour.
St. John’s Church
Designed in 1730 by Richard Cassels, this Protestant church is where William Pollexfen, grandfather of Yeats is buried as well as Bram Stoker’s mother, Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley. Sligo is rightly proud of its connections to Bram Stoker and we tell you later on of how the town itself became a key source of inspiration for Stoker’s later material as conveyed to him by his mother.
Open mid week during the Summer months from 2-5pm.
Make your way down the narrow alleyway pictured adjacent to get to Wine Street car park, the best location from which to see Pollexfen’s turret as well as Queen Maeve’s cairn in the distance on Knocknarea. By the tourist signage, you should be able to see the turret to the right and Queen Maeve’s cairn to its left in the distance.
In an age of Big Brother and 24/7 CCTV, it’s good to see some initiative from an employer keen to keep things ticking along in a more original and less obtrusive fashion!
Methodist chapel in the heart of Sligo, where Methodist founder, John Wesley, was a frequent visitor to the town. He visited Sligo a total of eleven times between 1758 and 1789. His journal records that his preaching in the town was generally poorly received. However, a small number of his followers opened a meeting-house in Bridge St. about 1775; it was described as “a small tumble-down building with a thatched roof”. it certainly has come a long way since then.
Currently the city hall, this site served as the New Fort for Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the mid-17th century. The current building is in the Italian Renaissance style and dates from 1865.
Sligo Town Hall is of a modern Italian Renaissance style and has a double faced frontage with dressings of Limestone and with Freestone which came from Mountcharles, County Donegal, which contrasts well with the colour of the masonry. The caps of the shafts and the spandrels of the window arches are of Portland stone.
This is the town’s tribute to the people who died or emigrated as a result of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. The shows a starving family with a young girl pointing to the nearby docks where many fled to North America from.
Throughout nineteenth century Ireland, there had been a general decline in living standards. This would peak during the Famine of the mid 1840s which would kill off a million lives and lead a further million Irish to emigrate, many not surviving the transit to a better land.
Yeats Memorial Building
Headquarters of the Yeats International Summer school as well as home to a great Yeats museum run by the Yeats Society.
The Yeats Building in the heart of Sligo is a hub for literary culture and the arts. They have a permanent Yeats exhibition and the Hyde Bridge Gallery on the first floor offers a range of contemporary exhibitions. Entrance fee is reasonable. Also look out for more details of that summer school here.
One of the main bridges along the Garavogue river since 1846, it was originally the Victoria bridge – it’s name change from a monarch to an Irish patriot being a not so subtle removal of the memory of that queen’s reign!
Today, it is where you will find the Glasshouse hotel entrance. It is also a great place to marvel at the influence of Yeats – the river comes from Glencar lake, the memorial building is right beside you and next up, you have Yeats himself looking quizzically at the world in the statue by the old bank building.
Standing by what was the Ulster bank, this Rowan Gillespie sculpture was erected on the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death in 1989. Look closely to see Yeats’s own words enwrap the statue. The reason for the statue being located here confirms that being a world-class wordsmith doesn’t necessarily make you in any way adept at smalltalk!
Whatever his conversational shortcomings, the statue perfectly captures a young Celtic Twilight-era Yeats. Like the Rory Gallagher statue in Ballyshannon, it has managed to imbue an inanimate object and stuffy talker with a lot of gusto and pizazz. We think the great man would approve.
Forget the Irish pubs you’ve seen abroad with bikes nailed to the roof – this is the real thing, where Parnell himself supped, groceries could be bought and in numerous cubbie holes were tales told and plots hatched. From the pot-bellied stove to the nooks and crannies, this place is dripping in history.
Well worth a stop-off before make your way through it coming out the back on to Holborn Street. Or just one to note when all of your walking is done.
Devout Yeats fans may wish to go up the quay to see the original Pollexfen homestead that looks like a giant doll’s house on the right overlooking the harbour. Now an office for the health service.
Spike Milligan, the original alternative comedian, had an Irish passport, due to his Sligo roots. This house is where his father, Leo, lived for a number of years. Take note of the plaque on the door. Also take note of that legendary retort he made when getting a big comedy award years ago – his ancestors would be very proud!
You’ll be making your way down the street past Connolly’s pub and turning left onto Stephen Street. The library is on the left-hand side.
Sligo Library and Museum
Look out for the Yeats Room as well as paintings by Irish artists from Jack B. Yeats to George Russell.
The library’s website has this to say: –
‘Since the 1950’s Sligo Library has had a collection dedicated to W.B. Yeats and his works. From an assembly of the poetry, plays and prose of Yeats, this grew, over the years to a much larger gathering together of letters, biography, critical appraisal and translation of Yeats’ works, often donated by scholars and authors at the Yeats Summer School. Nora Niland, former County Librarian was partly responsible for the inauguration of both’.
More recently, the collection has expanded to include the literary works of, and books about, Jack B. Yeats and books about the Yeats family members and their coterie. As interest in this fascinating family grows, so does the written output. The Yeats Collection, currently containing nearly 1800 volumes, will continue to expand’.
Walk further up Stephen Street where you’ll find the Model Gallery 300 metres on the same side of the street.
The Model Gallery
The Model is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary arts centres.
From its own website it states: –
‘The Model, home of The Niland Collection, is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary arts centres. Built in 1862 as a Model School, the present building has been extended twice. The first extension was in 2000 when it was completely refurbished and extended by McCullough Mulvin Architects. The building was redeveloped again by architects Sheridan Woods in 2010, whose extension to The Model has increased the building by a third in size to create a world-class visitor centre. The building boasts a restaurant and coffee dock, a bookshop, a wonderful gallery circuit, a purpose built performance space, and a suite of impressive artist studios on the top floor with enviable views of Sligo town and County’.
This award-winning building is home to the impressive Niland Collection of art, one of the most notable collections in Ireland and featuring works by John and Jack B. Yeats, Estella Solomons, Paul Henry and Louis Le LeBrocquy among others. The walkway is further up Stephen Street and across the road from the gallery.
The Mall Walkway
As you make your way down this sloping walkway by Calry church, we’ll tell you about the story of one of Sligo’s most famous sons, Captain Edward Doherty, the ‘brave avenger of Lincoln’ no less!
Fiercely and proudly Irish, he enlisting in the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. Doherty was born September 26, 1838, in Wickham, Canada East, to immigrant parents from County Sligo. It’s quite the tale and worthy of a film at some point surely?
John Fallon Foot Bridge
As you make your way across the Garavogue river, we’ll tell you what to look out for. Once you are over the river, take a right to find a seat 200 metres further up by the river and we’ll tell you about Bram Stoker’s connections with the town. Extra feature: turning left going 300m along the river brings you to the Garavogue Fairy Fort on the right.
Once done, make your way up the slope on to Thomas Street where you’ll be taking the first left for Sligo Abbey, which is signposted.
Built around 1252, this is Sligo’s only remaining medieval building with a rich and fascinating history accordingly. Open 10am-6pm Last admission 5.15pm. €3 adults, €8 family. Guided tours available.
Abbey St., Sligo
+353 71 9146406
After the Abbey, walk further onto Abbey Street where you’ll be taking a left until getting to Thomas Street. Turn left and cross the road – you should see the courthouse.
This site has witnessed everything from the 1832 cholera epidemic to some famous historic trials. Look out for the plaque of the long gone law firm Argue and Phibbs across the road! These two aptly named legal eagles are buried beside each other in the local graveyard.
Staying on the Courthouse side of the street, you’ll be making your way up Old Market Street after this and right on to High Street. You’ll be walking down it until you see the Lady Erin statue in the next Point of Interest.
One of the oldest streets in town, we take you back to the days when local merchants plied their trade here. Walk down the hill making your way to Lady Erin which is pictured, the 1798 uprising monument and the end of the tour.
We do hope you have enjoyed yourself and if so, please share this tour on social media or leave a review on Tripadvisor.