When we were kids our parents took us on holidays in Ireland. We visited Kerry and Mayo and spent the days driving around the mountainous countryside, stopping at any tourist attractions we found. In the evenings we’d head out for dinner and stay on in the pub, listening to the trad players or one man band.
I’m reminded of these holidays as we take our own family holiday this year in Sligo. We picked Sligo because it was a county unexplored to us, the drive over was short enough and we secured fantastic budget accommodation.
We found the Angela’s residences on booking.com. We were a little wary as I found out after we booked that the apartments are used as student accommodation during the year. But, there was no need to fret at all. The apartments are fab, very clean, modern and have all mod-cons. Every room is en-suite. And, the biggest selling point – they are situated on the shores of Lough Gill and you wake up to the look out over the Isle of Inishfree every morning. If it’s good enough for W.B. Yeats, then it’s definitely good enough for us! We paid less than €200 for three nights accommodation, to cater for two adults, one child and a baby.
Our accommodation straddles the Leitrim / Sligo border, so most of the activities we ended up doing took place in Leitrim. Here are our top five recommendations.
1) Parke’s Castle
On approach, the castle looks quite small, but don’t be fooled, it’s packed with character and is fantastically restored and presented. We took a tour with the very engaging Eileen and she was a credit to the OPW; very warm, friendly and worked with all the children on the tour to try and link the castle with their own lives. The battlements were closed to us on the day, but we enjoyed the presentations on old Irish cottages, the history of the architecture of the castle and the outside forge and courtyard. We also got a look inside a 17th century sauna Irish style. The first spa, if you will.
2) Lake Isle of Inishfree boat tour
It took two gos to get us on the boat. On the first day, the mist had descended on the lough and we backed our car out the driveway again in search of something a little drier. On the second day, the sun was out and we were delighted to climb aboard the glass covered boat for a bit of water action. Inside, the Rose of Inishfree is carpet lined and comfy and we wasted no time in cracking open our cans of Guinness from the bar. The boat trip is pretty tame, but our captain George was entertaining and had us singing Irish ballads and reciting Irish poems. He was a dream for the American tourists on board. We paid €37.50 for two adults and one child. Fun on a bright day. And as the hubby oft quotes: boats and hos!
3) Glencar Waterfall
We really enjoyed the waterfall. It’s free, fairly accessible – you can push a buggy right up to view the waterfall with little effort and we had a lovely cup of tea and malteser cake at the coffee shop cabin on site. Oh, yeah and the waterfall is pretty spectacular too. Think Timotei ad. It was raining when we were there but the trees gave good shelter. There’s also a little playground at the entrance for further amusement.
4) Lissadell House
I’m a massive fan of old things, particularly old 19th century houses, so it was myself that led the charge to Lissadell house, a half an hour’s drive outside Sligo town. For those of you who have forgotten your history lessons (me included) this is the famous house that WB Yeats wrote of and where Countess Markieviez, the famous revolutionary grew up. (Yeats had the hots for her sister, remember – he called her a gazelle? Now if someone compared me to an overgrown goat, I’m not sure I’d be too happy).
The house is in private ownership so it’s more pricey to access than what a state-owned property would be. We paid €30 for two adults and child, which I felt was steep, however, we really enjoyed the tour. Perhaps because it’s in private ownership, the whole tour and house felt different to what you would normally expect behind the red ropes. There were pictures and books and artefacts everywhere. You felt like you were really understanding what it would have been like to live there – it was a little grotty in places, particularly the basement area which went unused for half a decade. It was Downton Abbey, reality style.
5) Dinner at Rosses Point, Ice-Cream at Strandhill
We drove out to Rosses Point which is picturesque and has a gorgeous restaurant called Austies. They were super family friendly and we really enjoyed our meal. The hubby was fascinated by the statue of the wailing woman and stopped traffic to get a pic. We went from there to Strandhill, taking in the fantastic scenery. I hadn’t realised how mountainous the area is. Ben Bulben overlooks everything like a big angry Indian chief. The mountain is the best example of a table top mountain in Ireland. The landscape – hilly, mountainous, bog land, leading down to the sea is refreshing and relaxing – forget about those city worries people, you’re in the (north) wesht now. Strandhill has a nice beach and views to the sea and we got ice-cream despite the wind and the rain. You can take a drive out to Coney Island too, when Moses parts the sea, but we didn’t take any chances, as we’ve heard lots of people get stuck out there. Being stuck in the car with the wailing monster baby for a second longer than we needed to be, was not worth the risk.
Where we ate
- Rugantino, Sligo. Absolutely gorgeous. Pizza tasted as good as the pizzas we had in the REAL Italy. Also helped by the staff talking Italian at us and glaring over at our destructive child. They did smile when we were leaving though. Funny that.
- The River Bank, Dromahair. Food was good, and certainly the best you would get in those parts. Decor felt a little drab though, but it is a pub type style. Staff were very friendly and helpful with baby.
- Roberto’s Takeaway, Sligo. We did sit into Fiddler’s restaurant but it was very late, they were very busy and our baby was very cranky. So we had to leave and get the rescue takeway instead. Grand!
- Austies, Rosses Point. Great location, we had a window seat overlooking the inlet. It’s a quirky tourist friendly restaurant with a maritime theme. The staff couldn’t have been nicer and the food was really good.