Sligo, the (yet) Unknown Adventure Capital of Ireland

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How did we end up staying in Sligo for three nights when the plan was to pass-by with only a quick stop for some surfing? And how on earth this small town of twenty-something-thousand people and county with the same name, had become the adventure hub of Ireland and I knew nothing about it?

In a way I feel I should have started the story of our road trip in Ireland from Dublin, where it all started few weeks ago. After couple of busy days of conferencing with other travel bloggers at the TBEX travel blogger’s conference, we would continue up north in our rental car on the M1 past Belfast, and stop right before we hit the Atlantic Ocean near the small town of Ballymoney.

This was my first trip over the invisible border to the North, and we found some amazing, scenic locations, and the north was just as fabulous as I thought it would be. The west, and especially Sligo, was full of surprises though and hence the rest (Dublin and north that is) have to wait.

Sligo is both a county, and a town. If you look at the map of Ireland, the town of Sligo is slightly hidden in an inlet dominated by the protruding coastline. I associate, or more correctly put, previously associated Sligo mainly with a friend who’s from there, and as Easkey, one of the county’s surf villages where my university kayak club used to head every June for some surfing and maybe bit of partying on the beach too.

I might have even mentioned W. B. Yeats, if Sligo came up in a conversation with a fellow traveler who hand’t been there. But I’m not so sure I would’ve put the “adventure” label on Sligo.

Strandhill Lodge and Suites I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Sunset in Strandhill, Sligo I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

For us to end up in Sligo for longer than planned, it took few tweets by my friend, and all the suddenly the ball was rolling, or bouncing more like it, unstoppably and plans were falling in place. We rolled into Strandhill, ten minutes drive directly to west from the Sligo town, early on a Wednesday evening, and settled into Strandhill Lodge and Suites just in time to witness a fantastic sunset over Sligo’s green hills and the Atlantic coast.

Dave at SUP for All in Sligo I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

SUP for All in Sligo I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

What a kayaker thinks about stand up paddle boarding is a whole another story to be told, but the next day I joined SUP for All, a non-profit organisation, for a paddle on the nearby lake, the Lough Gill. Combination of strong winds, hard work when paddling across the lake and then the sudden beautiful silence and peace when we reached the mouth of the river Bonet, made for an unforgettable experience that came as a surprise for someone who thought she was going to splash a little on the water by the shore, maybe slightly bored, as there would be no white water in sight.

It was on the Bonet that I heard about the different Sligo I knew, the adventure hub of Ireland. There, in the early evening sun, sheltered from all the wind and feeling pleasantly disconnected from the world, it seemed like an interesting idea. After, over a pint or two in the local pub, it seemed like an idea that could work. And after two and half days in Sligo with stand up paddle boarding, surfing and mountain biking it didn’t feel like only an idea anymore.

The Team Behind Adventure Capital of Ireland, Sligo I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

I suppose when a title is not yet claimed, it’s up for crabs for anyone and the crew in Sligo is definitely giving it more than just a go. I would actually be surprised if Sligo is soon not known for it’s adventurous spirit and the hub for outdoor and adrenaline raising activities in Ireland, with such passion SUP for All’s David O’Hara is leading the quest and he has a great team of other activity providers with him. (In the picture above: David with William from North West Adventure Tours)

Along the lines of the county’s social media marketing campaign started this summer, “Sligo – Who Knew?! I definitely didn’t…

Thanks to my friend Una for rerouting us to Sligo and putting us in touch with a local expert Denise, Dave at SUP for All for a fantastic day out & a lovely pint at the local pub, William at North West Adventure Tours for lone of a bike & another pint, Tom at Perfect Day Surf School for the surf gear and David at Strandhill Lodge & Suites for the warm welcome.

The image of the SUP paddler, the amazing Kathy O’Leary on the river Bonet, is by SUP for All / North Adventure Tours. 

I don’t think I’m quite done with Sligo yet, besides the outdoors, I can hear the highly praised Voya Seaweed Baths calling my name…

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  1. Pingback: Can You Guess Where We're Heading? - Destination Unknown

  2. Hi!
    I love this post! Unlike you, i got to “stay” in Sligo for about 15 minutes – “pictures and on the bus” as my driver said… I enjoyed your photos.
    By the way, we met at TBEX 😉 I think it was on the observation deck right after i broke my camera…

    Cheers,
    Yana
    Have a look! Yana recently posted..Halloween in Equatorial GuineaMy Profile

  3. Pingback: Satu Vänskä-Westgarth’s Top 10 Skimbaco Moments of 2013 | Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine

  4. I stopped in Sligo for a weekend a few years back and adored it. I remember the bench-dotted cliff lookout over the beach (was that Sligo?), returning a happy yellow lab to his owner, wandering over the bridges and then lastly, I remember the inside of a pub–I made the horrible mistake of challenging an Irish girl to a Guinness drink-off. (Pre-motherhood days!)

  5. Hi there Satu,
    It is a pity I didn’t get to meet you when you were in Sligo. My business is called Seatrails and we are rated no 2 on trip advisor for things to do in Sligo and will next week be featuring in National Geographics online magazine! Maybe you will join us on a trail when you return? We collaborate with Dave and William and others, incorporating other sports such as supping, kayaking, horse riding etc.. The main focus of our walking trails is on the environment and archaeological sites which are in stunning scenic environments.. expert guide and all very relaxing and eco-friendly..hope to see you soon!
    Auriel

  6. Satu, I am sure you are having a BALL on this years tour. If I or SUPforall can do anything for you whilst in the #adventurecapital then get in touch. You would be delighted to see the progress we have made at Trawane Bay :-). If not I am sure we will catch up sometime/somewhere again in the not too distant future. Best regards to your lovely family, David

  7. So much to do here .Music fans can enjoy week of trad Irish Music at the Fleadh which runs for one week mow .don’t forget tell nobody it’s a secret !!! Sligo now packed to the rafters with holidaymakers . At Strandhill Surf is up and SUP , wind Kiting ,windsurfing , Scuba , Seaangling , ,
    Mackerel are now in and the seatrout are running too , great on a BARBIES or smoked .try the Strandhill Chili or Peppered Crab really lush food . And The Satay stand had sold out . Sunday market was a blast this week with more interesting stalls opening up as queues began to form by 10 am . And the music , the homemade ice cream , the seaweed baths all contribute to make you come back for more . Packed Carpark every day attests to Strandhills surge in popularity . Take a test flight at the Airport or Scuba Dive for the first time . It’s all in Strandhill , Sligo, the best kept secrets in Ireland . Keep it for yourself or that Carpark will overflow . Motor Caravanners especially welcome . Tourist Advice Clinic open for brochures and advice.