Sligo, the (yet) Unknown Adventure Capital of Ireland

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on October 28, 2013 · 24 comments

adventure-capital-thumb

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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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 29, 2013 at 2:16 AM

That first pic is so gorgeous!

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth October 29, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Thanks! We had mainly amazing weather (again) on this visit, Ireland has been treating us well 😉
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Mrs. Chasing the Donkey October 29, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Looks like a great place to visit, so lucky that it worked out so well for you. I heart Twitter.
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth October 30, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Yes, and it was all very unexpected!! I’ve always been bit uncomfortable with Twitter, I find Instagram much “user-friendly”. I’m slowly becoming Twitter-addict too though… :)

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Jess November 2, 2013 at 5:25 AM

I would never think of something like stand up paddle boarding as an attraction in Ireland – but it looks so much fun! Who knew indeed?
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth November 4, 2013 at 6:39 AM

Well I think SUP is a relatively new thing, but it’s making its way in with a storm for sure!
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Anita November 3, 2013 at 10:11 PM

awwww the standup-paddeling thing looks so awesome :) There still so much to explore in Ireland definitely one of my favourite adventure destination for the future (besides Norway, obviously ;))
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth November 4, 2013 at 6:41 AM

Ha ha, besides Norway, exactly!! :) SUPing was brilliant, I want to go back to do that and few other things again, soon I hope!
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Yana November 5, 2013 at 12:57 AM

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
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth November 5, 2013 at 10:54 AM

So nice that you stopped by Yana!! And yes, I do remember you and your stories about your work in Equatorial Guinea, I need to come for a visit in your blog… :)

15 minutes in Sligo is not quite enough, I think, you should go back for another visit… :)
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Sandra November 10, 2013 at 7:23 PM

OK, now I’m jealous. I meant to get to Sligo when I was in Dublin in May, but didn’t. Seeing your photos, I know I have to go now.

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth November 11, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Yes! Go! I want to go again :) So good to meet you in Stockholm, maybe see you at one of these Travel Massive events again!
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Emily April 16, 2014 at 3:43 PM

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!)

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth April 18, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Ha ha – never ever have a Guinness dink-off with an Irish, I tried that in my student days too and failed miserably. And I don’t even like Guinness to start with… :)
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Auriel Robinson August 8, 2014 at 4:29 PM

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

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 9, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Hi Auriel, thanks for getting in touch! I remember Dave actually mentioning about you when I was in Sligo, we just had no time to do anything then. We’ll be in Sligo on Monday but continue our journey on Tuesday morning already, so realistically I don’t really know how much time we’d have to do activities. I’ll get in touch via email nevertheless and we can see! :)
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David August 9, 2014 at 5:06 PM

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

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 10, 2014 at 11:29 AM

We definitely are having a ball, this is such an amazing adventure!! We would love to come SUPing with you while in Sligo, but our schedule might be too tight… I’m hoping to catch up with you nevertheless while in Sligo! :)
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Fred parle August 11, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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.

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM

There’s definitely a lot to do in Sligo! Unfortunately we didn’t have much time on this trip to enjoy all the area has on offer! Thanks for all the tips, I’m going to remember this for the next trip!
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peter de bie January 30, 2015 at 12:29 AM

Love the article. We are a website promoting outdoor sports and fitness in lovely Sligo, Ireland.

Peter

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth February 4, 2015 at 5:20 AM

Thanks Peter!!! Loved the place! :)
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