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.
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.
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.
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…