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Going Home To A Sligo That I Didn’t Know Existed


Posted on October 7th, by Peter Parkorr in Ireland, Picture Perfect. 24 comments

Today I’m posting some very brief highlights of a great road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way in the North West of Ireland, and Sligo specifically. My mum is going to love this post. Steady, Mum. Some observers’ highlights of the trip (which was part of TBEX Dublin) have already reached the papers and radio stations here, and I have such fantastic recordings to reveal over the coming days, but first here’s a touch of the magic I felt so far, and the reasons why…

Some background for you: Half of my family is Irish, and most of the generation above me (on my mothers side) either grew up in Sligo or spent a lot of time there, in the place that my grandparents lived for the last few decades. So I’ve been to Sligo a lot, and I’ve seen the progeny of Sligo in Ireland and elsewhere many many times. I must have visited Ireland or Irish family at least once for every year since my arrival on the blue planet (31 so far). Probably a lot more.

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Wild blackberries next to a viewing point

A little more to pad out the story: Hi, I’m Peter, (alright, also known as Shane!) and I gave up a frustrating but comfortable modern existence to find things my heart yearns for. Some of those things are deep, and some of them are simple. And I really really yearn for them. I’m on a long, tumultuous ‘yearney’ you might say, if you were particularly witty. The simple things are so basic and fulfilling that they’ve been around since prehistory; before modern-day materialism and longer than evolution. I don’t really care so much for all our new-fangled technologies that make life easier. I do love gadgets, but I hate materialism. Yep, I’m a little conflicted. If you don’t also find yourself conflicted, at least some of the time, please check your brain is set to ‘On’. Mike Sowden recently said “All creativity is an illusion”. What if all invention is too? (I have a great theory to release into the wild on that sometime.)

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Shooting the breeze… Photo by Alison Chino

The simple pleasures I long for are things like cold, clear ocean waters to swim in, and exploring rough, undisturbed shores. I want to savour the subtle palettes of natures grocery, complimenting them with a side of refreshing weather, whichever form it may take. And I want my body to stay strong and lean, from consciously struggling against the physical world around it. That’s what it’s made for after all. I like to think that all the world is a fountain of energy, and the more of it you spend, the more you can drink. (This sentence not sponsored by the makers of finest Irish whiskies.) I imagine my perfect lifestyle having a strong element of The Swiss Family Robinson, Swallows and Amazons, or Castaway.

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Stopping for a scenic view along the coast road

Anyway, imagine my surprise. The last place I was expecting to find a playground for my soul, was a part of the world I’ve been to so many times. But when I chose to go on a TBEX blog trip in the area, I knew I’d see things I might not know to look for. I’ll try to let my pictures of Sligo do most of the talking, because I still can’t quite believe what lay in wait.

On the sands of Streedagh beach; hints of tropical turquoise, isolated stretches of clean and inviting water, and a deep knowledge of a Spanish Armada’s tragic history, retold by Auriel from Seatrails. 400 year old shipwrecks also await investigation in only 8 metres of water, to tempt divers with the proper permits.

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Clear waters, and a deserted Streedagh beach

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Smoothed pebbles and the cleanest sand I’ve seen in years

On the wind-whipped promenade of Strandhill; the sea’s bounties are served with skilful innovation, by Jane and Myles, the owners of Shells cafe. Dinner here was paired with introductions to local guides who offer adventure itineraries to immerse you in nature from the moment you land until the moment you leave. Like catching your own fish dinner, or learning to free dive in the Atlantic with only the air tanks you were born with.

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A beautiful red Sun dips towards the horizon at Strandhill

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The owners slash innovators of Shells cafe, Strandhill

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Delicious calamari salad with fresh mint and other twists, from Shells

A welcome development within Sligo itself; was an abundance of healthy watersports at Doorly Park. Also used by Sligo’s rowing club, we imitated some kind of river-dwelling tribes-people, and I skated around choppy waters in my first time paddle-boarding, with Perfect Day Surf School.

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A Doorly Park paddle… photo by Tom Fakler Photography

Another one of many great meals; with seafood sourced so locally that it tastes just like sea spray. The ‘sea shore chef’s’ homemade Seaweed Pesto was one of the best culinary sensations of the whole trip, at Eithna’s By The Sea, Mullaghmore.

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A mackrel ceviche with Calamari and Seaweed pesto, from Eithna’s

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A seaweed and blackberry compote with crunchy meringue

And local musicians who eagerly awaited our audience; to showcase many of the local talent in both rehearsed and spontaneous collaboration, at Source Sligo.

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A host of talented musicians entertained a very full Source restaurant

 

These are only a handful of the treats I sampled during my road trip along the wild atlantic way, with a brilliant bunch of bloggers. That’s without even including Donegal, Inishowen, or….

…the dolphins

I can’t wait to show you the dolphins.

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A few of the brilliant bloggers, with more of them appearing on the blog soon

Hopefully you understand how excited I was to see the number of spirit-nourishing treasures Ireland holds, and after only re-discovering such a small part! I do wonder what the rest of it has to offer…

Thanks, and much love Eire. I’ll be back.

N.B. I quote Mike Sowden not to name-drop, but because he keeps on saying things that, in my humble opinion, are incredibly relevant. Well, excluding references to Breaking Bad for the time being. And he barely even mutters when he writes these days.

P.S. More on ‘Parkorr‘.

And a huge thanks to TBEX, Failte Ireland and Sligo Tourism for putting together such a great itinerary for us!