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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!

  • Maeve

    I feel I have never been to Sligo! Looking forward to seeing your photos. X

    • Well we definitely ate Ham and Cabbage at Hargodan’s with the rest of the gang, but obviously there are more places we should all explore next time! :)

  • Aww, good times!!! It was indeed a great trip with many surprises and unexpected discoveries (like Sligo being a surfing hotspot or the incredible food or the seaweed spa therapy or the northernmost bar in Ireland and so much more…) I hope there’ll be more about Ireland soon! :D

    • C.R

      Its so funny that you didnt know sligo was a surfing hot spot, infact its more than a “hot spot” its one of the most world renowned surf spots with people coming from australia to have a go at the waves on Strandhill.

      • Hi CR, I knew it was a surf spot to be fair (my sis went on a surf hol there last year) but I didn’t realise the waters were so blue and clear, and just how well the whole region is doing in providing options for visitors! I think it was Susi’s first time outside of Dublin tho.

    • Look fwd to seeing what you write about it Frau Maier!

  • Great article mate! Maybe the Sligo tourism board got their hashtag right after all. #Sligowhoknew?

    • Cheers paul, definitely should have been using their hashtag more, spot on!

  • This is so great Peter! I love the picture of Jane and Myles!

    I’m ready to go back to Sligo too!

    • Well the ferry from Trune to Larne will get you there with all the family fairly easily, surf boards in the boot! :)

  • Loved your photos and comments. Check out our website to find out about our annual Festival that commemorates the tragic story of the Spanish Armada of 1588 and the thrilling account of the adventures of Francisco De Cuellar in the North West of 16th century Ireland

  • Loads of great places to visit around Sligo

  • What a great piece! The more I read of folks discovering properly for the first time, the more jealous I get- I’m originally from Sligo and am currently exiled working in Kildare (which feels like the flattest most landlocked county in Ireland.) Rarely does a trip home fail to take my breath away, from Benbulben enveloping you as approach from the N4, to the drizzly misty mornings that make the Atlantic roar. Streedagh is possibly the most soul-soothing place on earth (although I usually sneak off to the quieter first beach-it’s like your own private cove!) and the vibe round the town both musically and creatively is something very special-Sligo rocks!
    p.s. if you were free-diving, it was probably with my big bro Fearg-if you weren’t; come back soon and try it : )

    • Oh, awesome! I didn’t get to freedive this trip, but I’m hoping to get back before the year is out and that is top of my list! All this time I thought I had to make my way to Greece to be living the good life on the waters edge, and people like your brother have been doing it in Sligo for years! Streedagh really was fab, and I lost count how many shots I took of Benbulben lurking in the distance too :) At least you’re not too far away!

  • Cheers mate – again you surprised me with some of your shots which are all pretty cool. I didn’t realize there have been berries :)

    I will do my edit next week and look forward to more of your many pictures

    • Cheers Steve, are you telling me you missed eating the wild berries?? I have a feeling that might be sarcasm, I was munching them the whole trip! :D

  • There IS something special about Sligo. Thanks for teasing us with bits from your visit!

    • I’m glad plenty of people are agreeing! And thanks for your visit to the site.

  • shea

    sligo is a very under rated county, the drive in to the city with the view of benbulbin is one of the best man and god combined efforts on the planet, Irelands best kept secret, maybe best to leave it that way.

    • Well I agree that well kept secrets are not always for unveiling! But at least it would be hard to spoil this one even if thousands of people turned up, because of the sheer size of it :)

  • What is this Shane business about?! ;)

    Looks like a great place to visit. I was just picking wild blackberries myself this past weekend.

  • This story just shows that no matter how often or how many times you visit a place, you can always be surprised! As much as we always think places stay the same after we leave, they do change, we change, and our perception changes. Traveling is an endless journey!