Sligo enjoys stunning landscape – and an unbeatable link with the enduring poetry of William Butler Yeats.
Now, you can walk, drive or cycle around the inspirational landscapes that influences Yeats’ work. That’s all thanks to a new app – Yeats Unwrapped – launched by Yeats Society Sligo.
Lake Isle of Innisfree
Revisit your Leaving Cert poetry on the Lough Gill Trail, which takes in the lake at the heart of Yeats’ most famous poem. Remember ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’?! While the lake is not accessible, you can see it from the land opposite or by boat. This trail has eight stops, some around the lake’s perimeter, such as Tobernalt Holy Well and Hazelwood Forest. Ballisodare, further afield, is also included.
North Sligo Trail
Ireland’s most recognisable mountain, Ben Bulben’s distinctive peak was formed during the ice age by massive glaciers segmenting the landscape. Of course, Ben Bulben is at the heart of Sligo, a county Yeats famously described as the Land of Heart’s Desire. The 75km North Sligo Trail takes in Ben Bulben, Glencar Lough, Gleniff Horseshoe Valley, and you can visit Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe. There’s also a 5km Ben Bulben Forest Walk with amazing views of Sligo Bay.
The stops on the North Sligo Trail are Lissadell Strand, Lissadell House, Raghly, Gleniff Horseshoe, Benbulben Lugnagall, Glencar Lough, and Glencar Waterfall.
Lissadell House is where Yeats’ childhood friends, sisters Constance and Eva Gore-Booth lived. Constance is better known as Constance Markievicz (or Countess Markievicz), a politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. In December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat. Along with other Sinn Féin TDs, she helped to form the first Dáil Éireann. She was also one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922).
All the well-known places associated with the Yeats family feature in the 75km Classic Trail. There are 10 stops on the trail, including Lough Gill, Ballisodare, Sligo town, Glencar Waterfall, Drumcliffe, Benbulben, and Lisadell House.
The other trails are the Rosses Point Trail, Sligo Town Trail, and South Sligo Trail. Did you know that Rosses Point features in Yeats’ poem, Stolen Child? This trail is a 4km walk from, yes, Rosses Point, to the fabulously named Dead Man’s Point on the headland. It goes along the coast for part of it, and you’ll be able to see Oyster Island across the way.
Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild
Sligo town features in Down by the Sally Gardens. Here, Yeats wrote about the sallows growing alongside the river Garavogue that flows through the town. The 5.5km town trail traces places associated with the Yeats family. This includes Markievicz House, overlooking the quays, where painter Jack Yeats spent much of his childhood.
You’ll need the car for the 136km South Sligo trail, through natural unspoiled countryside. From Coney Island to Strandhill, along by Culleenamore, the trail takes in Knocknarea Mountain. This was formed from limestone over 300 million years ago. Queen Maeve’s cairn is at the summit, which is one of Ireland’s largest cairns, and believed to contain a Neolithic passage tomb. The trail also takes in a megalithic cemetery, Collooney, Knocknashee, a sea view at Aughris Head, and on to Enniscrone. Seeweed baths are optional at Enniscrone!
The science bit!
Yeats Unwrapped is the first trails app for an Irish literary figure. It uses a location-aware platform. Basically, this means that, once you select a trail, specific places that shaped Yeats’ poetry are triggered automatically via GPS software. The places on the trail are numbered, you click on the number and up pops the name and information about the location’s impact and relevance to his works. This works offline, so you can explore the seven themed countywide trails with ease. The app also contains video and audio, alongside additional content and great photos. You can download the app free from from Google Play and the App Store.
Yeats Society Sligo
Yeats Society Sligo was founded in 1960, 21 years after the death of William Butler Yeats and is one of the longest-established societies of its kind in the world. Based in the town centre on the banks of the river Garavogue, the Yeats Building is open all year round (regulations allowing) and runs classes, readings, book launches and other cultural activities. In addition, its Hyde Bridge Gallery supports both emerging and established visual artists. The centre is also home to Penny Café, which is organic and vegetarian, using local produce and coffee roasted in Sligo.
Other walks in Sligo
There’s a great website, Sligo Walks, with loads of info on, yes, walks in Sligo!
You might also like:
Conor Doherty for Sligo Tourism: Feature image of WB Yeats Statue; Hazelwood Forest, Ben Bulben,
Peter McCabe: Lissadell House, Glencar Waterfall