Welcome to the third annual Sligo Walking Festival 2019. We have a wide variety of exciting new routes and walks for you this year and look forward to meeting walkers old and new. With walks for every level of fitness taking place across the county there is sure to be a walk to suit.
Sligo is also renowned for its live music and eclectic sounds lending itself to be the perfect location to kick back and be entertained after a day exploring a hikers dream terrain.
While in Sligo be sure to try out many of our adventure and wellness activities and our wonderful bars, restaurants and cafes.
Welcome Evening Friday 25th January Day 1
B-Walk: Knocknarea – Night Hike Day 1
The night hike will take us out under a starlit sky through a section of the Killaspugbrone trail which runs from Strandhill village through the dunes to the foot of the Queen Maeves Trail. From here we will make our way to the tomb topped summit to enjoy the view of the twinkle of the village lights below. Guided by expert guides our torches will light our way through this ancient mythical landscape. Learn all about Queen Maeve and the ancient myths that surround her and this area as well as how Knocknarea got its unique shape. A perfect chilled out start to an exhilarating weekend.
This is one of Sligo’s most iconic landmarks. This tomb topped mountain sits above the seaside village of Strandhill on the Coolera Peninsula. The summit is crowned with Queen Maeves Cairn which was built around 3400BC from where she rests on her feet spear in hand awaiting any challenge from her enemies to the north. From the ancient tomb we will enjoy 360 degree views of Sligo town and bay under a moonlit sky. This makes the challenging uphill trek and lovely coastal walk across the sand dunes more than worth the effort.
All are welcome to a meet and greet reception at the Riverside hotel on Friday evening. Your tour guides for the weekend will be available for questions and you can meet your fellow hikers who have travelled for the weekend.
Bus Departs: 7:00 pm Duration: 2.5 hours; approx. 9km.
Saturday 26th January Day 2
A Walk – Glencar Escarpment
This incredible A Walk will bring us across the top of Dartry mountain range overlooking the picturesque glacial valley that is Glencar, home to the famous Glencar Waterfall, The Devils Chimney, The Swiss valley, Glencarbury Mines and Glencar Lake.
Many who have walked this route refer to it as county Sligo’s most beautiful route.
Glencar Waterfall is 15 meters high and is one of the most beautiful in Ireland. This very waterfall inspired the poet W.B Yeats to write his poem “The Stolen Child” as he visited it quite often in his youth. Other unique features along the route include the Swiss Valley, a series of rolling hills that once belonged to the main mountain, hear from our guides how this feature earned its name and how it formed after the last ice age and how the ice created the entire Glencar Valley we see today.
This walk will also bring you to the Devils Chimney Waterfall which is found above Glencar. The Devil’s Chimney is a large separation of the mountain that of course looks like a chimney, it claims the rights of been Irelands highest water fall and in the right conditions the wind pushes the water back uphill into a spectacular showery display.
A stop at the old mining site of Glencarbury will take you back to the baryte mining days that took place here for over one hundred years. Thousands of Sligo men made the daily climb to this site over the years to mine the barytes that were shipped all over the world, visit the abandoned buildings and workings of the mine while our guides tell you the story behind this exposed mountain top work site.
Bus Departs: 8.30am. Duration: 6-7 hours; approx. 12km.
B Walk – Benwisken
Benwisken or ‘The Breaking Wave’ is situated in the middle of the Darty Mountain range flanked to the north by Truskmore and Benbulben to the south. The Breaking Wave nick name comes from the mountains unique shape when seen from the north, resembling the shape a huge breaking wave, the wide flat plateau of the summit narrows down to a spectacular knife edge spur where the land dramatically drops away on all sides, sure to invigorate the senses of those who dare explore beyond the summit of this limestone wonder.
Our route begins from the flat open blanket bog lowlands of the range and we ascend the ancient slopes passing falling springs and mountain wildlife along our way to the plateau, from here walkers get their first look over the stunning Gleniff Horseshoe, a landscape carved by huge walls of ice during our last ice age.
We continue on our way to Benwisken along a gentle uphill slope with views to Benbulben and Truskmore on both sides, as we approach the summit walkers can get a glimpse of the famous cave of Diarmad and Grainne, hear from our guides how this cave steeped in mythology and how this is also Ireland’s highest cave, from this view point walkers can appreciate the true steepness of its entry route.
Arriving at the summit hikers are treated to breathtaking views over Donegal Bay, Benbulben and Streedagh, Mullaghmore, Truskmore and the extending Darty Mountains, from this vantage point the Glenniff Horseshoe shows it’s true glacial corrie shape, the finest view however lays beneath your feet as the dramatic sheer face of Benwisken can be seen only meters from the summit.
When the obligatory selfies have been talking we back track along our path towards the cliffs of Annacoona Top perhaps better knowing to locals as the back wall of the Gleniff Horseshoe, we pass and visit a feature knowing as ‘The Cauldron’ a massive failure in the side of the mountain caused by ice, rest in the Cauldrons shelter and learn from our guides how this and the entire valley formed during the ice age before continuing to the highest point on the cliff face Annacoona Top where our guides can safely allow those who dare to peer over the edge, signs of mining activity can also be seen at this part of the hike.
A truly stunning hike sure to leave those taking part with a sense of achievement and hopefully a few stories and snaps to share.
Bus Departs – 8.30 am Duration 4-5 hours approx 10km
C Walk – Carrowkeel
Carrowkeel or ’Ceathramhadh Caol’ meaning Narrow Quarter is one of Irelands’ finest megalithic cemeteries, overlooking Lough Arrow and along part of the ’Miners Historical Trail’. A well known botanist, Robert Loyd Preager came across numerous incredible megalithic tombs over 100 years ago and decided to excavate some of them, sadly his methods where less than delicate and many of these ancient monuments where badly damaged during this excavation. Through the efforts of many locals and historians the site has been restored and this once sacred location is now be explored by thousands each year.
This trail will take your breath away! From the beginning, you will be in awe of the incredible rocky canyon you will enter on the approach to the start of the trail. A huge glacier past through here once, thousands of years ago, and it has shaped and carved the mountain we now see today. High rock walls shelter you and surround the valley as you begin your walk with Auriel of Seatrails near the village of Ballinafad and together you can embrace this incredible landscape! There are secret gems hidden amongst the gorse where sheep graze happily and watch you as you pass! Yellow irises, the white thorn tree or ’May Bush’ as we call it in Ireland bloom beautifully and wild scrub and blogland surround you.
Listen and learn from our expert historian Auriel about the local folklore and mythology and human history associated with this area and you can admire stunning views along sections of the Miners Path.
For those with a sense of daring or adventure a short crawl and a squeeze will bring you inside the inner chambers of many of the ruined tombs where you can let your mind drift back 6000 years and join our ancestors view of this breathtaking location.
Bus Departs: 9am. Duration: 2 – 2.5 hours; 5km.
Sunday 27th January Day 3
This is one for the seasoned hikers. On this hike we will traverse the Dartry Mountain range and some of Sligo’s most iconic Mountains.The order of the day will be Kings Mountain, Benbulben and Benwisken. The route is challenging but well worth it to claim bragging rights of visiting some of Sligo’s most breath-taking summits. You will be rewarded with views that span from Glencar Valley back into Sligo Town, The Gleniff Horseshoe, Donegal and Sligo Bay and the wider Wild Atlantic Way, and much more.
Bus Departs: 8.30am. Duration: 6-7 hours; approx. 12km.
B Walk – Benbulben
Benbulben is perhaps one of Irelands best knowing mountains and is located to the north of Sligo town and is part of the Dartry
Mountains in the Northwest of Ireland. Benbulben’s famous shape was carved as a result of the various responses to erosion of the limestone and shale of which the mountain is formed. A picturesque blanket bog trail leads us below the sheer cliff faces of the iconic tabletop mountain before beginning our journey to the summit where we will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ox Mountains, the Dartry Mountains Sligo and Strandhill bay’s and much more.
Originally Benbulben was only a large ridge but as the giant glaciers moved, they carved the landscape leaving us with the wonder we see today. It is also steeped in legend. It takes its name from Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the nine hostages, who was fostered here.
There are also ancient myths of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Diarmad o’ Duibhne and the Fianna who were a band of warriors that lived in this area in the third century. You will learn more about the history of Benbulben and the surrounding areas form our guides as you enjoy your challenging hike up the most westerly summit of the Dartry mountain range.
Benbulben hosts a unique variety of plants, possessing some organisms that cannot be found anywhere else in Ireland, some of these plants’ pre-date the ice age. Many are arctic alpine plants, due to the mountain’s height and proximity to the Atlantic which gives the plants cooler temperatures than are normal to the area. Many types of insects, foxes, deer and wild hares also inhabit the area.
Sligo is known as Yeats country after the late great poet, William Butler Yeats who was born here and is also buried at the foot of the magnificent Benbulben. This hike is one of a kind. Our guides will supply you with an information packed and challenging hike that you will never forget.
Bus Departs: 9am. Duration: 3-4 hours; 10km
C Walk – Streedagh Armada Walk
Join us along this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way if you want to get a blast of fresh sea air, see some ancient fossils, flora and hear all about the hugely famous story of the ill-fated fleet of the mighty Spanish Armada. In 1588, King Phillip II of Spain had ordered over 130 ships to sail from the port of La Corunna for England with the intention to invade. The attempt failed miserably. On a desperate attempt to flee to Spain, over twenty-five Spanish ships became wrecked off Ireland’s coast. Three of them were wrecked at Streedagh.
We’ll tell you the miraculous escape story of one of the Captains, Captain Francisco De Cúellar who survived brutal treatment when he was washed to shore and had to watch his comrades die. He was aided by Gaelic Irish chieftains and made it back to Spain one year later. He wrote a letter telling of his experiences. It is a fascinating account!
We will meet you at the Spanish Armada Memorial Monument close to Streedagh. We’ll visit an ancient tomb hidden in the dunes and you’ll discover 330 million year old fossilised seabed on the rocks where the waves sometimes rumble in. Enjoy stunning views to Inishmurray Island and Donegal Bay. It doesn’t get any more Wild Atlantic Way than this.
Bus Departs: 10am. Duration: 2-3 hours; approx. 14km.
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