Counties Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon are renowned for the rhythmic sway and gentle flamboyance of their traditional music, characterized by flutes and fiddles and often known as the North Connacht style of playing. Topographically, however, they have less in common, with Sligo possessing the most allure, though it might feel less wild and remote than nearby Mayo and Donegal. The county’s hub, lively Sligo town has the best facilities for visitors and good access to the local countryside. Easy trips from here include the bracing seaside resorts of Strandhill and Rosses Point, as well as megalithic sites Carrowmore Cemetery and Medb’s Cairn, set atop Knocknarea Mountain, though you’ll need your own transport to reach them. Majestic Lough Gill, and its celebrated island Innisfree is, along with a number of sites in the north of Sligo, inextricably linked with W.B. Yeats, an appreciation of whose writing is enhanced by a visit to Drumcliffe, the place of his burial, set below Benbulben Mountain, or the entrancing waters of Glencar Lake, while essential insights into the poet’s social world are provided by a tour of Lissadell House, north of Drumcliffe. Yeats’s brother, the painter Jack B., was also inspired by the county’s dramatic land- and seascapes, which continue to its northern tip with fine beaches such as at Mullaghmore. Western Sligo offers great surfing opportunities at Easkey and another stupendous beach at Enniscrone, while to the south you’ll find staggering megalithic remains at Carrowkeel, as well as the county’s musical heartland, centred upon Tubbercurry and Gurteen.
Ireland’s least populated county by some stretch, Leitrim crams a dizzying diversity into its ever-attractive countryside, though lacks any really notable sights. Bordering no fewer than six counties, Leitrim extends some 80km from its southeastern border with Longford to a narrow strip of Atlantic shoreline in the northwest, with the expansive Lough Allen at its core. In the south the River Shannon is the principal feature, not least in the county town, Carrick-on-Shannon, while rolling countryside to the river’s east, especially between Keshcarrigan and Ballinamore, is sprinkled with tiny lakes and drumlins.
County Roscommon is renowned as one of Ireland’s dullest counties, thanks to its largely uninspiring scenery. In its far north, however, the Arigna Mountains provide a wild and vivid contrast to the flat landscape that defines most of the county, and can be explored from the lively, historic town of Boyle towards Roscommon’s northern extremity. Further south, sites around Tulsk are intrinsically associated with major events in Celtic mythology, and the planned town of Strokestown features a memorable Georgian mansion with a hugely impressive museum devoted to the Great Famine. Southern Roscommon, however, including its eponymous county town, provides little to warrant investigation.