The majority of North Sligo’s attractions are easily accessible from the county town. Much of the landscape is irrevocably associated with W.B. Yeats, particularly Benbulben Mountain, under whose green-tinged slopes and surmounting tableland the poet is buried at Drumcliffe. To the mountain’s south lie the magical waters of Glencar Lake with its exhilarating waterfall, while to its west is Lissadell House, home to Yeats’s friends, Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz, tours of which provide valuable insights into the poet’s social milieu. The coastline is less stimulating, though does include a fine beach at Mullaghmore, a quaint harbour village not far from one of Ireland’s major funerary monuments, Creevykeel Court Tomb.
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Eight kilometres northwest of Sligo town, off the N15, ROSSES POINT is a picturesque seaside resort which has not moved with the times and is all the better for its lapse. There’s a grand beach, ideal for swimming, and splendid views across the bay, both of which provided inspiration for Jack B. Yeats, the poet’s artist brother. From here there are fine, often blustery walks around the headland.
Eight kilometres due north of Sligo along the N15, the tiny seaside village of DRUMCLIFFE is the site of a monastery established in 574 by St Colmcille, though only a round tower and an eleventh-century high cross, set on opposite sides of the main road, remain today. The graveyard of the adjacent and somewhat stark nineteenth-century church is where the poet W.B. Yeats is buried and, as a consequence, is very much on the tourist trail. Yeats died in 1939 in Roquebrune, France, but before doing so requested that his body be interred locally for “a year or so” before being returned to Sligo. His wishes were granted in 1948 when his remains were transferred from France to Drumcliffe, where his great-grandfather had been rector, and buried, as one of his last poems stated, “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head”. His headstone, which also marks the resting place of his wife George, bears the last three lines of that poem, Under Ben Bulben:
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!
Heading east from Drumcliffe along minor roads you’ll come to Glencar Lake after some 8km, gorgeously set amid tree-lined slopes. Near the eastern extremity of its northern shore a signposted footpath leads up to an impressive fifteen-metre-high waterfall, cascading down into a deep pool from the rocky mountainside above, which provided the inspiration for part of Yeats’s poem The Stolen Child:
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glencar,
In pools above the rushes that
Scarce could bathe a star.
MULLAGHMORE is an enticing village set around a secluded, walled harbour with a glorious expanse of sandy beach just to its south, offering fabulous views north to the mountains of Donegal and back towards Benbulben.