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Sligo in north-western Ireland is a fine destination for lovers of the land and lake lands. A sizeable, though walkable, town itself, it is an especially good base to take in the lonely Atlantic coast and has a number of interesting hilly walks in the area. After you’ve done Sligo Abbey, attended the races and walked the shores of Lough Gill, be sure to drive the Dartry mountains, see the Carrowmore Megalithic Tombs and indulge in a Celtic seaweed bath.
Who to Book With
Most visitors fly to Dublin or Belfast and drive across to Sligo; it’s a similar distance from either airport. Both airports have well known car hire companies Budget, National and Dan Dooley, among others, which can be compared online for the best value. The booths are in the arrivals areas where you show your booking slip and pick up the keys. There are also offices right in Sligo, but the drive across Ireland is straightforward.
Best Time to Go
Sligo’s climate is fairly mild compared to other destinations on the Irish west coast. It does, however, suffer from high amounts of rain year-round, most noticeably in winter when mountain roads become mildly dangerous. The driest time is April to July, though July and August are best avoided if you don’t like crowds. Also beware St Patrick’s Day on 17th March when all of Ireland is busy. Best weather/hotel car rates can be had April to early June.
Need to Know Essentials
You will need the following when picking up car rental:
- A United Kingdom driver’s licence or International Driving Permit
- Valid photo identification, such as a passport
- The credit card used to book the vehicle online
- A printout of the reservation, with the booking number
For more info read our FAQs.
Though the suburbs go out a fair distance, Sligo town is small and can be covered on foot. There are pay and display and private car parks, along with parking at most larger hotels, though street parking can be difficult. Sligo is surrounded by pretty country and coast with winding roads that don’t merit much speed. Be careful at altitude in the wet winters.
Our Guide to Ireland contains more detailed driving information.
You can easily walk the interesting parts of Sligo town. There are local bus services, but you’d hardly need to use them for getting about the town itself, while taxis are useful for getting about late at night. Having car hire is definitely worthwhile as the real reason for a visit is to explore the hills.
For those who prefer to pick up a car in town, Sligo is served by rail and the train station is on Lord Edward Street to the west of the town centre. There are several services a day from Dublin (Connolly Station), which take around three hours.
The bus terminal is on Lord Edward Street for Bus Éireann arrivals. Several local bus services take in the town and surrounding areas, with the most useful to tourists being Route 478, which runs 20 minutes from Cartron in the north to Cairns Road to the south of town.
Taxis in Sligo are metered and available from ranks in the town and by telephone booking. Sligo Taxis and Emerald Taxis (tel: 071 914 8888) are both reliable and run to all areas of town. They are hard to hail from the street and it is worth pre-booking on a Friday or Saturday night.
Sligo is surrounded by high ground and a rugged coast, making for the perfect recipe for daytrips by car rental. There are fine drives to be had in all directions, from ancient tombs and high trig points to excellent options for golfers and lovers of fishing on Lough Gill.
Carrowmore Megalithic Tombs – A short drive to the southwest of Sligo is this ancient and huge megalithic cemetery. It is one of the top such cemeteries in Europe, with 30 tombs that predate the Great Pyramids even. To get there, head southwest along Churchill and Oakfield Crescent roads.
Knocknarea Mountain – You could combine a trip to Carrowmore with a hike up this stout hill to the west of town. It sits a few miles west of town at over 1,000 feet to afford fine views over the coast. The highlight, however, is the burial mound on the summit, which dates from Neolithic times.
Rosses Point - Another easy drive is to the small village of Rosses Point along the R291 coastal road from Sligo. There’s not a huge amount to see in the village itself, but the sandy beach is ideal for sunny days. Swim if you dare; it’s a bit nippy in summer even! From here, and during low tide, you can drive across to Coney Island. In the other direction is Ben Bulben, a tabletop mountain in the Dartry Range.
County Donegal - The forgotten county is one of the most underrated regions of Ireland and is just a short drive (north) from Sligo. County Donegal borders Northern Ireland and comes with a stunning, rugged coast which can be done on a loop.