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History of Sligo

Sligo’s history is rich and ancient with evidence of inhabitation dating back a dizzying 5,000 years. A Wild Atlantic Way county, Sligo is in many ways inextricably linked with the sea. Even the word ‘Sligo’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘Sligeach’ meaning ‘the shelly place’. 

In 1588, ships of the Spanish Armada were destroyed during a storm off Streedagh Beach. The wrecks are still there and a small visitor centre is open at weekends. Sligo’s history is rich and ancient with evidence of inhabitation dating back a dizzying 5,000 years. A Wild Atlantic Way county, Sligo is in many ways inextricably linked with the sea. Even the word ‘Sligo’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘Sligeach’ meaning ‘the shelly place’.  In 1558, ships of the Spanish Armada were destroyed during a storm off Streedagh Beach. The wrecks are still there and a small visitor centre is open at weekends. 

Sligo town dates back to 1245 when it was granted to Maurice Fitzgerald after the Norman invasion of Connaught and the town sprang up around the castle he built. He founded Sligo Abbey a few years later; it still stands a few minutes from The Glasshouse and guided tours are available. It was strategically important and struggles for supremacy marked many centuries. The port developed into a busy trading area and during the famine years (1840s) was a major transit port for emigration. The town was rapidly industrialised during the late 1800s and traces of this are visible in many urban buildings.  Today Sligo is a prosperous town, which remains steeped in history. Many of the winding streets have remained unchanged for centuries and the town is easily explored on foot.

Inland the history is woven like a tapestry into the landscape and reveals over 5,000 archaeological sites. The ancient tombs of Carrowmore form the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland. 30 of the 60 restored tombs can be visited from March to October. They are about 5km from Sligo town. In contrast, the smaller Carrowkeel megalithic complex near Lough Arrow is completely self guided and is equally fascinating. Nearby are the Caves of Keash where archaeologists discovered Ice Age animal remains. It has a small visitor centre at The Foxes Den pub. 

Discover Sligo’s history:

   • Take a self guided tour of Sligo Town

   • Enjoy a free guided tour during the summer month

   • Let Melcoo Tours introduce you to Sligo’s dark side or fascinating literature heritage

   • Join Sea Trails for one of their heritage trails (on foot or horseback)