Sligo is an outdoor adventurer's paradise; a land with many wonderful natural facilities. Rolling hills and valleys and the rivers and lakes that were born from them that flow into a raw and rugged coastline continuously shaped and changed by Atlantic winter storms.
Sligo's natural landscapes are great locations for rock climbing, hiking, caving, cycling, kayaking, sailing, supping, surfing, mountain biking, fishing, diving, horse riding etc etc.. The list is endless, these are just the few that come to mind.
Rock Climbing is one of the most thrilling, enjoyable and rewarding activities to do in Sligo. Of course I would say that but it's true! I love climbing; its a personal thing for me, I love the challenge and having to face and overcome fear. I love the movement and the problem solving element as well as the adventure of finding new crags and climbing routes. Sometimes the best feeling is when you reach the top where you get to see some of the most spectacular views around. Looking at what you just climbed up never ceases to amaze me! Climbing is also a great way to keep fit, strong and toned!
There are rock climbing locations all over Sligo. Some of which located west of Sligo town in the Ox Mountains and some as far north as Mullaghmore head. Access can be somewhat of an issue but if it was always easy then it wouldn't be worthwhile! Thats part of the adventure, the search.. the unknown! I'm sure there are still undiscovered crags too. I recently came across a new potential climbing location which was completely hidden by trees until Coillte culling had made it visible. It is very exciting to find unclimbed rock! You can get more details about climbing locations in Sligo on climbing.ie or if I can help in any way please do not hesitate to ask.
The mountains (big hills really) of Sligo are also great places to go hiking and walking. I sometimes dream if we got loads of snow we could ski and snowboard right here.. in Ireland... Imagine that.... anyway.. Spectacular views of Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Donegal Bay can be seen from Sligo's most iconic mountain Ben Bulbin and the Dartry Mountains. In recent years better work has been done regarding access and way marking of walks and a new database of walking routes with good details is now available through SligoWalks.ie. Good work there guys!
If you are heading out walking or hiking in Sligo or anywhere for that matter make sure you bring the right equipment/clothing as it is always colder higher up, even in summer months and especially if its windy! Make sure to check the latest weather forecast too! As a climber, surfer and general outdoor addict I am always checking the latest weather forecasts and use a range of different forecasting sites. I use windguru.cz for wind, rain, swell, etc. xcweather.co.uk is another great one where you can get live real time readings direct from the weather stations at the airports. Magicseaweed is a good one if you are a surfer, it gives good ocean swell readings and forecasts. Then of course you have the old "reliable" MET Eireann which in fairness to them are usually not too far off the mark. I usually have a look at at least 2 different forecasts and you make an educated guess on that info. But remember you are dealing with mother nature so you really never know!
The hills, woodlands and trails of Sligo are also a great place to wander or do some mountain biking. Northwest Adventure Tours provide cycling and hiking tours so if you fancy doing some cool trails on the bikes or on foot give the guys a shout and they will take good care of you. I have done a bit of biking around Union Wood and Ben Bulbin forest walk. There is some rock in Union Wood that I think would be suitable for rock climbing but a lot of "gardening" (a term used by climbers to describe the preparation or cleaning of climbing routes prior to climbing, it wouldn't be uncommon to abseil a route with gardening tools, I have done this in Dalkey quarry prior to putting up my own route which I called "fraggle rock") would have to be done first. Maybe some day I will find the time and we might have yet another climbing location in Sligo!
Another fantastic activity to do in Sligo is kayaking. I'm also a kayaker (ICU Level 2 coach qualified) - its a great sport and a unique way to explore the landscape. I get such a great buzz bursting through rapids and sliding down the rivers in my kayak. I have paddled the Easkey river for miles until it meets the Atlantic and surfed the famous waves there in my kayak. It is nice to have different hobbies for different weather conditions. For me as an outdoor enthusiast it's a must to have some options! Kayakers like rain, when it rains the rivers swell and rise and you get faster moving water. When it's pouring as it often does in Ireland you can be sure there are exited kayakers getting their gear ready and putting the boats on the roof racks!
Paddle along the picturesque rivers, lakes and estuaries of Sligo in a comfortable boat. Check out Lough Gill which is located just east of Sligo town or the tranquil and spectacular Glencar lake nestled in the valley. Kayaking is an amazing way to see the surroundings of the lake and mountains and you really get that sense of adventure. If you are new to kayaking and would like to give it a try I would recommend Sligokayaktours. Give Barry a shout and he will organise a kayaking trip for you.
SUPing (Stand Up Paddle - Kind of like surfing except on bigger more stable boards that are relatively easy to stay upright on) is also growing in popularity. You can find a list of SUP providers in Sligo here. A friend of mine had a SUP a few years ago and I gave it a go in the surf, it was great fun but very difficult to control because it was such a big board. I would love to try it again though, I think a spin on the lake on the next calm full moon night is in order! Who's up for it? Speaking of supping on the lake, how would you like to do a SUP across the lake and rock climb or abseil? Well that could soon be a possibility! SUPforall and Carraig Climbing could offer just that in the future!
Of all the outdoor activities that are in Sligo and the North West, it is probably most famous for its surfing. Its rugged and diverse coastline has many high quality surf breaks and pristine beaches. Beautiful beaches such as Mullaghmore, Streedagh, Strandhill, Aughris, Dunmoran and Enniscrone to name a few and up the road in Donegal you have the famous surf town of Bundoran with many high quality surf breaks there too. Many of these beaches have local surf schools which are open all year round. Mullaghmore head is one of Ireland's most well know big wave surf spots and has attracted big wave riders from surf meccas such as Hawaii, South Africa, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand.
What I have mentioned above is not not a conclusive list but merely my opinion and what comes to mind for me, I'm sure I have left out many more outdoor activities to do in Sligo. I hope that I can work with other local businesses in particular adventure providers and that we can come up with exiting new packages! Whatever your fancy, don't wait too long before you do it! Go - explore, get outside, climb a mountain, surf a wave, kayak a lake or river, catch a fish for dinner.. get into the elements and see something or do something new. Do not let the fear of what might happen stop you, get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors!