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2002-06-12 Sligo enjoys wealth of coastal walks

THE wealth of coastal scenery in County Sligo seems to me to be second to none. (OK, so maybe Im a little biased!).

 

When I was a wee fellow, Rosses Point and Strandhill were too touristy for our family and were always thronged - by thronged, I mean more than four or five people.

So its only in recent years that I have really begun to discover the merits of Sligos main resorts. As children, we were spoiled for seaside scenery, and when we took the dogs out for a spin, there was a lot of thought put into it.

Instead of Rosses Point, we would go to the expansive Back Rosses, where the Boyers exercised their horses, and where we could learn to drive in a wide open space without the risk of losing our Dads no-claims bonus!

Instead of Strandhill, we went round the corner to Culleenamore, the only people around being those on horseback way out on the strand. A favourite summer jaunt took us via Raughley harbour to Tra Bhui, or Browns Bay - we called it Knocklane, did anyone else?

And after a bracing swim we would gather bags of field mushrooms around the little watch-tower at the top of the hill. Then it was time to go home, never straight home, but possibly via Ballyconnell and / or Lissadell, where we were always amused by the Do not pluck the flowers signs put there by my Grannies close friend Miss Gore-Booth. And I would like to state categorically here and now that I never plucked a single one!

Just past Lissadell (first turn left after Ballinful) is Johns Port. If youre feeling energetic, just follow the beach from Lissadell in the direction of the USA. Johns Port used to be one of my favourite trips in my youth, despite on one occasion spraining my ankle in the old ball alley where we used to play our own mixture of squash and tennis.

In those days it was quite an unknown beauty spot, and we always seemed to disturb the rabbits when we drove through the old gates. From this side of Sligo bay you can see all the way round from Benbulben past Knocknarea right over to Aughris, a view which I have firmly implanted on my memory.

There were a few years where this beauty spot was truly ruined by some unwelcome new-age visitors, but at last visit, it seemed as though the place had been cleaned up and the area had gone back to normal.

On other days, if we had a little more time we would venture further afield to Enniscrone, Easkey or Dunmoran, or have a clifftop walk around dramatic Aughris Head. Or if we were feeling very brave, we would drive at low tide out to Coney Island (no, not past the Metal Man), have a quick walk and get back to the Strandhill Road before being cut-off from the mainland.

And I have not yet mentioned my two top-spots, Mullaghmore and Streedagh. A mental picture of the long empty beach at Connors Island (back strand at Streedagh) with Classiebawn Castle just visible and the entire Dartry range stretching into the distance, has often been a great source of comfort to me in the rush of city life.

And maybe I was spotted there once or twice peering just above the steering wheel, but definitely below the speed limit. (What is the speed limit on a beach anyway?).

After a brisk walk on the strand, or a steeper walk around the head, or even a dip in the Bishops Pool, its nice to know that there is somewhere I can have a coffee and a chat while looking out on one of the most spectacular view in Sligo.

Is the population of Sligo as adventurous as we were with our Sunday drives? I am certain that it is by going away for long periods of time that I fully appreciate the splendour of my countys coastline. When I am lucky enough to be at home for a week or so, I never visit the same place twice. There is simply far too much choice!