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2004-08-24 Slide show leads to German tourist´s love affair with Sligo

We have heard a lot about Ireland's growing cost of living, and how our little Emerald nation of the 100,000 welcomes has begun to scare away our potential tourists. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to speak to one of our more regular visitors, and to see what it is that attracts Beate Graf to travel from Germany to the north-west of Ireland year after year.

 

Beate comes from a village in North Rhein Westfalia, but has been living in the bustling business capital of Frankfurt since 1990. While watching a slide-show on Ireland, Beate was mesmerised, and it prompted her to come and see first-hand what it was that had been attracting millions of tourists to its shores for years. In 1997, on her first trip here, it was indeed love at first sight.

The contrast between everyday life in downtown Frankfurt and the tranquility of Yeats county could hardly be more stark. The young German lady with the ever-enquiring mind visited all of Irelands tourist hot-spots, and for her brief north-west whistle-stop tour, she used Sligo as her base. Beate stayed at Olivia Quigleys Benwiskin Lodge, north of Sligo just off the N15. Here she found a home away from home  a house with comfort, style and a generous helping of friendship.

Olivia Quigley says her guests are lured by Sligos scenery, the Yeats links, seaweed baths, golf, traditional music, as well as the many local sites and attractions, but sadly many of her guests are just passing through  short-stay guests. Not the case with Beate who has returned to this, her second home, every summer since that initial discovery tour. It is when talking to Beate and viewing her endless first-class photos, you realise she actually knows Sligo better than most of us. Borrowing the B&Bs resident terrier  Robbie - Beate revisits Carrowmore, Carrowkeel, Deerpark, Creevylea, Hazelwood, Slish, Parkes Castle, the Abbeys in Boyle and Sligo, Ballymote for the eagle-flying experience, Arigna mines, Riverstown Folk Park and everywhere else that was ever mentioned even briefly in a guide-book. 

Beate has always been impressed by the friendly staff at the Sligo Tourist Office, who have never failed to answer one of her many enquiries. She loves Sligos many bookshops, and is blown away by the large selection of eateries in and around the town  amongst her favourites being Jill Barbers Drumcliffe Tea Rooms, Pepper Alley, Yeats Tavern, Fiddlers Creek, and this year she discovered the Belfrys tasty bar bites. Being a non-smoker, and coming from a rather smoker-friendly nation, Beate loves our new smoking ban and how everyone is complying with it reasonably well  and so say all of us!


 

Like most visitors to Sligo, Beate began by visiting Strandhill and the Point, but feels that Sligo ought to place greater emphasis on our wealth of less-frequented beaches. She has only recently discovered such gems as Streedagh, Dunmoran and Trá Bhuí. She also recommends the printing of a really comprehensive Drives in Sligo book, though I feel at this stage she is possibly more qualified than anyone to produce such a volume. Weather is not a big issue with her. In 1998, her holiday was ten solid days of rain, but in 2004  not a drop fell from the sky during her stay.


 

Traffic, on the other hand, is a huge issue, and Beate has learned to park outside town and walk in, rather than play the annoyingly futile game of space-searching in the Tesco carpark. Beate was glad to see the Russian ship go, but cannot understand the demise of some of our prize buildings which could add so much to the architectural wealth of our town. She singles out the Old High School in this regard, as it stands, sadly, at the gate to the north-west.


 

Beate has a special soft-spot for the Castlebaldwin Donkey Sanctuary  the Sathya Sai Sanctuary Trust for Nature, run by Sue Paling on the edge of the Bricklieves. This rest home for unwanted and abandoned donkeys is a registered charity, and now runs an adoption programme, but Beate feels it can never receive enough public attention. As these vulnerable creatures learn to trust humans again, Beate is constantly moved by their sad stories. Thankfully, most have a happy ending.


 

So in the eyes of Beate Graf, Sligo has room for improvement, but nonetheless lures her back year after year.