This article is part of the series of blog posts and video guides exploring the Wild Atlantic Way.
This blog begins at Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo, Ireland. Click here for an overview of the entire route.
Summary: The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2,500km (>1,550 mile) tourist route along Ireland’s Western coastline, from Malin Head in Donegal in the North to Kinsale in the South. It connects significant historic, cultural and geographic features into a manageable road trip from staggering clifftop vistas to golden strands and stunning lighthouses.
VIDEO GUIDE to MULLAGHMORE Head
In today's blog…
I start at the gorgeous Mullaghmore Head, visit the last resting place of Irish Poet, WB Yeats at Drumcliffe, make a brief stop in the regional hub of Sligo Town and the lovely seaside town of Strandhill, before ending the day's journey at Easkey Pier and O'Dowd's Castle along the Wild Atlantic Way route.
If you need to catch up to here, I started my adventure further north, at Malin Head (read that post), before exploring the North of Donegal (covered here). I stayed beside the sensational Fanad Head Lighthouse and used that as the starting point for a tour of South Donegal.
I do like to have an itinerary and I had trouble finding the first location for the day. It was not clear from the tourism authority's guidelines exactly where Mullaghmore Head viewpoint could be found. Sometimes NOT quite finding the place you wanted helps you discover another place. Certainly, the town of Mullaghmore is charming with its small port, shops and a busy café.
Along the seafront is ample parking for cars or smaller camper vans. It's a great place to start your walk along Mullaghmore Beach (see below). The sign included very helpful guidelines to local birds and wildlife that walkers might encounter.
As the strand stretches away into the middle distance, the sky seems simply huge and the clouds dash towards you carried on huge gusts of wind.
I drove around the tip of the peninsula on which Mullaghmore Head sits, knowing that eventually I would find the right spot. Ahead of me, two coach loads of tourists were parked on the grass verge of the single carriageway road. I pulled in right in front of one, praying that no other big vehicle would come the other way. This is where most people were making the very short hike to look down at something just below a ridge.
And there was the most beautiful sight. Again, the sky large and supporting banks of white and silver grey clouds. But it was the sea, insistent against the strata of rocks pitched at an angle and diving beneath the waves. The white tips ran towards the shore and crashed into foam laden pools not far beyond the wild grasses and flowers at the edge of the ocean.
Here nature lies in all its power: dashing on the enormous slabs of rock and growing flowers of wild beauty.
Despite the wind, I sent up a little DJI Drone and captured some images along the blue waters of the coast. It's worth seeing the accompanying video if only for that section (see the link at the end of this blog).
In certain counties and towns in Ireland, finding a place to park your campervan or motorhome so that you can explore a town centre or go shopping is a major problem. I use the well-known apps (especially Park4Night and Stellplatz) to see if someone else's experience can guide me to a good parking place. A lot of European towns and cities are GREAT at providing a variety of parking place sizes. Motorhome users bring in much needed additional tourist revenue, IF they can get parked.
Creevykeel Court Tomb
I had spied a familiar brown road sign on my way to Mullaghmore, which indicates a site of ancient or historical interest right along the main Letterkenny to Sligo road. I had some time before I needed to reach Sligo for an appointment later, and decided to explore the Creevykeel Court Tomb.
Parking & Facilities
This is an historic national monument, and a car park lies just off the busy N15 road which can accommodate around 12 cars and is deep enough to manage a medium sized motorhome. There are no further facilities (no toilets or coffee van).
The actual Court Tomb is just 50 feet away from the car park on a relatively even pathway, which turns to grass around the ancient monument.
Creevykeel is one of the finest remaining court tombs left on the island of Ireland. It is a wedge-shaped site that had been used for burial and ritual and perhaps also defensive fort purposes during the Neolithic era. A Harvard-led archeological dig in 1935 found evidence of an early Christian settlement, including remnants of metal smelting.
While there is substantial evidence about the original uses of this site, picturing its original design is hard to do from the layout of tomb-like megalithic structures. It is fascinating to stop here if only to stretch the imagination and connect with those earlier ancestors through the spaces they created and we now get to share.
Drumcliffe & Irish Poet, WB Yeats
I learned my first Yeats poem at my mother's knee (When You Are Old) and it feels like his work has interwoven with my educational and choral life (I was part of Irish group, Anúna) ever since. For some part of my schooling, the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” had featured and it returned in a beautiful setting by Irish composer, Michael McGlynn. It's a poem I love and know by heart.
So it was only fitting to pay my respects to WB Yeats at his final resting place at Drumcliffe Chapel in County Sligo.
See the accompanying video for a recitation of the poem.
Being on the road and working as a blogger and a YouTuber has its own challenges. One of the main ones is having a reliable broadband internet connection with enough capacity to handle the large image and video files that I work with. My UK provider had poor coverage (and terrible upload speeds) so I needed to get a new SIM card and Sligo was the nearest place.
Sligo is a charming place in its own right. It has a compact downtown area which is flat, making it easy to get around on foot. People are friendly and there are plenty of independent shops and cafes that warrant discovery.
Parking for Campervans
Sligo Town is a problematic place to part for camper vans and motorhomes. The parking situation for any vehicle in the town centre can be difficult as it does get busy and the numbers swell over the summer with incoming tourists like me. Two car parks are mentioned as good for camper vans by the parking app that I use. The first had a height limiter meaning only vehicles as large as a VW camper or large SUV could use it. The second was a bit distant from the town. I found a sort of compromise place along the quay, but the motorhome did jut out a bit. I kept my visit short and everything was fine, but this was the first inkling that Co Sligo would have a lot of No Caravans or Motorhomes signage.
Despite that, I enjoyed a quick walk around the town and got the SIM card that I needed to improve my data uploads (always the geek!).
One thing I do love about our Irish towns is how independent stores continue to thrive. Certainly too few of them, many have gone, but it's great to support those that remain as there is something very distinct about them in a world of conglomerates.
However, with the motorhome parked a little precariously, I didn't linger. It was back over the Garavogue River and along the quay to prepare for the next stop out by the oceanside.
where can i stay?
If you would like to visit all of the locations in this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, Sligo Town would make an excellent place to stay overnight or for a weekend. Check out this list of hotels and B&Bs in the Sligo area at all price ranges.
Alternatively, my personal recommendations are at the bottom of this page.
There are two great beaches within a stone's throw of Sligo Town: Rosses Point and Strandhill. I have stayed more than once at Rosses Point and I thought it would make a fun stop to visit the other on this road trip. Again, parking provisions are pretty tight for camper vans in the town, but I did manage to quickly get stopped and grab a couple of photographs.
I do find these infographics useful. It is a shame that they are sporadic across the country, but so useful as an educational tool.
The gusts of wind whipped up sand from the beach and I got a bit of a free facial exfoliation! It wasn't cold or wet, just an unrelenting wind coming in from the Atlantic. Some resilient people were playing golf on the links just behind the dunes in the picture below. I really don't know how they managed to keep playing, but maybe they were better used to it!
Before long, it was back into the campervan to reach the last discovery point of the day.
Easkey Pier & O'Dowd's Castle
Visiting Easkey Pier was a matter of convenience than design, if I'm honest. It was halfway to my campsite for the night in Ballina and so I knew too little about the pier before I pulled up in the motorhome. In fact, the site is mostly dominated by the 63 foot tall O'Dowd Castle which sits alongside it (the pier just out to the right of the castle in the image below).
I am not sure what I can say about the history of Easkey Pier – perhaps that the name ‘Easkey' (often written as ‘Easky') is connected to the Irish word Iasc, which means ‘fish' and refers to the abundance of fish in the local river. The area is also very well known for its surfing although it was still as anything on the evening I arrived (despite the high winds at nearby Strandhill). Two people in a VERY cool VW camper were parked nearby with their surfboards strapped very tightly to their roof!
O'Dowd Castle makes an imposing figure on its finger of land. It dates from 1207 and I suspect this tower is the last part that remains of a slightly larger structure. It's worth exploring inside, although be prepared for a bit of a smell.
As I was standing inside reading the handy infographic about the castle, the heavens opened at last! Big fat drops of rain. What we sometimes call ‘wet rain' in Ireland. You can tell we have a lot of variety of droplets and a lot of experience with the wet stuff!
It wasn't long before I was parked up in Ballina for the night and treasuring the memories created on this part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
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Find the accompanying video for this article below: