On to the world famous 'Surf Coast' of Ireland. I was excited to make my first stop once entering County Sligo. I had a great-grandfather who emigrated to the US but was originally a Henry from Sligo. So in that US/claiming Irish ancestry way, I am, in some small way, rooted here like so many other people of Irish ancestry that have scattered to the 4 corners of the earth.
Compared to Donegal, the drive through Sligo was relatively flat with fairly straight roads. It didn't take long to stop at one of the biggest and best known Surf spots in Ireland, Mullaghmore Head is known worldwide in the Surfing community for its big waves and bigger cliff breaks. Its also known for the former ancestral home and location where Britain's Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA in the 1970s.
Both Bundoran in Donegal and just a little further on, Mullaghmore Head, would be well-known to the world's surfing communities, but I preferred the little area of Strandhill in Sligo. It has a lovely, relaxed vibe with a surfing school that is perfect for young ones just learning to surf, as well as a nice beach walk and a great cafe called Shell's Cafe. I highly recommend both for a bit of a walk and nice outdoor seating with the offer of an excellent lunch and baked goods!
The drive along the Wild Atlantic Way continues to run due West with distant views of mountains on the left and the Ocean to the right. Another well-known surfing spot is Easky Beach and there is a good Coastal walk along the Ocean front here as well.
I decided to treat myself to a night at Belleek Castle in Ballina, Co. Sligo at this point in the journey. I highly recommend it as an excellent spot to enjoy an interesting estate, Michelin recognized restaurant and charming walks around the property. A good break from all the driving and staying in a different B&B every night, as you travel the route!
From Ballina I drove along the Northern Mayo Coast. The view of Downpatrick (a unique high Cliff or 'stacked' Island just off the mainland) was beautiful. I had great weather throughout Donegal and on the first day in Sligo, however, the following days were rainy. Unfortunately, this can severely limit visibility. I drove on to Belmullet but couldn't see much. You can stop at the Cead Fields as they are an interesting Neolithic Irish site as it is the only thing along this stretch of road. I traveled West then south through the lakes (Lough) of Mayo then, leaving the Surf Coast behind and on to Achill Island and more.
If the weather gets bad through the western part of the Surf Coast of the Wild Atlantic Way then I would recommend a trip directly south of Ballina to Mount Falcon (another lovely place to stay or eat, and they even offer Salmon fishing on the river here.) Foxford Woollen Mills is not far away either. Definitely worth a stop...you can always pick up the Wild Atlantic Way again for the next part of the route if you head due West.
We offer some very special products from this region. From Foxford Woollen Mills (authentic Irish Wool-blend throws) and also, rugged bags from the Atlantic Equipment Project made in County Sligo along the Surf Coast in fact! So don't forget to check out our website for these superior Irish made items!