Sligo Town: 219km (136 miles) NE of Shannon Airport, 217km (135 miles) NW of Dublin, 76km (47 miles) NE of Knock, 60km (37 miles) NE of Ballina, 140km (87 miles) NE of Galway, 118km (73 miles) N of Athlone, 337km (209 miles) N of Cork

Sligo Town (pop. 18,000) is a thriving farm town on the south side of the River Garavogue, surrounded on three sides by mountains, the most famous of which are Ben Bulben to the north and Knocknarea to the south. A gray and somber town, with a mix of historic and less interesting modern architecture, Sligo is undergoing something of a renaissance -- albeit one that has, like the rest of the country, hit difficult times due to the economic crisis. Roughly half of the town center has been refurbished in the past decade. From a visitor's perspective, the focus of this has been Sligo's new "Left Bank," where cafes and restaurants spill onto the waterfront promenade whenever weather permits. If you do find your way blocked by construction in this town (and we frequently have) it will also affect you in terms of driving, as closed streets require confusing roadway diversions, but it's a small enough place that it's really impossible to be lost for long.

Sligo Town isn't busy, historic, or pretty enough to require much of your time, but it is a handy place to base yourself if you want to explore the bucolic farmland that has become, thanks to the impressive energy of the County Sligo tourism offices, "Yeats Country." Although he was born in Dublin, the poet W. B. Yeats spent so much time in County Sligo that it became a part of him, and he a part of it -- literally, as he is buried here. As you'll quickly discover, every hill, cottage, vale, and lake seems to bear a plaque indicating its relation to the poet or his works.

When you plan your itinerary, allow plenty of time to explore the countryside that so inspired him.