Visitor Information -- The Sligo Tourist Office is on the ground floor of the Old Bank Building, O’Connell Street, Sligo Town (www.sligotourism.ie; [tel] 071/916-1201). It’s open weekdays, 9am to 5pm; also weekends in summer only.
It goes to show just how rural this part of Ireland is that a small port and farming town with a population of just 20,000 is the largest urban center in the northwest—but welcome to Sligo Town! This is what qualifies as built-up in these parts. Bisected by the River Garavogue and surrounded on three sides by mountains, the most famous of which are Ben Bulben to the north and Knocknarea to the south, Sligo is a gray and somber place, with a mix of historic and less interesting modern architecture. Though few would name Sligo their favorite of Ireland’s major towns, it has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. 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. Most of its commercial district is on the river’s south bank. O’Connell Street is the main north-south artery, while the main east-west thoroughfare is Stephen Street, which becomes Wine Street and then Lord Edward Street. Three bridges span the river; the Douglas Hyde Bridge, named for Ireland’s first president, is the main link between the two sides.
In an emergency, dial tel. 999. St. John's Hospital is at Ballytivan, Sligo (tel. 071/914-2606), or you can try Sligo County Hospital, The Mall (tel. 071/914-2620). The Garda Station is on Pearse Road (tel. 071/915-7000).
Need to check your e-mail? There are Internet-accessible PCs at the County Sligo Library, on Stephen Street (tel. 071/914-2212), which is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm.
The Sligo General Post Office, Wine Street (tel. 071/915-9273), is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm.
Local Hero: Constance Markievicz
Aristocrat, suffragette, revolutionary, and politician, Constance Markievicz (1868–1927) was one of the most influential Irish women of the 20th century and a key figure in the country’s struggle for independence from Britain.
Born in London to Anglo-Irish gentry, Constance became aware of the realities of life for the poor in Ireland at an early age. Her father, Sir Henry Gore-Booth, owned Lissadell House, a great estate in County Sligo. Unlike many landowners of the time, he was widely loved by his tenants; during an outbreak of famine when Constance was eleven, he provided them with life-saving food relief.
In 1900 Constance married a Polish count, Casimir Markievicz (1874–1932), and the two settled in Dublin. By this time she was actively involved in the fight for women’s suffrage. It wasn’t long before she began to move in revolutionary circles too. (One story has it that she was finally persuaded to join Sinn Fein, the political party set up in 1905 to fight for independence, after discovering a collection of rousing pamphlets left behind at a remote country cottage.)
In 1914 her revolutionary career began in earnest when she joined the Irish Citizens Army. She became known for her leading role in gun-running missions, alongside Douglas Hyde (1860–1949), who would later become the first President of Ireland. During the Easter Rising of 1916 she manned barricades in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, engaging in gunfights with British soldiers.
After the Rising was put down, Markievicz, along with many of her fellow revolutionaries, was sentenced to death. However the court commuted her sentence to life in prison because she was a woman. In a withering comeback, she shot back from the dock, “I wish you had the decency to shoot me.”
In the end Markievicz served only a year in prison, including solitary confinement at the notorious Kilmainham Gaol, although she would later be jailed again for sedition. It was while serving a sentence in 1918 that she learned she had become the first woman elected to the British Parliament. She refused to take her seat and was later elected to the Irish Dáil.
Following the War of Independence, Markievicz was to achieve another political first for women, when she was appointed Minister for Labor in the new Irish government—the first woman in Europe to serve at cabinet level.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.