Already planning a trip to Strandhill, Co.Sligo or craving a weekend away and in need of some inspiration? See this as your cheat sheet to a guaranteed good time.
Located a 3 hour train journey from Dublin and about 2 hours from Galway, despite being just a tiny fraction of the lengthy Wild Atlantic Way there’s a lot to do in the equally charming and energetic coastal village of Strandhill.
It’s not hard to see why WB Yeats was so inspired by the Sligo landscape, but when you’re not staring in wonder at Strandhill’s sea views and awe-inspiring table mountains you can immerse yourself in surfing, seaweed baths, seafood, and more.
Read on for my guide to Strandhill*…
*Disclaimer: sightings of a member of Westlife are not guaranteed but highly probable.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK:
I tried desperately to avoid writing ‘I was stoked’ for my visit to Stoked but hey, after a ream of recommendations from locals I really was. Stoked is a seasonal restaurant open April to January located above the Strand bar. It’s run by two chefs who spend the rest of the year seeking out gastric inspiration in world renowned food destinations such as the Michelin star studded San Sebastian. The result is a menu that includes a fusion of dishes that you’re invited to share as a group. I can confirm, the Vegan Mezze plate is feast for the senses.
You won’t miss Shells seaside café and bakery on your visit to Strandhill, thanks to it’s bold blue colour scheme and wall art exclaiming ‘You, Me & the Sea.’ Set up by Dubliner Jane and South African chef Myles Lamberth in 2006, Shells has become both a foodie hub for the community and a hit with visitors who clamour for table at this very Instagrammable venue to sample their next level breakfasts, gourmet toasties, sustainably sourced fish and chips and more. Everything is baked in house too, from batch loaves, to zingy lemon squares and buttery scones. Right next door you’ll find their ‘Little Shop’ selling artisan food, jewellery, and more of their favourite things, as well copies of the two cookbooks the pair have written.
The Dunes was sold to us based on their reputation for legendary burgers and it did not disappoint – their ‘Mountain Burger’, made with Sligo beef, induced passionate exclamations of: “this is the best burger I’ve ever had”. Similarly feverish utterances were made about the vegan special of Korean Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower Tempura with sesame noodles, which rocked my plant-based food favoring tastebuds. Offering both a wide array of craft beer and traditional music nights, The Dunes manages to curate a vibe that’s somewhere between cosy traditional pub and cool bar (but not in a try hard hipster kind of way).
If it’s fresh seafood you’re after then The Venue comes highly recommended. Serving only the freshest catch, this traditional pub and restaurant is renowned for its Lissadell mussels, crab claws, and seafood chowder served with homemade French bread – you know, that kind of loaf that’s soft-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside and begs to be smothered in butter. For any members of your party not so enthusiastic about seafood the menu has lots more on offer including char-grilled steaks and vegetarian options.
Happiness is homemade, according the the sign outside sea-front ice cream parlour Mammy Johnston’s. All exclusively homemade, owner Neil Byrne’s serves genius gelato flavours like Raffaello, Peanut Butter & Jam, and, to transport you back to the summers of your childhood, Loopidly Loop. They excel at seasonal specials too, and have in the past scooped Guinness and Creme Egg flavours, and for St Patrick’s Day there was ‘Pots of Gold’, strewn with chunks of golden honeycomb. Can’t make it to Strandhill? Their boozy ‘Half Cut’ ice cream tub range is now available in Lidl.
WHAT TO SEE & DO:
Take a surf lesson to awaken the senses and make the most of Sligo’s waves – highly regarded on the world surf scene. We booked a lesson with Sligo Surf Experience. Surfers of all levels will be well looked after by experienced surfer and bodyboard champ Seamus McGoldrick, who goes by ‘Shambles’. Our party included one water-fearing, absolute beginner and an experienced surfer who regularly (no joke) dreams about catching waves; Shambles took me (the former) under his wing and gave Doug (the latter) insider tips and tricks to enhance his experience. If you’re hesitant to give surfing a go, do it. I had to be persuaded but I’m delighted I took the plunge – and I promise the wetsuit actually works!
Salt & Soul Yoga Studio
If like me you need a daily fix of yoga wherever you are in the world, and often plan your travel around it then Strandhill ticks this box thanks to Salt & Soul Yoga Studio. Run by a veritable ray of light Rachel, the wellness hub invites you ‘breathe, move and play’ in a gorgeous space. They frequently hosts international teachers too, the primary reason for Doug and my visit, and also host yoga retreats run in connection with the surf schools and Strandhill Lodge & Suites.
Voya Seaweed Baths
VOYA has become a luxury skincare essential in many people’s beauty repertoire, but the brand was born out of the successful revival of the Irish tradition of Seaweed Baths here in Strandhill. The VOYA Seaweed baths are just that, baths filled with piping hot water and freshly harvested seaweed. Each room (you can get single or double rooms) has a private steam room and one or two tubs. Steam to open your pores, then hop in a bath to soak up all the mineral goodness. Highly recommended post any of the physical activities on this list – your muscles will thank you for it.
The Strandhill People’s Market
Established and run by Rachel of Salt & Soul Yoga’s brother and father, The Strandhill People’s Market offers you a chance to deep dive into a smorgasbord of local produce and flavours, such as paella from La Cabana and locally roasted Carrow Coffee from Driftwood Coffee Cart. If you’re visiting around October your trip might also conincide Strandhill Food Festival, which also takes place at the market’s unique venue, a hanger at Sligo Airport.
Sligo Kayak Tours hosts guided kayak tours of the coastal estuaries and inland lakes in Strandhill and nearby. They have a really big emphasis on sustainable tourism too which means they keep group size to a maximum of six paddlers to minimise environmental impact on the local ecosystems. Less noise means you’ll get an authentic wildlife experience on your trip.
Go for a hike
As well as a stunning coastline Strandhill is surrounded by majestic mountains and woodlands and is at the centre of an ancient prehistoric ritual landscape, so there’s plenty to explore. There are 4 routes laid out here for you to take your pick from, whether you’re looking for a leisurely jaunt or something more testing.
Where to stay
We stayed in the 4 star Strandhill Lodge & Suites located on what the locals terms as the ‘top road’, a ten minute walk up the hill from the beach. It’s newly renovated and reasonably priced, plus our room had sea views and patio and garden access plus ample room for two people to do yoga – that’s how everyone measures room size right?
There are further accommodation here on gostrandhill.com.
How to get there
Strandhill is a less than a 3 hour drive from Dublin. You can also get a train or bus to direct to Sligo town or via Galway, and Strandhill is a 15 minute bus or car trip from the town.
If you are relying on public transport or flying renting a car is not essential but could be handy – if you don’t have a local contact who will generously ferry you here and there as we did.
For more on Strandhill visit gostrandhill.com.
Did I miss out on any of your favourite gems in Strandhill? Let me know in the comments below or drop me an email.