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Exterior of Strandhill

The Jewel in Sligo’s Crown

In this issue of Rude Health you can win a fabulous break in the North West. We find out more about stunning Strandhill

Nestled beneath the shadow of the Iron Queen who lies in state on the summit of Mount Knocknarea, Strandhill on the Coolera/Knocknarea peninsula is an area of unrivaled natural beauty and widely undiscovered attractions. While predominantly known as a top surfing destination, the area offers so much more.

At Strandhill surfers try to negotiate some of the most magnificent breaking waves in the world. There are four surf schools located in the village, all are more than willing to take you on the waves in groups of 2-32 with all equipment supplied.

Located in the heart of the peninsula is the stunning Strandhill Golf Course, one of the many courses designed by legendary golf course developer Eddie Hackett. With vast undulating sand dunes as a backdrop and the Atlantic on its side, this beautiful course is one for both the novice and the ardent enthusiast.

Sligo is reputed to be where some of the first settlers came to Ireland. The Carrowmore tombs, located only five minutes away by car have megalithic burial chambers that pre-date the pyramids and are among the oldest structures in the known world. The court cairn which is the grave of Queen Medb on Knocknarea overlooks the tombs of Carrowmore and is magnificently haunting when viewed on a crisp winter’s day and enchanting when experienced in the warm summer sun. The sight of watching the sun sink into Strandhill Bay with Knocknarea as its backdrop conjures up the mythical beauty that WB Yeats waxed lyrical about.

A woman having a seaweed bath

One of the main attractions in Strandhill village is the Voya Seaweed Baths where you can cleanse and relax your soul in the ocean water with a natural seaweed bath or indulge in a full body massage, hot stone massage or full body wrap to tantalise the senses. Voya now export their natural produce worldwide. Run by the Walton Family from Strandhill, this is a great story of one of Sligo’s own.

Strandhill offers many magnificent bars, restaurants and dining options including the Trá Bán, Shells Café, The Venue, The BellaVista and The Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant. The renowned Strand Bar, which celebrates its 100th birthday last year, and Tra Bán restaurant boast a fine mix of haute cuisine and traditional pub atmosphere. Shells Café and Little Shop located on the seafront was voted as the best casual dining experience in Connacht recently, and boasts a very chic and hip surf-café experience. Next door to Shells and Voya is Mama Johnston’s Ice Cream Parlour, a homemade ice-cream experience just perfect for those lazy summer days. The Venue Bar and Restaurant, located adjacent to the Strandhill Lodge and Suites, overlooks Strandhill Bay and offers diners an excellent choice a la carte menu while capturing the magnificent sunsets which are such a treat in Strandhill. The Venue, like the other bars in Strandhill, offers music nightly at weekends.

A photo of some food

For places to stay in Strandhill there is an accommodation type to suit any budget. The luxury 4 star Strandhill Lodge and Suites Boutique Hotel, an award-winning hotel located on the top road in Strandhill village, offers magnificent scenery, top class accommodation and a warm welcome to all guests. Although the premises has no bar or restaurant it has a charming breakfast room where guests can avail of a fresh and comprehensive continental breakfast. The 2013 winner of Tripadvisors No. 1 Small Hotel in Ireland and 15th in the world, it is a terrific place for an overnight stay in Strandhill. Next door is Cois Re Holiday Apartments which offers 4 star self catering accommodation to families and couples, and across the road is a self-catering hostel the Ocean Wave Lodge. Something to suit every budget.

In the lower part of the village near the seafront there is the Strandhill Lodge and Surf School Surf and Stay, a vibrant Hostel that has a great name as the surfers’ stop in Strandhill.

The Frommers Guide voted Ireland the top destination for 2011 and it also mentioned that horse trekking in the North West was among the top attractions. Within five minutes of Strandhill you can go on a horse trek along the wonderful coastline with the Markree or McGarry Riding Stables. You can also fish, shoot, take a tour, do a spot of deep sea fishing, kayaking or a host of other vibrant activities.

For the literary and folklore enthusiast the resting place of WB Yeats lies across the bay beneath Ben Bulben, but it is Knocknarea with its mythology and easy accessible terrain which attracts cyclists and hillwalking enthusiasts. The legendary stomping grounds of Cú Cullan, Fionn MacCool and the Tale of the Táin bo Cualigne are all interwoven into the fabric of this magnificent countryside.

A growing trend in tourism is the rise of looped walks and Strandhill has some terrific walking routes. The 4th Century church Killaspugbrone is a wonderful walk and takes in the breathtaking sights of Coney Island set in the backdrop to Ben. The walk around shelly valley and Culleenamore Beach is magnificent in the afternoon sun with the waves crashing against the shore and takes in Knocknarea and Ballysadare Bay. The walk up Knocknarea mountain via the Faery Glen is still a local favourite and ever more popular with visitors.

Serenity and beauty are in abundance on this gem of the north-west; with adventure and exploring during the day, fine restaurants in the evening and a great pint with a song at night, Strandhill on the Coolera Peninsula is surely Sligo’s jewel in the crown.