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Driving Ireland’s West Coast

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Photo: Jessica Schwartzberg

Day 2: Dunkineely to Sligo (52 miles)

Before heading for Sligo, I spend the morning exploring St. John’s Point, where Castle Murray House is located. I drive down the peninsula past new farm buildings, vacation homes, and B&B’s, then continue on foot up a narrow track between rocky pastures. A mile’s walk takes me out to the point, where the lighting effects—clouds, sun, sea, mist, rocks, hillsides—are positively Turneresque. It’s just me and the cows—and two rainbows before lunchtime.

After stops in Donegal town (for some sweater shopping) and under Ben Bulben (to pay respects at the grave of W. B. Yeats), I arrive in Sligo, a destination enjoying a moment of perfect equipoise, deftly balancing the virtues of the historic provincial town with the excitement of growth. The striking Glasshouse Hotel, which opened in 2007, sits gracefully alongside the River Garavogue, surrounded by 18th- and 19th-century buildings. On a Wednesday evening I find two traditional music sessions: one at McGarrigles Pub on O’Connell Street; the other in the front window of the long, narrow, jam-packed Shoot the Crows, on Market Cross. The young musicians are quite good, and many of the tunes are authentic County Sligo standbys, by turns hard-driving and lilting.

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