Celebrating W.B. Yeats with a Trip to Sligo

Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo

W.B. Yeats had a deep fondness for Sligo. He spent his childhood holidays there. So closely is he linked to this wild and beautiful county in the west of Ireland that it’s a surprise to learn he was never actually a resident.  

Yeats was born in Dublin and his family emigrated to London when he was just a toddler of two years of age. But for almost fifteen years, he travelled back to Ireland each summer, to spend time with his grandfather in Sligo. He recalled this time in some of his poems written later in life. In his adult years, he loved to go to Sligo and found inspiration in the landscape and peace which surrounded him. Yeats’ famous poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree, written about an island situated in Lough Gill in Co. Sligo, sums up his passion for a region always close to his heart.

Likewise, the people of Sligo have taken W.B. Yeats to their hearts. The Yeats Society is located in an historic building on Douglas Hyde Bridge Road in Sligo Town. Each summer, The Yeats International Summer School is held in the building, attracting followers and students of the writer and poet from all over the world. This year, the 58th Summer School runs from 20th-29th July. For Yeats fans, this festival provides an opportunity to steep themselves in the works that have struck such a profound chord in the souls of many. 

W.B. Yeats

Running in conjunction with The Yeats International Summer School is the Tread Softly Festival. This festival celebrates the legacies of William Butler Yeats and his brother, the artist Jack B. Yeats. It also runs alongside the Sligo Jazz Festival, so there will be lots happening in the county in the next couple of weeks.

 

Tread Softly covers a wide range of arts from literary sessions and exhibitions to child friendly events and guided walks through Yeats County. You can find a full programme of events for Tread Softly on the website. Highlights include a performance of W.B Yeats, The Cat and The Moon at the Factory Performance Space in Sligo Town on 24th July -  an afternoon piece of theatre with lunch available beforehand. Also check out the Jack B. Yeats Lives at The Model, a dynamic and historic gallery space in Sligo Town. This exhibition charts the artistic development of Jack B. Yeats with pencil drawings, illustrations, sketches from early times and oilworks in his later years. The exhibition spans 70 years of work from this recognised and sought after artist.

 

WHAT TO EAT IN SLIGO

As with all things cultural, good food also provides present day links to times gone by. Farming and fishing practices which have been the survival skills of many in the west of Ireland are at the heart of the local cuisine in Sligo. There are many places to enjoy locally caught fish and seafood, sample the lamb raised on the mountains here or try the Irish heritage beef breeds which graze on grass regularly doused in the sea mists and rain of the Atlantic Ocean. 

At Hargadon’s Pub in Sligo Town, architectural heritage and great food go hand in glove under one roof. The building itself is a preserved masterpiece of old times, with little nooks and crannies and a cosy bar where locals have sat for many a year, to sip a pint and exchange the chat with the neighbours. Little booths make comfy seating to enjoy some of the  great local food served here. 

Hargadons, Sligo

Also in Sligo Town is Kate’s Kitchen, run by Kate O’Hara and her sisters Beth and Jane. You won’t miss the striking Independent Grocery and  Eatery with its beautiful contemporary dove grey frontage and large glass windows. For those on the hoof, there’s a great food “to go” menu with really good coffee. Anyone who has a bit more time can grab a high stool at the counter inside and enjoy the buzz while eating a lunch of homemade goodies. And if you fancy a picnic, a browse of the shelves and deli here will give you all you need to pack a basket full to the brim! 

Kate's Kitchen, Sligo

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