Set off for Enniscrone
The 458 bus leaves from Sligo Bus Station and goes to Enniscrone by way of Easkey (one hour, every two hours). It’s a fairly scenic drive, too – the route skirts alongside the Ox Mountain range, with its rust coloured slopes rising in bulbous globes to the left of the road.
When you land in Enniscrone, walk along the Cliff Road for about 10 minutes until you reach the Enniscrone Pier, a sheltered spot that has become something of a swimmer’s hub in recent years, with public toilets, hooks for the all-important dry robes and two coffee trucks, The Sea Bean and Coffee Bay, on hand to warm you up after a dip.
It’s also the home of Harbour SUP, a father-daughter business specialising in stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). You can hire a board and go at it yourself, or take a guided tour of the bay – instructor Mia will get you out on the water and paddling in a straight line in no time at all. If you get lucky, you might even see the pod of local dolphins, who like to play between the sailing boats and swim around the SUP boards.
As you paddle along the shoreline, you’ll see the tidal pool carved into the rock around the old Cliff Baths, a little white building that looks like a castle. They’ve been out of action for years, but the nearby Kilcullen Seaweed Baths have been on the go since 1912. Now run by the fifth generation of the same family, the baths are a throwback to a bygone era, with the original oversized porcelain tubs and solid brass taps in each room.
If you’ve never tried them, the process is straightforward: baths are filled with hot seawater and loads of freshly harvested seaweed. The result is deeply relaxing and will leave you with glowing skin and soothed muscles. Oh, and the old school steam chambers are a bit of fun, the wooden door closing over your body but leaving your head poking out the top as the steam pours in.
If you feel like taking a stroll along the coast, the two-kilometre Enniscrone Coastal Loop Walk is an easy route that follows the curve of the shore along to Storm Beach, a pebbly spot with sheets of overlapping grey stone. The loop cuts back through the local houses, but it’s more enjoyable to turn around and follow the same path back along the sea.
Back at the main Enniscrone Beach, you’ll find a wide sandy bay backed by dunes. Depending on the tide, it’s either a great spot for surfing or a calm bay for swimming. But whatever the water is doing, it makes for a lovely beach walk.
Where to eat in Enniscrone
Just off the main beach by the lifeguard tower, Offshore Coffee is a food truck selling a variety of hot (and cold) drinks as well as their signature smoothie bowls. Choose from a frozen açaí or mango base, then top it up with granola, berries, mixed seeds or bananas, as well as a generous spoonful of Harry’s peanut butter. It’s as virtuous as it is Instagram-friendly.
For classic pub grub after a day on the beach, the Pilot Bar is on the main drag by the Cliff Road, serving comfort food like chicken wings, steak sandwiches and burgers – as well as some vegan options, too. There’s also a wooden pizza truck outside, where you can get a pizza to eat down on the beach.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more elegant, the Waterfront Restaurant by the pier serves beautifully made dishes like mussels with local samphire and dillisk, or coconut chilli prawns. In fine weather you can dine at the outdoor tables, a lovely spot to catch a sunset over a glass of wine.
Stop in Easkey on the way back
The 458 bus back to Sligo stops in the lovely seaside village of Easkey, about 15 minutes away. To reach the sea, cross the Easkey Bridge and walk down the steps to the river, where a pathway leads all the way to the ocean’s edge, about a kilometre away. As you reach Easky Pier, on your left is the ruins of Roslee Castle, a 63-foot tower built in 1207 that once served as the stronghold of the O’Dowd clan. You can climb to the top of the tower – nicknamed ‘Sailor’s Bed’ – from which there are fine views of the surrounding coastline.
The castle marks the start of a pleasant coastal walk, where you can follow the quiet road out along the shoreline. Like the beaches of Enniscrone, the shoreline here is particularly striking, especially at low tide when you can see the flat circles of rock usually covered by the sea. There’s another reason to visit at low tide though, and that’s Poll Gorm.
In 1966, four local men built a back wall on the beach to create a natural saltwater pool, which is invisible in high tide but a peaceful swimming spot when the waters recede. With a shallow end towards the wall, it’s been a space where local kids have learned to swim for decades and is still a nice place for a dip. Just be careful of the seaweed, which can make the rocks a little slippery.
The walk back to Easkey takes about 25 minutes, back along the same coastal path. If you have a bit of time before the bus back to Sligo, call into the Castle Inn for a pint – there’s a beer garden out the back and the bus stop is right by the front door.
Where to eat in Easkey
Right in the middle of the village by the bus stop is Pudding Row, a grocer that sells homemade bagels filled with smoked salmon and an epic roasted pear, bacon and cheddar sandwich. They also sell artisan fudge, pastries and kombucha, so you can prep a picnic for your walk out to the ocean or get a filling bite when you return.