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How to explore Rosses Point and Strandhill without a car
Get out of the car and into the fresh air in Sligo.
Nicola BradyNicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes regularly for the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and Condé Nast Traveller, and has contributed to books on Dublin and Ireland for DK Eyewitness.
With the seaside village of Rosses Point to the north and surfer's paradise Strandhill to the west, Sligo has a slew of excellent beaches just a short hop from town. And it’s not just the shoreline that’s worth exploring – you can also climb one of Sligo’s distinctive peaks.

Whether you’re by the sea or up a mountain, the good news is that the whole region is easy to explore by bus.

Photo credit: @0donner

Hit the road for Rosses Point

The S2 bus goes from several stops in Sligo town to Rosses Point (20 mins, hourly; use a Leap card for a 30% discount on the fare). The scenic route takes you by the water and past some lovely thatched cottages along the way.

Get off at the Yeats Country Hotel stop, next to the County Sligo Golf Club (one of the best links courses in the country and home to the West of Ireland Championships). From here, you’ve got a great vantage point with fine views over the back of Coney Island and the privately owned Oyster Island, a narrow sliver of land with crumbling cottages, stone walls and a stumpy lighthouse at its end.

Keep strolling along Rosses Upper and in ten minutes you’ll reach the main beach, a curved bay of sand where there are almost always swimmers in the water, no matter what the weather is doing. There are three beaches at Rosses Point – this main one is known locally as the first beach, which on sunny days is always the busiest, as is the car park (another good reason to take the bus).

At the far end of the first beach, over a set of dunes, is the second beach, which is always quieter and more relaxed. Further still is the third beach, but it’s tricky to get to on foot so it’s not recommended.

Afterwards, head back to Rosses Upper road and walk the two minutes to Deadman’s Pier. Don’t let the name put you off – this tidal pool is a dream swimming spot, with stone steps leading into the water and a bit of shelter from the thick walls. It’s not immune to tides and currents though, so bear that in mind if you’re taking a dip.

Dead Man's Pier at Rosses Point in County Sligo on a sunny day.
Take a dip at Dead Man's Pier.

If you’re yet to be converted to cold water swimming, there’s something nearby that might just change your mind. The Hot Box has two outdoor saunas, both with full length windows overlooking the water, so you can gaze at the sea as you build up a sweat. And sweat you will – the wood fired saunas can reach temperatures of up to 90 degrees.

Cooling off is a cinch: you can get out as often as you like and plunge into their mini cold water pool, or do as the Nordics have done for centuries and dunk yourself into the seawater at the tidal pool, just a few steps away.

A view of the waterway from inside the Hot Box Sauna in Rosses Point in County Sligo.

Photo credit: @thehotboxsauna

Work up a sweat and enjoy the views at the Hot Box.

Where to eat in Rosses Point

Facing out over the water, the Driftwood has the feel of a stylish New England beach shack, with linen cushions on the wooden benches and rough whitewashed walls decorated in driftwood. Owner Paudie O'Brien has a pitmaster background so there are a lot of BBQ items on the menu, from pit-smoked chicken wings to charred chicken thigh burgers. They do an early bird menu, too.

A bowl of seafood linguine from Driftwood in Sligo.

Photo credit: @griffsgrub

Check out the amazing menu at Driftwood.

Austies Pub has been on the go for hundreds of years, with a bar in operation on this spot since the 17th century. The main bar has a salty sea dog vibe, with fishing nets and other nautical bits and bobs hanging from the ceilings. It’s a popular spot with locals, who tend to favour the main bar; otherwise, there’s seating in the conservatory and beer garden, where you can sit with an epic fish pie or some fiery chicken wings.

For a smaller bite, the Little Cottage Café is a cute coffee shop where you can get homemade scones and cakes, toasted sandwiches and salads, as well as iced coffees and cold drinks. They also have a hatch for ‘to go’ orders, especially on those nice sunny days when you can sit on the sand dunes looking out to sea.

Two people ordering from the hatch at the Little Cottage Café in Rosses Point in County Sligo.

Photo credit: @thelittlecottagecafe

Grab a coffee from the hatch at the Little Cottage Café.

Seaside and mountains in Strandhill

When you’re ready, hop back on the S2 bus, which goes directly from Rosses Point through Sligo and out to Strandhill (45 minutes, hourly). But don’t take it all the way to the sea – get off at the Dorrin's Strand stop, right by Dolly’s Cottage, a carefully-preserved 200-year-old thatched cottage that’s open during summer weekends.

Cross the road and you’ll be at the start of the trail up Knocknarea Mountain. Don’t let its 1,078 feet summit put you off – Queen Maeve’s Trail (2.4km, 1.5 – 2 hours) is easy to follow, leading you right to the top of the mountain via steps, paths and a wooden bog bridge at the end. That said, it’s still a steep ascent, so take your time and drink plenty of water.

A beach with Knocknarea Mountain in the background in County Sligo.
Conquer beautiful Knocknarea Mountain.

Even better, take regular stops at one of the info posts along the way, each with a QR code you can scan for more information about the mythology of the mountain and the local area. Most of these are conveniently positioned at the top of the steepest bits, so you can really study the story of Queen Maeve’s bull while covertly catching your breath!

When you get to the summit you’ll find Queen Maeve’s tomb, the giant stone cairn that gives the mountain its distinctive silhouette. While you cannot climb the cairn itself (it dates back to 3000 BC, after all), walking around its 600-foot base gives you a sense of its massive scale. That route you just climbed? The builders did it too, but they carried each of the stones, which in total weigh around 40,000 tonnes.

Unusually, the best views aren’t from the summit itself but just below, once you clear the flat top of the mountain and make your way back through the pine forest. On the way down, you can see the entire bay laid out before you, from the wispy curves of sand around Coney Island to the tail of Cullenamore reaching out into the sea.

The walk back down is a doddle, and the main village is a 20-minute walk from the trailhead. Strandhill Beach is one of the hottest surf spots in the country, but those gnarly waves (and riptides) mean you can’t swim there, even when it looks calm.

Strandhill Beach in County Sligo on a sunny day
Stroll on the soft sand at Strandhill Beach.

There are plenty of other things to keep you occupied, though. You’ll find several surf schools along the seafront where you can try your best to hang ten (or just stand up on a board). The woman-owned Rebelle Surf offers lessons for all levels, while the National Surf Centre, right on the beachfront, is home to three of Strandhill's four surf schools; it also has convenient changing rooms and a glass-fronted upstairs space for lessons and demonstrations.

If you fancy another stroll, walk along the sand dunes to the right of the seafront cannon and complete the Killaspugbrone Loop to see the remains of Killaspugbrone Church (7km, 1.5 hours). It’s a great spot to catch the sunset, and you can also swim in the peaceful waters of Nun’s Beach.

A person walking the Killaspugbrone Loop in County Sligo.
Catch the sunset on your walk of the Killaspugbrone Loop.

Where to eat in Strandhill

Strandhill definitely isn’t short on great places to eat. One of the newest on the block is Honestly Farm Kitchen, serving steaks and burgers from their own herd of Dexter cows, alongside Cashel Blue-loaded fries and halloumi fritter salads. The outdoor tables catch all the evening sun, and there’s a good range of organic and biodynamic wines, too.  

Just next door, Stoked is a tapas restaurant set above the Strand Bar (where you can also get great pizzas). The best seats are out at the back terrace overlooking the sea, where you can sit and tuck into Sligo oysters with a zingy green Thai sauce, prawns al ajillo sizzling in garlic oil, and black pudding croquettes.

A dish of prawn pil pil with two slices of bread.
Savour the sizzle of garlic prawns at Stoked.

Shells Café is the go-to spot for lunch or brunch, and the outdoor area is in the perfect position to watch the local surfers. You’ll find eggs Benedict and glazed cinnamon rolls earlier in the day, then hearty grub like marinated chicken burgers at lunchtime. Their homemade baked beans have a legion of loyal fans. 

There are a couple of food trucks set up permanently on the seafront, with Fire Dough Pizza slinging out black pudding and goat cheese pizza from a silver airstream, and Beach Buns serving fish and chips. 

For dessert, Mammy Johnston’s is a local institution and always jam packed on sunny days (and cloudy days too, in fairness). They serve plenty of flavours of homemade gelato, as well as coffees, crêpes and pastries. 

Three people browsing ice-cream flavours at Mammy Johnston's ice-cream parlour in Strandhill, County Sligo
Cool down with a delicious ice-cream from Mammy Johnston's.

And if you’re in town on a Sunday, Strandhill People’s Market takes over an old hangar at Sligo Airport, with stalls selling everything from homemade bread and gnocchi to fresh juices and poke bowls. 

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Coastal escapesMake memories in Enniscrone and Easkey without a car

Ready for a day at the beach? Well pack up your togs and a towel, because there are plenty to choose from in Sligo, and you don’t need a car to get to them. To the west of Sligo town, you’ll find the coastal village of Easkey and the wide beaches of Enniscrone, both known for their surf, swimming and cosy old pubs. It’s easy to tick off both on a day trip from Sligo, on a bus that snakes along the coast on its way to Ballina.

On the waterSpend a car-free day in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon

There’s plenty to see around Sligo, from the local stretches of untamed coastline to the mountains that frame the edge of the city. But if you’re basing yourself in Sligo town, it’s well worth putting time aside to explore the town itself, whether you want to amble around a gallery or soak up the local café scene. When you’re ready to explore further afield, hop the border into Leitrim to spend some time in the pretty market town of Carrick-on-Shannon, just a short train ride away.

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