A fantastic walk for a weekend: Hiking Queen Maeve’s Trail in Sligo

So far in my 38 years of life, I haven’t discovered anything as peaceful as walking through the woods, looking up at the tree canopy, and watching the sun push through the leaves and illuminate the trail ahead of me.

And, if there is one thing that we can take away from the past 18 years of travelling together, both in Ireland and abroad, is that the joy isn’t gathered from a sheer number of places or countries that we have visited but by the experiences, we had in each place, and by people, we met along the way.

It was during the hike up to the top of Knocknarea on a warm summer night to see a sunset that I identified what makes me happy and what makes me-me. We may have stopped quite a lot on the way up to catch our breath and to take photos, but watching the fleeting sun, I suddenly realised that being in nature makes my heart full and my head clear.

I loved the effort of hiking, reaching the top of a mountain for rewarding views, and eating a healthy picnic in celebration.

Ever since that day, I discovered my passion for hiking and when beckoning of the mountains grow louder, we pack our adventure gear and head towards the Knocknarea Mountain, located within a short drive from our home.

Dolly’s Cottage located on Dorrin’s Strand, Larass, Strandhill

A Fantastic walk for a weekend: Hiking Queen Maeve’s Trail in Sligo

With all the uncertainty surrounding the world of travel in current times, more and more people are looking for a secure way to take a vacation. Don’t brush off an opportunity to explore Ireland, staying closer to home for a summer holiday means you can swap spending time in long security lines and airport terminals for a more enjoyable experience.

If you are looking for a memorable staycation spot, why not visit Sligo? If you feel swept up in a rush of life then a visit to Sligo, where you can hike Knocknarea mountain with Queen Maeve’s cairn located on its summit, can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around you. Having lived in Sligo for two years, we’ve always thought of Knocknarea as a small oasis of tranquility that provides hikers with the relaxation they need.

If you are interested in checking out one of the top trails in Sligo, then keep on reading. In this blog post, we are sharing everything you need to know about the hike. We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking adventures in Sligo and if you found this guide helpful, feel free to share it with your friends.

On the hike, look out for beautiful orchids.

Safety always first

Although many countries, Ireland including are easing on travel restrictions, the pandemic is far from over and that’s why it is very important, once you rush out the door, to follow the guidelines imposed by the government. Research rules and regulations of the city or a region you are traveling to. Being respectful of the health and safety measures during the pandemic crisis is of paramount importance. Don’t forget that your holiday spot is someone else’s home town, traveling at the moment is a privilege and we can’t do it at the expense of locals’ safety.

  • Pack enough alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it within easy to reach.
  • Make sure you wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.
  • Wear your mask and change it regularly
  • Avoid close contact with others

What to expect from the hike

Hiking Knocknarea is a memorable and inspiring experience like no other, and it’s well worth your time and effort as every meter of the path brings you closer to the mountain, magical moments, and incredible views. The trail includes over 500 wooden steps, so make sure it’s the right hike to suit your fitness level.

As you put one foot in front of the other again and again take time to notice your surroundings and every little detail, this way, the whole journey to the top will leave a lasting impression.

Once at the top, you’ll be greeted with fantastic views. Take your time revelling in the splendour before heading back down to the car park. Watch the waves rolling in and take in the panorama of Ben Bulben, Rosses Point, Coney Island and far away to the North, Slieve League cliffs.

Although its distinctive peak is a mere 327 metres, there are three different paths to reach its summit; each of them challenging enough to keep any hiker satisfied.

But the most fantastic aspect of Knocknarea,  according to Irish mythology and folklore, is the colossal cairn sitting at the top of it said to be the Queen Maeve, the Warrior Queen of Connaught, last resting place. It is said she’s buried standing in an upright position fully dressed in her battle gear.

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The hike is fairly steep in places. Don’t rush and take it at your own pace.

What to bring on the hike

Heading out for a walk, be it with friends, family or by yourself,  is a fantastic way to explore nature, but you always have to be prepared for changing weather, and you have to carry proper equipment.

As for any walking holiday, it’s advisable to pack lightly yet you need to be prepared for weather and activities.

There are a few essential things you need to bring along no matter how long or short the hike is. You can even make a list if necessary because you don’t want to realise, a mile or two into the walk that you’ve left your water bottle or phone behind.

  • Backpack | For a safe space to keep all your supplies, bring your backpack. A backpack should be comfortable and well-fitting with easy access to everything you need.
  • Hiking boots or shoes | Appropriate footwear with a good grip is essential for any hiking trip, no matter how big or small. If you have strong ankles and are in good shape, bring you trail running shoes. Otherwise, stick to hiking shoes.
  • Sun protection | Even when the weather is cloudy, sun protection is a vital part of any hiking adventure. Bring your sunglasses, SPF  lip balm, hat and sunscreen to protect your skin and had from the sun.
  • Rain jacket | Hiking in Ireland means you have to bring a waterproof jacket. Weather can always change within minutes, and there’s still a chance of being caught out in the rain.
  • Hydration | Plenty of water because staying hydrated while exercising is vital for your body. Water will keep your joints and muscles working correctly and keep you cool on a hot day.
  • Nutrition |Bring plenty of food such as energy bars, dried fruits, nuts or even a sandwich you can eat once you have reached the top.
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Hiking Knocknarea is a fantastic way to see the surrounding landscape.

Know before you go

The Queen Maeve’s Trail is pretty much straightforward hike. But nevertheless, before you start, familiarise yourself with the trail map, check the weather forecast, sunset times and dress accordingly. Ireland is known for unpredictable weather.

  • Stay on the trail | Always follow the market path and stay on the trail. It’s essential because humans can have a considerable impact on the soil, that’s full of water and nutrition and is used as “food” for various plants and microorganisms. When we walk on it, our body weight compresses the soil underneath our feet and thus reduces the amount of water and air it holds.
  • Don’t climb the cairn | It is good luck to carry a stone to the top of the mountain, and it’s bad luck to remove one. It is also forbidden to climb the cairn after all Knocknarea is a historical site and therefore should be respected and looked after, both by locals and visitors alike.
  • Leave no trace| Respect the environment you are exploring and follow the leave, no trace principles.  Always carry a bag with you to haul your litter and even someone else’s you see on a trail. From cigarette buts to empty water bottles – litter is ugly and bad for the environment.
  • Emergency | In the event of an emergency please call 999112 and ask for Mountain Rescue.
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Fantastic views of Knocknare as seen from the Killery Hill.

Quick facts about Queen Maeve’s trail

Trail Lenght: 2.4 kilometres out and back, Elevation Gain: 300 metres, Difficulty: Strenuous, Terrain: Pathways and mountain terrain, Location: 54.2703551161  8.5847854614

If you are arriving by car, you can leave it the car park of the Sligo Rugby Football Club and easily access the trailhead, located just across the road.  The trail is in excellent condition, and the beginning of it is wide enough for two people to walk hand in hand.

Level section quickly becomes steep stairway before you go through the gates and turn right onto a short and horizontal path. Here you can catch your breathe and enjoy the first views of the surrounding landscape while making your way to the viewpoint.

From the viewpoint, the path changes to grip-covered wooden steps that will bring you through a beautiful wooded area after which the trail becomes natural  – and can be muddy in wet weather conditions – all the way to the top of the mountain.

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There are numerous resting points along the way to catch your breath and take in the views.

Getting to the trailhead

The Queen Maeve Trail is located on Strandhill Road, right across the road from the Sligo Rugby Club. Next to it is the beautifully preserved 200-year-old thatched house known as Dolly’s Cottage and the trail can be easily reached from both  Strandhill and Sligo town.

  • By bus | If you don’t have a car, you can catch an early morning bus from Sligo to the Sligo Rugby Club. You can stock up on essential snacks and drinks at the nearby gas station before heading for the top. Keep in mind though, that the bus service only runs more or less once per hour.
  • Driving From Sligo | Head southwest on N4 toward Markievicz, turn right onto Lord Edward St/R292 and follow  R292 to the Rugby Club car park.
Taking in surrounding views while hiking Knocknarea, Sligo.

Things to do nearby – visit Strandhill village

After the hike, you can either choose to travel to Sligo or Strandhill, where you can relax and fuel yourself with a hearty meal. In Strandhill, you can pop in the beachfront pub Strand Bar where you can feast on a seafood chowder followed by ice cream at Mammy Johnson’s.

Strandhill, a lovely seaside village that shouldn’t be missed on your trip, can also be used as a base for hiking Knocknarea and for exploring County Sligo and its surroundings. There are a couple of fantastic hotels and B&Bs, a golf resort, a weekly market, plenty of award-winning cafes, and incredible surf.

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Incredible coastal views in beautiful Strandhill Town, Sligo.

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Now, over to you!

Have you ever been on a Queen Maeve Trail? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Sligo and have travel-related questions!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

72 thoughts on “A fantastic walk for a weekend: Hiking Queen Maeve’s Trail in Sligo

    1. Thanks so much, Francisco. If there’s one thing we can take away from the current situation that still rattles the world-is to learn to be grateful and count your blessings because tomorrow it might all be gone. We often focus on what we don’t have. And when we do focus on the things that we have, we zoom in on the problems, making them bigger and brighter. Exploring Sligo and learning more about Irish history made us happier than traveling to foreign lands. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You ser so right Aiva, its the same story of finding happiness…we will also be exploring our own País Valenciá this summer as we will not be journeying out of Spain. Again, a lovely post with so much great information. All the best! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  1. It looks fabulous, Aiva! Does your little one climb that with you? 🙂 🙂 Sometimes for me it’s not the going up but the coming back down that is difficult. I think it’s an age thing. Have a great week!

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    1. Hi, Jo and thanks so much! Ericeira always climbs with us whenever we go and even if we do not make it to the top,, after all, kids often move at a different pace than adults, it is still a fantastic experience. I think it’s important to teach kids to love being active outdoors. If our kids grow up with good role models and plentiful opportunities to get outside, they’ll learn to love it in their own way. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Thankfully, the rain has stopped and we can enjoy the outdoors again. Take care. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much, my friend. By now we all know that a walk in the outdoors is a healthy form of exercise. And did you know that doctors in Shetland are to start prescribing birdwatching, rambling, and beach walks in the Atlantic winds to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses for the first time? How amazing is that? Have a good day and thanks for reading our blog! Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful post and a truly gorgeous part of Ireland ( I lived in County Cavan for 25 years) I am with you about nature Aiva. I get my energy, not from people, but by being out in nature ( you may have guessed that by some of my posts! )

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    1. Thanks so much, Helen. I didn’t know you lived in the stunning lake-filled landscape of county Cavan for such a long time, and it reminds me that we must make a trip out there before the summer comes to an end. I’ve always wanted to see the Clough Oughter Castle as well as to explore Cavan Burren. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

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  3. Absolutely gorgeous pictures. Your photography impresses me more and more and it really emphasises your text which is always great. I’ve just been reading about the new half-hour film of the Armada which has been shot in Sligo and I’m looking forward to downloading it. Hope I shall see more of your lovely area.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Maris, how are you today? The new film about Armada sounds exciting! That must be about the story of a Spanish Armada Captain shipwrecked in Sligo in 1588! One of our favourite beaches in Sligo is Streedagh Beach and there’s even a monument on the way to it dedicated to the shipwreck, I must check that movie out. There’s also the Spanish Armada Interpretive and Visitor Centre near the beach, would be nice to visit that one too. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your lovely words. Take care. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much. We can see Knocknarea from our house and it’s one of our favorite places to explore. There are several trails leading to its top where the Queen is buried and due to its flat summit, you can easily spend the whole day taking in panoramic views. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. We are fortunate to have many beautiful hiking trails nearby. Due to the current situation, staycations are a new trend now and we are looking forward to checking all of our local walks. Thanks for reading our blog and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. Instead of bemoaning the things you can no see, celebrate the ones you can. Looks like a great trail with wonderful views. On my list for when I get back to Ireland. Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Allan! Yes, I could use a trip to Spain or Iceland for couple of weeks, but staying in Ireland does not mean that we cannot enjoy the fruits of travel and exploration. We have an endless amount of attractions in our own backyards and as we live within driving distances of world-class beaches, it would be shame to compline. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! The more we explore Sligo and Ireland, the more we realize that we already have everything we need right here. I hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  5. Oh wow, this just takes my breath away. What beauty you and your family have to enjoy. I love that you take your little girl with you. Nature is the best medicine both mentally and physically. Also think it is so cool that you look up the history of the areas you explore. I used to do that with my kids when we went on road trips.

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    1. Thanks so much! Nature is the best medicine and therapy, I have to agree on that! Being outdoors improves happiness and productivity and can be a great exercise too. We are very fortunate to live in a place with an abundance of forest and hiking trails. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Phase 4 of Ireland’s Roadmap for reopening society and business is due to commence on 20 July. We are both excited and terrified of what’s going to happen once people start traveling because there’s already been an increase in COVID cases due to international travel. Take care. Aiva xxx

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    1. Thank you very much, Maggie! It’s not very often that we get to the summit with 25 kg toddler, but Knocknarea and its trail seem to agree with Ericeira who can easily shoot fo the top in no time. Hoping to complete more challenging hikes this summer, although weather conditions don’t want to co-operate. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  6. Such a dreamy trail, Aiva! You’re really making me long to visit Ireland someday (of course, when it is safe)! All the pictures of the views are so beautiful, and ‘Dolly’s Cottage’ looks straight out of an Enid Blyton story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you get to visit Ireland one day, Arshia! I would love to show you around and you for sure would be amazed by all the traditional cottages and scenic views. I haven’t read any of Enid Blyton books, back in my childhood I was more fascinated with Scandinavian writers such as Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson who, in my humble opinion, wrote the best children’s adventure books. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva xxx

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  7. Such gorgeous photos!! I would love to visit Siglo, it looks like a dream. I’m hoping to do some fun “tourist” things in my own state during this summer, things that I’ve never done before! I also love the idea of going on an all-day hike. I’m already planning a route! Thanks for sharing. ❤

    Miles of smiles,
    Grace

    gracefulrags.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Grace. Ireland is our all-time favourite travel destination as we can go on incredible hikes and surf trips without breaking the bank. Our plan for this year is to stay close to home, with everything that’s going on in the world right now, I have no desire to hop on a plane. Maybe sometime next year, if it’s safe to do so. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. As the COVID-19 continues to ravage in 2020, our initial plan is to explore more of Ireland. Instead of longing for the good old days traveling freely, now is a great time to start looking inward and travel in our home country the way we would abroad. It will keep our wanderlust in check while we also play a part in ramping up the local economy which will need all the help it can get when this pandemic blows over. I hope all is well. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. We always try to visit mountains first thing in the morning 9( it can be challenging in summer months) or wait for sunset. It’s less crowded and we usually have the whole place for ourselves. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  8. I cannot tell you the number of times I looked at that mound en route to Donegal! This is definitely going on my staycation list! That’s a fabulous photo of the 3 of you – the background is stunning… what a great ad for the county. Hopefully weather will pick up a bit and you get to enjoy more such walks. XXXMarie

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    1. Thanks so much, Marie! I hope you get to visit Sligo and take in the views from the top of Knocknarea; they are some of the best in Ireland! Believe it or not, but a journalist from Irish Independent got in touch with us asking for a staycation ideas for their readers. Sure thing we had to say Sligo! I was delighted to be featured in their staycation magazine and see my face in the paper. Looks like weather is improving for this weekend, fingers crossed we can go hiking. Thanks for stopping by and take care 😊 Aiva

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    1. Hi, Pamela, and thanks for stopping by. We love hiking and are delighted to finally explore our favorite trails. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the pandemic crisis – the power of nature and being outdoors can heal many things. Have a good day. Aiva xxx

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      1. Wow, Cane Creek Canyon looks absolutely divine. You could easily spend days there exploring all the different trails without getting bored. So that means Colbert County, Alabama, is your home place?

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      2. Just over the border in Mississippi. Our property backs up to Tishomingo State Park. There’s a post about a recent canoe trip down Bear Creek we took – it runs through the Park.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Aiva, it’s good to see from your recent posts that you and your family are doing well. We’re certainly kindred spirits when it comes to the joy and peace of hiking. This trail looks wonderful! I’ll put it on my list for that future trip to Ireland my partner and I look forward to. Stay safe and well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, we are doing very well, all things considered. Disaster, pandemic, and war can destabilize everyday social arrangements and assumptions, and catalyze profound social change. Facing up to mortality prompts us to reevaluate our lives. and that’s why we are not letting COVID bring us down. We are enjoying local walks, learning to bake bread and we are taking each day as it comes. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading our blog. Sending you lots of virtual hugs from Ireland. Aiva xxx

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  10. Thank you for my virtual trip to Sligo, Aiva! Texans are banned from even visiting other states because our Covid numbers are so high. It has been too humid with a heat index of 100 degrees here…phew!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Kerry. I hope all is well with you, my friend. We are on the way to phase 4 of Ireland’s Roadmap for reopening society and business which is due to commence on 20 July. Non-essential travel is still forbidden outside of Ireland and we are happy to stay on the Emerald Island. There’s so much to see and do, plus we get to contribute to the local economy. Thanks for stopping by and take care. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So you will be opening up on my birthday. 🥳 We had great plans of travel to Idaho but will just enjoy our ducklings🥳 I chased some black vultures away from the ducks food yesterday and they grunted at me because like the Muscovy ducks they have no vocal cords. Hilarious!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. We love to spend time in the natural world, surrounded by the beauty of water, trees, and animals. There is true restorative power in feeling at one with the rawness of nature. Being forced to slow down and unplug. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, with everything that’s going on in the world right now it would be foolish to travel overseas. It’s time for staycations and local adventures. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you kindly, Martina. I’m, as always, glad to hear from you. We are dreaming of traveling, but for now, we have no option but to stay in Ireland. Fortunately, there’s plenty to keep us occupied. Are you guys planning on exploring more of the Uk this year? Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend. Aiva xxx

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    1. I know, same here. There are many ways how we can make travel more meaningful and you don’t have to fly across the world to achieve that. Connecting with nature and wildlife, traveling solo, and learning something new are just a few ways to achieve that. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. I hope all is well with you and your family. Aiva

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  11. What incredible views. This is the only traveling I will be doing this summer. Visiting places through blogs like yours. I look forward to the day when I can travel again. Keep the photos coming. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Ali! We look forward to the day we can travel freely but until then we are staying in Sligo and supporting local tourism and businesses. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva xxx

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    1. There are many amazing places we can escape the crowds in Ireland and Knocknarea is one of them. So fortunate to call this little town our home. Thanks for stopping by and reading our travel blog. Take care. Aiva

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  12. Wow, the views look absolutely gorgeous!! 😍 While I don’t know when I’ll be able to do this specific hike, I really want to check out hiking spots in my area! I’m pretty sure they won’t be as lovely but who knows! Thanks for sharing! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Juliette. I can actually see Knocknarea fro our house and seeing its distinctive shape always makes me long for long summer walks. So glad to live a short bike ride away from it. Exploring our backyards is the new norm now, who knows when we gonna be able to go overseas. Thanks for reading and happy exploring. Aiva

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  13. I’m with you Aiva on finding serenity, joy and inspiration from hiking. The hike you feature is just stunning and the lighting in your photos is amazing. There’s something very special about the view in the photo with the caption “The hike is fairly steep in places…”The ground cover and sky are captivating. Wish you many more great hikes this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Caroline, I am so glad to hear from you, I hope all is well. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, I don’t even wanna be anywhere else but Ireland. We have a beautiful coast, rolling hills, and plenty of soothing nature right ion our doorstep – so glad to call this place our home. We are seeing a slight increase in COVID Ces and apparently if we hit 100 COVID cases per day we’re going back to Phase 2. Fingers crossed, we don’t have to go down that road again. Thanks for stopping by and reading our travel blog. Sending you lots of virtual hugs from rainy Ireland. Aiva

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    1. You’ll find many beautiful and clean beaches while exploring Sligo and its surroundings. Having lived in such close proximity to the ocean has changed our lives forever. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  14. Wow, I’m ready to hop on a plane and go hiking in Ireland . . . oh wait, I can’t. Well as soon as I’m comfortable getting on a plane, and the borders open up, I’m there!. My mother and I toured the southern end of Ireland many years ago and it is just as beautiful as your pictures imply. Thanks for sharing your fun adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. We are very much enjoying and sharing our Irish adventures with everyone. Just like everyone else, we are staying close to home this summer but we are eager to travel internationally in 2021. The virus is being suppressed; the number of new infections, hospitalizations, and admissions to hospital intensive care units has all fallen since peaking in April but there is still a risk of a second wave. Nevertheless, seeing our family and friends in Latvia would be a dream come true. Fingers crossed, we can travel home next year. Thanks for reading and take care. Aiva

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    1. Hiking Knocknarea is a great way to spend a few hours. It’s a beautiful walk up a clearly marked path through the forest and out onto the open hilltop. I’m lucky enough to live nearby Knocknarea and can look up at it every day. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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