A fantastic Walk of The Weekend: the Killaspugbrone Loop walk in sligo

The forecast called for heavy rain, but the skies blew otherwise and gave us an unexpected display of constantly changing lights and colours. There were no people on the looping trail, just a few donkeys silently grazing away in the grassy field overlooking an endlessly choppy bay. And that’s where the magic sometimes exists; in the unforeseen and dynamic expanse of natural forces.

Over the years we have travelled to a quite lot of different countries, but Ireland has always felt like magic to me. There’s a powerful energy in its soil and spending yet another fun-filled weekend exploring our home base Sligo and going on Killaspugbrone Loop walk completely in tune with nature’s cycles, and rhythms was a great way to enjoy one of lives simple pleasures.

The sun was already nearing the horizon as we walked through the dunes back to our campervan, prompting us to increase our walking pace. Buckling up for a drive back home and catching the last glimpse of it, we were reminded why we love calling Sligo our home.

Spending time among the trees, wildlife, lakes, and ocean reminds us that life is much better when we slow down, that quiet time is essential, that less is more and that life’s greatest gifts often are free and accessible to us all.

View the lush landscapes of Sligo and be awed by the beautiful coast and Benbulben mountain.
View the lush landscapes of Sligo and be awed by the beautiful coast and Benbulben mountain.

What to expect from the Killaspugbrone Loop Walk

Once you decide to follow a network of walking trails and discover a magnificent Sligo via the route that takes walkers on a fantastic loop walk, you’ll be in for a treat.

In short, the trail waves past the constantly shifting ocean shores then continues around the Sligo Airport run-way, where if you are lucky with timing can see the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter take off, and then further onto Killaspugbrone Church ruins.

From the church and adjoined graveyard, the path brings you to another white sand beach before you traverse trough a lovely wooded area and then crosses the other end of Sligo Airport runway. From here the route will lead you on the main Sligo – Strandhill road and on your way to the finish point,  you’ll get to walk past Knocknarea and see Dolly’s Cottage.

Just follow the purple arrow

Getting to the trailhead

The trail starts and ends in Strandhill town, located 8 kilometres from Sligo, 45 minuted from Knock Airport o 2,5 hours drive from Dublin. If you are arriving by car, there are plenty, free of charge parking spaces right on the promenade in the recently redesigned car park. 

If the weather is good and sunny, or if it’s a weekend, expect to wait for free space; Strandhill has become a quite popular seaside town in recent years attracting big tourist crowds. You can also leave your car further up on Shore Road.

Upon leaving the promenade, where the cannon is located, turn right and walk past the surf shop towards the Strandhill caravan park. Stay on the path waving trough the dunes and follow the marked trail.

If you don’t have time to walk the whole length of the walk, you could leave your car at the petrol station located on Strandhill road near Dolly’s Cottage and walk to the beach through the back roads.

Just another day exploring County Sligo.

Quick facts about the trail

The trail is narrow and tangled in places; the scenery comes with the touch of wild and we would highly recommend it if you haven’t done it already because no other trail in Sligo is more varied than the Killaspugbrone Loop Walk. There are wide-open spaces, unforgettable views of Benbulben mountain, white sandy beaches, and a forest scattered with large pinecones, prompting walkers to stop every hundred meters from taking delight in natural wonders.

Waymarking | Killaspugbrone Loop walk is marked with purple arrows, and there are plenty of posts to safely guide you through from the starting point to the end.

Difficulty | With 6.8 km in length, the trail is considered moderate in difficulty. It covers a variety of walking terrain from forest trail and country roads to the beach and main road.

The Trail | One part oft he trail goes along the main road and doesn’t offer much scenery. If you walk late in the evening, it’s a good idea to wear a high visibility vest for your safety. It takes around 20 minutes to reach Strandhill from From Topaz service station.

Ireland features an impressive amount of church ruins, many of them located in stunning locations.
Ireland features an impressive amount of church ruins, many of them located in stunning locations.

Highlights of the Killaspugbrone walk

Ireland is old, and due to its long history everywhere you go you’ll find ruins of hundred years old monasteries, you’ll stumble upon crumbling cottages and historic castles. On our travels around Ireland, we’ve seen a great deal of past human settlements that have long outlived their primary inhabitants.  Killaspugbrone walk is one that you don’t want to miss if you are fascinated by history.

Killaspugbrone Church

Visiting grounds of an abandoned church that’s scattered with moss-laden sunken headstones is an unforgettable experience. Founded by Saint Patrick in the fifth century, the ruin of an early Christian Church is a highlight of the walk. The deserted graveyard, a place that has known grieving,  is said to contain 700 graves many of which were stacked. Thady Higgins was the last man to be buried in the graveyard that was used right up until 1961.

Beautiful beaches

If you are anything like us, ocean-loving folks, you are in the right place. The beach looks spectacular on a sunny day but comes sunset, and you can enjoy an incredible array of colours.  Leave your bathing suit for that next trip to southern Spain (unless you love to take a dip), grab your camera instead and enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches. Forget about the constant blowings of the wind, pay attention to beautiful lines and cracks in the sand when low tide occurs.

Sligo Airport

On the walk, you’ll pass by Sligo Airport which is home to Irish Coast Guard – Search & Rescue helicopter, operating since 2004. If you are lucky, you might even see and hear the aircraft, maintained by a team of engineers, and operated by the crew of four. The helicopter is used to rescue people from remote areas of the northwest. If you are in trouble or spot someone else needing help at sea or a mountain, always dial 112/999 and ask for Coast Guard.

Irish Coast Guard aircraft is an impressive machine to see and hear.

What to bring on the walk

If you plan on venturing into more rugged parts of Ireland on your vacation, and you should, make sure you pack a few essentials for a safe and comfortable journey. What to bring on the walk will depend on the time of the year and weather conditions, which you always need to check before you head out into the wilderness. Remember it rains a lot in Ireland and getting wet on a trail, no matter how big or small is no joke.

Footwear | Appropriate footwear is one of the most important items you can bring along. On a sunny summer day you can get by with trainers, but in a wet and windy autumn day, you require waterproof boots with a good grip. Don’t forget to wear good socks that will keep your feet dry. Cotton holds moisture, and to prevent blisters; you need socks that are made from sweat-wicking fabric.

Layered clothing | Layered clothing, a tried and true strategy, is your best defence against changeable Irish weather. It lest you regulate comfort by taking layer on and off. You don’t always have to wear a base, middle, and outer layer, but it’s a good idea to have them with you.

Hydration | When we are exercising our bodies need plenty of water to function correctly. Bring a reusable water bottle to keep you going.

Miscellaneous | Depending on the weather and time of the year, you can also bring sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, gloves, hiking poles.

Fantastic views across the the ocean.

Things to do nearby – visit Coney Island

If your time is right with low tide, you can spend a few hours exploring Coney Island. It’s one of Ireland’s islands that once the tide is out, can be reached entirely on foot. Or, if you prefer to drive, you can also reach Cooney Island with your car. Setting foot on the island and escaping the crowded Stradhill beaches makes for a memorable experience.

Getting there | To reach the island, that’s no longer inhabited with permanent residents, make your way back to the main road, turn left towards Sligo Town and look out for a sign for the island.

Once you arrive at the ocean shores, you’ll see 14 stone pillars that will lead you through the dry seabed to the island. Once again, you can either drive across or leave your car behind and continue on foot. The distance from the mainland is around 2.5 kilometres, and there are two sandy beaches, a pier, and a pub who’s door is said to come from a shipwreck.

Things to know | Due to the intensity of tides, it’s worth doing a little planning before. All you have to do is text the word Coney to 53600 (from Republic of Ireland mobiles) or 81400 (from NI/UK mobiles)

Depending on how much time you’ve got or where you are staying, once you are back in Strandhill, pleased to have accomplished the whole loop, you can easily spend the night in one of the hotels and try at least one traditional dish. The majority of recipes are seafood-based, and it is easy to see why. With Strandhill having the Atlantic ocean at its foot, the fish is always super fresh. Cooked with different spices and served with vegetables, it is a must when visiting the town.

One of the fourteen stone pillars leading to the island.

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Now, over to you!

Have you ever been on Killaspugbrone walk? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Killaspugbrone or 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

69 thoughts on “A fantastic Walk of The Weekend: the Killaspugbrone Loop walk in sligo

  1. As I looked in the Reader this morning I remembered that I meant to include one of your previous walks in my round up today. This one looks very beautiful too, so I’ve popped it in. 🙂 🙂 Have a good week, Aiva!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for including our walk in your roundup, Jo! When we think about traveling, we tend to think about jetting off to an exotic sun-drenched coastline or exploring a new city hand in hand with Google Translate. I believe travelling doesn’t always have to be an extravagant affair. and we can always find fun things to do in our backyard. Thanks for reading our travel blog and have a lovely evening. Aiva.

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  2. This looks like a wonderful place to walk – such stunning scenery. I love the second shot with the gorgeous beach, and Benbulben mountain reminds me very much of Cape Town’s Table Mountain 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much. There are many amazing walks in Sligo but Killaspugbrone Loop walk is one of our favourites due to the coastal scenery. I always thought there are similarities between the two mountains too! I would love to go to South Africa one day to catch a few waves at Jeffreys Bay! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  3. Looks like a great walk, as always Aiva. If travel ever returns, we are going to need to spend more time in Ireland. Have a great week and thanks for sharing your beautiful surroundings. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Killaspugbrone Loop walk is a great walk, Allan and you can easily spend the whole day exploring beaches, forests, and little inlets along the way. Would love to go swimming next time if the weather is sunny! Thanks for reading our blog and have a lovely day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much! The scenery was one of the reasons why we wanted to move to Sligo in the first place and it was one of the best decisions we’ve made. Can’t wait to hit hiking trails again. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day Aiva

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  4. What a gorgeous place. I love the peaceful quality of your pictures and especially the moss covered church. The walk out to Coney Island also looks like a lot of fun, but 2 1/2 km, you’re right, you better research first! Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Maggie. If there’s one thing we learned once we moved to Sligo – we can still explore and travel by staying at home. So often we think that to be living our best life we should be filling up our passports with visas and stamps in foreign countries – how many people can say that they have truly explored their home town? With everything that’s going on in the world right now, staycations and slow travel is fast becoming the new norm and we are super happy to jump on the wagon. Thanks for reading and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely picture of your daughter, happiness in a smile.
    You have made Sligo look really beautiful and I am sure it is, although when I visited it last – oh, about 25 ears ago – I never managed to see such beauty. Mind you, it did rain every day and my husband wasn’t good with rain so things were a bit tetchy! Your photographs are wonderful and thank you so much for sharing these walks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Maris. Having lived in Ireland for nearly two decades, we’ve seen our fair share of rainy days, canceled plans, and drenched clothing. It can be quite dreadful in the wintertime to the point where we can’t even leave the house and that’s how we learned to appreciate those rare sunny days. Thanks so much for the lovely compliments and have a lovely day. Aiva

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    1. We are grateful for having such incredible places just a few kilometers away from our house. Ireland boasts an impressive collection of religious sites in ruin and it’s quite amazing to see them in person. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  6. These photos are so beautiful!! This sounds like an amazing walk. It’s so cool that Ireland has old ruins everywhere. When my brother and I walked the Camino de Santiago last summer, one of our favorite things was stumbling across old Roman ruins! The graveyard also looks like such a treasure in this walk. Thank you for sharing!

    Miles of smiles,
    Grace

    gracefulrags.com

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    1. There are plenty of eerie cemeteries in Ireland, with the Glasnevin Cemetery and Glendalough Monastic Site among the most famous, and very often I like to think about what kind of lives people who are buried there lived. Thanks for stopping by, Grace and have a lovely day. Aiva

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  7. While we all might need to stay close to our homes these days for safety reasons, you show perfectly how wonderful it is to explore and have adventures in your own backyard! Loved your post as always and can’t wait to someday get back to Ireland.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Living in such uncertain times, we still have the power to influence what’s going to happen to us next. As much as we would love nothing more than going on an adventure around Scotland or Iceland, we don’t mind sacrificing one summer holiday for nations’ health and safety. Fortunately, there are many amazing places to visit in Ireland and I can’t wait to explore more of it. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. I loved wandering around old graveyards when I used to live in Edinburgh and occasionally do the same in Ireland. I love seeing and capturing many different examples of the Celtic crosses. Thanks for stopping by, I hope all is well. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Another beautiful walk, Aiva! Your pictures really make the place seem so magical, and the skies are breathtaking! Sounds like such a fun day of exploring. You really remind me that there is never a dearth of beautiful places one can visit that are close to home!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Slow travel is not only about adopting an unhurried pace during our trips, but it’s a mindset that can transform the way we connect to a new place. It’s our favourite way to explore Ireland, the longer we stay in one place the better the experience. We dedicated full day to walking Killaspugbrone Loop walk and it turned out to be one of the most memorable day trips ever. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. You would love exploring Sligo, its surrounding landscape, and beautiful beaches. But in order to protect ourselves and others from coronavirus, we have no choice but to stay close to home. Maybe, next year we can start traveling again. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Yes, Marie, we had a perfect day for our little adventure and it made such a big difference. We had a picnic on one of the beaches, watched waves rolling in, and all in all, had lots of fun exploring our backyard. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. It’s finally sunny in Sligo. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You are never too far from nature in Sligo. That’s why we love where we live and couldn’t be happier with everything that’s right on our doorstep. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  9. There are so many lovely places in Ireland, for sure. I won’t tell my husband, as he knows already😍
    One can easily find her peace in those places. Thank you for the walk, and have a lovely day!
    Christie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Christie. Ireland is beautiful at any time of the yare and we can’t wait to hit the road next Monday to explore its national parks. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, we have no option of going abroad anyway. As we travel with a campervan, we can easily avoid touristy places and big crowds of people. Can’t wait! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful place that is Aiva and a beautiful article you’ve written to entice us all to a visit. Lovely lovely photos! I am glad to see that you three are getting out and about in your gorgeous neck of the woods and I wish you a smashing Thursday, middle of the week!
    Cheers my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Francisco. Even after two years of exploring Sligo, we are still in awe of everything there is to see and do. We are finally going on a long-awaited family adventure with our campervan next Monday and as we haven’t been anywhere for nearly a year, we look forward to spending some quality time together. I hope that the sun is shining in Valencia and you are making most of every day. Even with the current chaos that’s sweeping across the globe, there are plenty of things we can still be thankful for; weekends, good friends, love, art, and books including. Have a lovely evening. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. We love staying in one spot for an extended period of time and seeing what it looks like during the sunset and sunrise hours. By now we know Sligo inside and out because of all of the time we have had to explore. Lots of people arrive for only a few days which makes it impossible to see everything. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you kindly. It’s one of our favourite places to explore close to home because it offers such varied scenery. The beach is perfect for swimming and the forest provides shelter for when it’s raining. I hope all is well. Take care. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much, Juliette. There’s something very satisfying about walking through the dunes on a sunny summer day all while taking in the views across the bay. No place I will rather be during these crazy times than Sligo. Thanks for stopping by and take care. I hope all is well. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Living so close to such spectacular sights is one of the reasons that kept us going during the pandemic times. Being out in the nature surrounded by the ocean and all sorts of living species kept me sane. I hope you had a lovely day at the beach, chilling in the tent and listening to the crashing waves is a fantastic way to unwind. Take care. I hope all is well. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Martina. The landscape surrounding Sligo is very picturesque and even after two and a half years exploring our backyard, we are still in awe! I hope all is well. Hard to believe we are still not allowed to travel around the world, but there’s not much we can do about it now. We can’t stop the virus, but together, we can reduce the impact it has on our families and communities, our health service and our day to day lives. Take care and thanks for stopping by. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much, Caroline. I love exploring and capturing dunes in Ireland. There’s no shortage of such sights as of the 6,500 km of coast, some 750 km are lined with towering sand-dunes. Ireland’s dunes, often 5,000 years old or more, are generally well-anchored with vegetation – marram grass, most importantly, with its deep web of roots. Thanks for stopping by and reading our travel blog. I hope all is well. Aiva

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  11. I love the shots of the gravestone with the Celtic Cross looking across to the cliff. When I think back to Sligo, I always think of the gorgeous cliffs rising up from the coast. Hope you have a lovely weekend together. It is my aunt in County Monaghan’s 91st birthday today. Usually she spends it with family but not this year but we had a lovely chat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Kerry. I love visiting old Irish graveyards to see the Celtic crosses. It’s quite fascinating that the oldest “high” stone crosses still standing in Ireland date from the 8th century to the 12th century. If there’s one good thing that came out of living in the lockdown – it provided us with an opportunity to learn more about Sligo, Irish traditions, and the way of life here on the Emerald Isle. Even after 20 years on the island, I am still very much in awe by everything I get to learn. Happy Birthday to your aunt, I wish her abundant happiness and love. Take care. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a great silver lining, Aiva, to learn more about our immediate vicinity during the Pandemic. In North East Scotland we lived near an area of coastal cliffs and there was a cemetery at the top with Crusaders in it. Love to you.K x

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. We love this particular walk very much; the views are great, you get to see the donkeys along the way and it makes for a fantastic workout too. Have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you! There are so many new places and countries that I want to visit once it’s safe to travel too! I hope you get to explore Ireland one day, it’s a truly incredible country. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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