President’s Blog – A Hidden Gem
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said last week that St. Patrick’s Day traditionally means the start of the tourism season here in Ireland. It was against this background that I was pleased to receive last Friday from Sligo Tourism a copy of their new 2019 brochure. Spread across eight colourful glossy pages are eye catching photographic backdrops of Sligo as well as a comprehensive listing of some 25 arts and cultural events starting in early May and extending to November for the International Choral Festival. As I have mentioned previously, Tourism is one of the key pillars for Sligo Chamber and our Vision is by 2040, Sligo and the North West will attract 2 million visitors annually to enjoy our adventure, culture and food experiences here in the northern part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Apart from the quality of the brochure and the impressive and varied listing of events, what I was really drawn to was the extent of the coverage given to Sligo’s archaeological and mythological heritage and to the reference of there being over 5,000 archaeological sites in the county. Inspired by this and by the invitation from Sligo Tourism “to take a journey back through time to walk in the footsteps of Iron Age communities”, I set off early on St. Patrick’s Day with my son and archaeological student CJ, to explore some of Sligo’s ancient past, a past pre-dating even St. Patrick.
Leaving for another day the more well known and recognised archaeological sites of Carrowkeel, Creevykeel, Knocknarea and Carrowmore, we journeyed west from Ballisodare in search of Skibbolecorragh, an ancient ring fort situated directly on the Sligo coastline. Leaving the N59 after Beltra, we headed in the direction of the coast searching for the townland of Derkmore. Kindly assisted by the timely and surprising presence of a signpost, we turned right and headed directly towards the coast passing Derkmore reaching the sea at Derkbeg at the site of the splendidly maintained old Coastguard Station building and boathouse. Having travelled barely 20 kilometres from Sligo, we parked up to continue our journey on foot across the headland along a hidden yet discernible path over stiles and fences all the while being guided by the mounded ringfort in the distance, its presence growing ever larger drawing us ever closer until finally we reached our destination.
Situated directly above sea cliffs, this large, circular ringfort did not disappoint. Extending to a protective height of almost 8 metres on the landside, a large portion of the seaward side is occupied by a naturally occurring sea inlet known as “The Derk Hole”. Perched high above the sea, we could only marvel at the choice of this ancient location at Skibbolecorragh given the panoramic view of Sligo Bay and the level of protection afforded by the high rising cliffs, a surrounding trench and the elevated ringfort itself. Today, the ringfort is guarded by a large and vocal raven, who you could easily imagine carrying notes “Game of Thrones” style to the other ancient sites across the county. For those with ornithological interests, the raven’s nest is clearly visible located halfway down the sea facing cliff, sheltered from the wind and completely inaccessible to all other than the flying variety.
So that was it. Steps retraced back to the car and the short journey back to Sligo. Enriched and fulfilled at experiencing one of Sligo’s less known archaeological sites. Skibbolecorragh, a truly hidden gem. Thanks to Sligo Tourism for their new 2019 Brochure and for the inspiration. Thanks also to “voll.ie” for the awesome aerial photograph of Skilbbolecorragh posted on their website on Saturday.
Until next time.
Life is for living.
Life is Sligo.