The northwest region of Ireland, along with its accompanying lakelands, offers a little something for everyone, from surfers taking on the North Atlantic’s powerful waves in County Sligo, to the dramatic scenery of County Donegal, and the tranquil nature of attractions in Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan.

County Sligo

County Sligo is well known for its association with the poet William Butler Yeats.
Yeats's Grave in Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo. Photo: Failte Ireland.

Fans can visit his final resting place at the Drumcliffe cemetery, just north of Sligo town, or visit Lissadell House, where Yeats was a frequent visitor.

The Greek Revival-style structure, located on the shores of the Magherow Peninsula in North Sligo, was built betweem 1830 and 1835.

It is now privately owned but is open for guided tours during the summer months.
The view from the top of Benbulben in County Sligo. Photo: Gareth Wray Photography.

The county's other attractions include the unique tabletop mountain, Benbulben, the climbable Knocknarea, where the mythical Queen Maeve is said to be buried.

Sligo is also known for its rich archaeological attractions, among them the Carrowkeel megalithic site, which experts say is one of the most impressive Neolithic ritual sites in Europe consisting of passage tombs from 3,200 to 2,400 BC.

Some of these are featured in a blog post about suggested activities that you can do in Sligo over the course of a week.
The old mill at the base of the Gleniff Horseshoe, Co. Sligo, located in the northwest of Ireland. Photo: Gareth Wray.

There are several out-of-the-way spots in Sligo, too.

They include the Gleniff Horseshoe, otherwise known as the Benwisken Trail, a 10-km (6 miles) walk along quiet country roads with spectacular views of the Dartry Mountains, as well the Keesh Caves.

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County Donegal

Glenveagh National Park in Co. Donegal adequately captures the beauty of this county in the northwest of Ireland, which is part of Ulster.
The beautiful Glenveagh Castle in Co. Donegal. Photo: John Heaney.

At the center of the park is Glenveagh Castle, a late 19th century mansion built as a hunting lodge by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator.

The park also includes several walking trails where visitors can take in the Derryveagh Mountains, the “Poisoned Glen” and other parts of the Errigal mountain range.

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Slieve League in Co. Donegal. Photo: Paul Lindsay, Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland

The Slieve League Cliffs is a Donegal landmark that shouldn't be missed. Higher than the Cliffs of Moher, they stand close to 2,000 feet above the ocean, making them the second-highest highest cliffs in Europe, after the Croaghan cliffs on Achill Island.

From the top, you’ll get magnificent views of the surrounding area, including Donegal Bay and neighboring County Sligo in the distance.
Malin Head in Co. Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

Donegal’s most northern point, Malin Head, is also a must-see.

The spectacular coastline includes beautiful beaches and the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and folklore, including the construction of Lloyd’s Signal Tower, which served as an important link between America and Europe in the early part of the 20th century.

County Cavan

County Cavan is known for its expansive lake system.

a woman kayaking on a lake the northwest
Canoeing near Cloughoughter Castle on Lough Oughter, Co. Cavan. Photo: Brian Morrison for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

A popular lake destination is Clough Oughter Castle (pronounced “clock ookter”), home of the O’Reilly clan for 300 years.

The castle was built on a manmade island sometime during the early 13th century. It remained in the hands of the O’Reilly’s until a takeover by the British in the 1600s.

a wooden stairway through fields the northwest
The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail, also known as The Legnabrocky Trail and the Stairway to Heaven, is located in Counties Cavan and Fermanagh. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

While part of the Marble Arch Caves and Geopark is located in nearby County Fermanagh, it extends into Cavan too.

The parts that are in Cavan include the “The Stairway to Heaven,” otherwise known as the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, the Cladagh Glen Walk, and Castle Saunderson.

The Cavan Burren Park, an area featuring a fascinating megalithic landscape, is also popular with walkers.

people in an open air museum the northwest
The visitor center at the Cavan Burren Park. Photo: Tony Pleavin for Tourism Ireland.

At the park's interpretive center, you can learn about this unique environment, which contains huge boulders of sandstone that sit on pedestals of limestone created during the last Ice Age some 13,000 years ago, among other ancient monuments.

County Leitrim

Like Cavan, Leitrim is also defined by water in the northwest of Ireland.

Driving tours such as the Southern Waterways Trail, the Lough Allen Drive, the Glenade Drive and the Northern Glens Trail give visitors an expansive view of the region.

castle Sligo and Leitrim attractions
Parkes Castle on the shores of Lough Gill in Co. Leitrim. Photo: Brian Lynch, Failte Ireland.

Other attractions in the region include Parkes Castle, which was originally the home of Brian O'Rourke, who harbored the survivors of the Spanish Armada, which ran aground on the nearby Streedagh Beach in County Sligo.

It was later owned by Robert Park and his family.

In recent years, it has undergone extensive renovations, including the inclusion of a beautiful Irish oak spiral staircase.

If an Irish whiskey experience is what you're after while visiting County Leitrim, you'll find it at The Shed Distillery, where gin is also distilled.

County Monaghan

Like its neighbors, County Monaghan is also blessed with some beautiful lakes.

people kayaking on a lake the northwest
Kayakers on Lough Muckno in County Monaghan. Photo: Nomus Productions for Failte Ireland.

Among them is Lough Muckno located in the Lake Muckno Leisure Park, which is located outside Castleblayney. It boasts fabulous scenery, some great walking and cycling trails, and it's a popular spot for kayaking and fishing.

Among the other things that County Monaghan in the northwest region of Ireland is known for is its lacemaking industry.

The most prominent company is Carrickmacross Lace, which is the leading maker of lace in Ireland.
Photo: ©Monaghan Tourism_Monaghan County Council for Failte Ireland.

In 2011, Kate Middleton incorporated Carrickmacross lace into her wedding gown as did the late Princess Diana.

Heritage sites around the county include St. Macartan's Cathedral, a 12th-century round tower at Clones, as well as St. Tiernach's (pronounced “Tirnucks”) church and grave.

Literary lovers should visit the Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Iniskeen.

The center is housed in the deconsecrated St. Mary's Catholic Church in town and is dedicated to the late poet's life and works.

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The Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan in the northwest of Ireland. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

Visitors to the center can also take the Kavanagh Trail, which begins there and makes its way through the village, down lanes, and over the fields.

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One of the stopping points of interest along the trail is the Kavanagh homestead, the inspiration for his novel, “Tarry Flynn” and his poems, “The Great Hunger” and “A Christmas Childhood,” retelling a magical Christmas that he experienced at six years old.