Sligo's new €3.6m cultural plaza, and a pitch for visitors to 'rebalance' in north-west
A new cultural plaza and tourism campaign place Sligo 'on the cusp of something very positive,' reports Pól Ó Conghaile
Does Sligo offer the best quality of life in Ireland?
That was the prospect raised by Cathaoirleach of its County Council, Tom MacSharry, at the announcement of a €3.6m Cultural Plaza for the town last week.
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"Sligo’s many attractions combine to frame that elusive concept known as ‘quality of life'," MacSharry said, pointing to everything from its outstanding scenery to its literary heritage, ancient monuments and dynamic colleges.
"Collectively ," he said, "they mark out Sligo as a special place.”
Sligo Cultural Plaza, to be developed with the aid of a €2.5m investment from Fáilte Ireland, will transform a city centre car park into an all-weather outdoor venue that aims to serve as both a local amenity and tourist focal point.
Walkers and cyclists get some good news too - the plaza will link with an off-road Garavogue River Trail stretching as far as Lough Gill.
Together with the official launch of a new, 27-metre Sligo Pontoon (the floating jetty opened at the Riverside Quay Wall this summer), the investment is expected to generate €7.7m for the region in its first five years.
The projects will have a “transformative impact on Sligo town as a tourist destination”, says Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland.
So what if you can't live in, or move to, this Wild Atlantic Utopia?
Why you can pay a visit, of course.
Even a quick trip to the county offers a dose of its quality of life, an autumn campaign recently launched by Sligo Tourism (sligotourism.ie) gushes.
The 'Sligo Sets Your Spirit Free' campaign urges adventurers, explorers and wellness seekers to head north-west with a poetic new video (see above).
"Sligo in Autumn is perfect for anyone in search of adventure and rebalance," it proclaims, with crisp, HD footage ranging from horse trekkers under the gaze of Classiebawn Castle to trail runners and beach yogis at the edge of the Atlantic.
Sligo's tourism momentum has been building for some time.
In recent years, the county has branded itself 'Ireland's Adventure Capital', and two of four Irish finalists in this year's EU's EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) project to promote sustainable tourism are from the county.
Strandhill Community Development Association and Adventure Sligo & Northwest Wellness join Slow Adventure Leitrim and Co Meath's Trim Tourism Network in a competition seeking the best Health & Well-Being Tourism experience in Ireland, and subsequently Europe, with the potential to grow visitor numbers.
"We are on the cusp of something very positive, and if we continue to harness the abundant energy and local goodwill, there is no limit to what we can achieve,” says Ciarán Hayes, Chief Executive of Sligo City Council.
The town's Cultural Plaza is one of several capital investment announcements made by Fáílte Ireland under its Grant Scheme for Large Tourism Projects in recent weeks - alongside contributions to a €10.2m Atlantic Museum Galway and the €5.1m National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park in Co. Roscommon.
The scheme is designed to kick-start the next generation of "hero" Irish tourist attractions, driving sustainable growth, revenue and job creation.