Life's a beach for those lucky enough to live here
SLIGO HAS an abundance of beautiful beaches, many unspoilt, empty even, so that when you happen upon one you feel like you alone discovered it.
Yellow Strand on the Raughley peninsula springs to mind.
While there recently, the virgin sand was fresh for my footprints as I strolled along the deserted shoreline.
Six months ago I moved to Strandhill. I can walk from my place to the sea in one minute. At night I sometimes wake with the growling of the ocean as Atlantic winds batter the coastal village.
And even on a calm night, there is a constant hum, a background noise that I would miss were it no longer there.
Before relocating to Sligo, I travelled here to surf. The ocean is addictive; the west coast feels like home.
Prior to my move here, I lived in Galway for six years, again, across the road from the sea.
Recently while surfing in Streedagh, I spoke to a man who had left Dublin at 5am to get his Sunday 'session' in.
"I've been trying to get a decent job on the West Coast for years," he said, "You don't know how lucky you are." Except I think that I do. My mother is from Swinford in County Mayo. My grandfather worked in Sligo all his life. The Sligo Champion was always on the kitchen table. His paper.
He died long before I was appointed editor, but I know he would have been proud.
My family went to Enniscrone to the beach.
And it was there, as a teenager, among the Valley of Diamonds that I stole my first ever kiss.
To this day, my family still have holiday homes in the seaside resort.
I consider myself ' half from the west' and I'm fortunate to have spent so much of my life in this part of the world.
I loved Sligo long before I moved here. And I'm not alone. Hundreds of surfers know the secrets Sligo has to offer.
Check out the road back to Dublin on a Sunday evening when the waves and wind have conspired to create perfect surf. Every second car has a surfboard on the roof. The surfing industry has massive potential for the area, with so many good breaks, suitable for all levels.
I've seen guys on a stag party don a wetsuit for the first time, splash about with foam boards, trying in vain to stand, but always laughing.
I've watched the short board fanatics flirt with the waves, graceful as gymnasts as they perform complicated manoeuvres and make it look easy.
And afterwards, be in the bustling Shell's café, Strandhill, or by the open fires of the Pilot Bar, Enniscrone or the Beach Bar at Aughris, I've observed the happy glow of those who've braced the cold water as they enjoy the rewards of wholesome hot food.
People travel to Sligo for many reasons, from surf to scenery.
Here, they find miles and miles of wonderful unspoilt beaches, dramatic mountains, warm hospitality and great food and culture. Perhaps it's true. Those of us who live here all the time really don't know how lucky we are.