Have you seen Normal People?
The TV show charts the lives and loves of two teenagers growing up in Sligo, a coastal county in northwestern Ireland.
Back in 2020, this TV show became the introduction for many people outside Ireland to the scenic beach and mountain landscapes of Sligo.
Sligo has traditionally flown under the radar for visitors to Ireland, especially when compared with more famous counties situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, such as Donegal or Kerry.
So, without further ado, here is our list of the most famous people and gorgeous places in Sligo, including maps, highlights and John's secret Sligo travel tips...
📍 Where Is Sligo, Anywho?
Sligo is a small but mighty county located in the northwest of Ireland.
Driving the Wild Atlantic Way north to south, Sligo is the third county you hit after Donegal and Leitrim.
As a former VagaGuide, I think the filming location in Sligo for Normal People was perfectly chosen.
Even though the lead actors are now world famous, the spectacular backdrops of Sligo scenery are, in my opinion, the biggest stars of Normal People.
Dear to the hearts of Irish people long before Normal People hit our screens, Sligo boasts epic scenery and amazing Irish culture by the bucketload.
The county is full of beautiful places, perfect for an active small-group tour of Ireland.
Not only that but an array of important Irish historical figures are linked to Sligo.
Some are real, some are mythical and all are anything but normal!
🖋️ WB Yeats - Poet, Mystic and Nobel Prize Winner
I don't think it's overstatement to assert William Butler Yeats is one of the foremost figures of 20th century global literature.
Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and is a name recognised around the planet to this day.
Most importantly, he’s a Sligoman!
WB Yeats is so closely linked to Sligo, in fact, that the county is widely-known within Ireland as 'Yeats Country'.
Although born in Dublin, Yeats and his family moved to Merville in Sligo when he was very young.
He became so enchanted with his surroundings in Sligo that he later referred to the county as ‘Land of Heart’s Desire’.
Yeats drew on the Irish myth and folklore in his writings and played a pivotal part in the Irish Literary Revival in the late 19th century.
His influence grew to the extent that Yeats was honoured with the 1923 Nobel prize.
Our equally famous 11 Day Driftwood Discover Ireland Tour takes time to pay tribute to this famous son of Sligo at his final resting place.
💣 Countess Markievicz - Rebel and Pioneer
Countess Markievicz is a legendary figure in Irish history and a vitally important figure in the fight for women's rights.
This nationalist, labour activist and a feminist became a prominent leader of the early 20th century Irish independence movement.
Markievicz was born Constance Gore-Booth in 1868 and raised in Sligo.
Her family home was the beautiful Lissadell Estate in Sligo. This historic and stately house is now open to visitors.
Markievicz played a leading role in the 1916 Easter Rising. Released early from her life sentence, Countess Markievicz became the first woman elected to the UK House of Commons in 1918.
By the following year, she was also one of the first female government ministers to be found anywhere in Europe.
Quite the achievement.
Or, as a Sligo person might put it, some woman for one woman!
🎨 Jack Butler Yeats - Artist
Jack B. Yeats was an early 20th century artist who became one of Ireland's foremost painters.
Like his older brother, WB Yeats, Jack lived in, and was highly influenced by, the landscapes, culture and people of Sligo.
Both the artist and his work carry strong connections to Sligo.
Even though he trained at a London art academy, Jack B. Yeats said: “Sligo was my school and the sky above it.”
Yeats later settled in Greystones; the Wicklow hometown of our fearless Vagabond Tours leader, Rob Rankin.
Visiting Ireland? View amazing paintings and sketches by Jack B. Yeats at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
👑 Queen Maebh and Knocknarea
Would you like to meet a mythical warrior queen?
Course you would!
Legend has it that mythical Queen Maebh was interred at the summit of Knocknarea in Sligo.
Maebh (pronounced may-ev) was a pre-Christian ruler of Connacht, the western province of which Sligo is a part.
She appears in much of the literature of early Ireland. Ireland’s most famous epic, the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) revolves around Maebh, her five husbands and countless escapades.
She was supposedly buried standing upright under a stone cairn at the top of Knocknarea, a mountain near Sligo town.
Apparently, Maebh was interred with spear in hand, still facing her enemies to this day!
Some say her ancient neolithic burial site dates as far back as 3400 BC - over 5000 years ago!
WB Yeats wrote:
“The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knocknarea and thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maebh can say.”
On a 7 Day Vagabond Magnetic North Tour, you can follow the Queen Maebh trail to the top of Knocknarea.
🌄 Ben Bulben Mountain
The mighty Ben Bulben dominates the Sligo skyline.
Bulben lords it over the region like an ancient oracle surveying its demesne.
Take a look at its flat top and it’s easy to see why Ben Bulben is often compared to Table Mountain in Cape Town. The distinctive shape of this limestone hill was sculpted during the Ice Age.
Ben Bulben is the resting place of two of Ireland’s most famous mythical legends; Diarmuid (pronounced dear-mid) and Grainne (graw-nya).
Grainne, the beautiful daughter of the High King of Ireland, ran away with the sprightly young Diarmuid instead of an arranged marriage to Fionn MacCool.
After evading capture for many years, Diarmuid was gored to death by a wild boar. His broken-hearted wife followed soon after. Both were laid to rest in a deep, dark cave, high on the cliffs of Ben Bulben.
Nothing like a cheery Irish story to brighten your day!
🏄♀️ Surfing & Beaches in Sligo
Sligo is home to incredible beaches.
Streedagh features in Normal People and is a gorgeous stretch of golden sand.
Or you could watch the sun sink over the horizon at epic Enniscrone.
More than anything though, Sligo beaches are most famous in Ireland for surfing.
Massive amounts of both courage and skill are required to take on some of the biggest waves in the world; especially in the cold waters to be found along the coast of Sligo.
We think people who choose to ride giant Sligo waves are anything but normal!
You can surf and stay in Enniscrone, Sligo, during our 12 Day Giant Irish Adventure Tour
🌿 Seaweed Baths In Sligo
Are people who bathe in seaweed normal?
I'm not sure...
One thing is certain; the seaweed bathers of Sligo certainly have healthier skin than the average person.
Relax after a long day’s adventuring in a restorative spa treatment room. Fresh seaweed is harvested from the shores of the Wild Atlantic Way and soaked in hot water to release its healing properties.
Apparently seaweed baths moisturise your skin, increase circulation and promote healing! Who knew?
On tour, you have the chance to indulge in this uniquely Irish luxury treatment in Enniscrone, Sligo
Visit Enniscrone as part of our relaxed road trip, the 6 Day Driftwood Northern Island Tour
⚽ Sligo Gaelic Football
In the Normal People TV show, Paul Mescal’s character Connell plays Gaelic Football.
In real life, Mescal played Ireland's national sport at underage level for his native Kildare native.
The actor has been credited with introducing a new fashion trend for traditional Irish sportswear brand, O’Neills.
You can see Gaelic Football played all over Ireland when you visit. We recommend a trip to Croke Park in Dublin, if an All-Ireland ticket comes your way.
Otherwise, catch the black and white shirts of Sligo GAA playing in Markievicz Park (named after Constance herself).
Soccer more your thing? Sligo Rovers are the local team here. The Bit O’ Red, as they are colloquially known, host games at The Showgrounds.
👩🎓 Trinity College
OK, OK, we know this last one is in Dublin, not Sligo...
We just couldn’t finish a guide about Sligo and filming locations for Normal People without some mention of the famously picturesque Irish university.
After all, Connell and Marianne both attend Trinity in the series as students.
If you are visiting Dublin, Trinity College is hard to miss. Not only does the picturesque campus form the heart of the southside downtown area, the Book of Kells - a priceless illuminated manuscript - and the Long Room Library give you two powerful reasons to visit.
A lesser-known attraction is the Science Gallery, located at the Pearse Street entrance to Trinity College.
This compact and modern museum offers regular science-based exhibits. It’s free to enter.
Both our active Vagabond Cultural Adventure tours and our relaxing Driftwood Journeys of Discovery depart from Dublin.