Alison Healy published her first children’s book How Billy Brown Saved the Queen in April. She was also the ghostwriter of Queen of the Ploughing, the autobiography of Anna May McHugh, managing director of the National Ploughing Association, and in her journalistic career she has worked with the Farmers’ Journal and The Irish Times.
Alison is currently working on her second children’s book but she has taken time out to reveal some of the hotspots in Sligo Town.
To have a coffee & cake:
This is my favourite question because I have selflessly dedicated my life to sourcing the best coffee and cake everywhere I go. There are several top contenders in Sligo Town but if I could only pick one, it would have to be Le Fournil, a French café and patisserie, tucked into a side street off O’Connell Street. It’s tiny but the tarts, cakes, breads and chocolates are legendary. Sit outside with your hands wrapped around a cappuccino, listen to the busker’s accordion music wafting up the street and you could be in Paris. Albeit with more rain and wind and Sligo accents.
To go for a meal:
If Le Fournil is a taste of Paris then Rugantino is its swarthy Italian cousin. This is an authentic Italian restaurant with a lovely neighbourhood feel, on the banks of the Garavogue river. It is small, so booking is definitely advised. Be sure to leave room for dessert because the cassata alone is worth a round trip from Dublin.
To buy something for someone else:
It would have to be The Cat and the Moon on Castle Street, named after the play and poem by local lad WB Yeats. You may have heard of him. With its selection of handmade Irish jewellery, pottery, crafts and paintings, it would be difficult to leave without something catching your eye.
To buy something for yourself:
There is nothing like stepping from the bustle of O’Connell Street into the peaceful haven that is Liber I could happily spend an hour browsing the shelves of this independent bookshop. And I always come away with an unexpected find.
To get back to nature:
I have a soft spot for the seaside village of Rosses Point because I spent three very happy summers making beds in Yeats' Country Hotel. There’s no better feeling than listening to the roar of the ocean on Rosses Point beach with Ben Bulben on one side and Knocknarea on the other.
To discover hidden gems:
Take the car and drive across Cummeen Strand to Coney Island. Yes, it really is an island but at low tide you can follow the series of stone pillars to get to the island safely. Coney got its name from the Irish word for rabbits, and we Sligo folk like to think that it also lent its name to the New York island. The children will love the novelty of driving across the strand. But be sure to check the tide times or you will find yourself spending more time than expected on the little hideaway.
To feel like a local:
Kate's Kitchen a food shop and café, has a well-deserved reputation among Sligo people and it fills up quickly at lunch time so you have to be quick to bag a seat. The queues snake out the door at Christmas time for Kate’s hampers.
To be a tourist:
Head out to Lough Gill on the Sligo Leitrim border and take a cruise around the Isle of Innisfree. The Rose of Innisfree glides around the lake at a leisurely pace as its skipper George McGoldrick entertains passengers by reciting WB Yeats poems and recounting a few tall tales. He’ll even let the children steer the boat if you ask him nicely.
To hear some tunes:
Shoot The Crows or Shoots, as it is known locally, is a long narrow pub with a barrel of atmosphere and regular trad sessions.
To have a cocktail:
Lillies on the corner of Bridge Street has vintage décor, a laid-back atmosphere and an impressive cocktail list. Sit up at the bar, order an Old-Fashioned and imagine you are waiting for Mad Men’s Don Draper to walk in.
To be pampered:
It’s difficult to fit in time for pampering when you are trying to catch up with friends and family on a weekend ‘down home’ but I did once squeeze in a visit to Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was a delightfully pleasant experience.
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Compiled by Tracey Donaghey
Inform | Inspire | Indulge