Shore Shots

Over 300 outdoor enthusiasts and surfers visit Sligo for the sixth edition of Shore Shots Surf Festival

Over 300 surfers, outdoor enthusiasts and movie buffs made their way to Sligo last weekend for the sixth edition of Shore Shots Surf Festival. Originally held in Dublin for three years, the event now hosts the majority of the content in The Model theatre with a number of fringe events taking place around the town centre and in Strandhill.

 The event, which is now renowned as one of the biggest gathering of surfers in Europe, began on Friday night with a book launch from Donegal native Barry Britton who had correlated over four decades of work in time for the festival.  Music on night one was provided by Jim Carbin & Acoustic Breaks, while inside the cinema festival goers got a chance to see the European premiere of the new Laird Hamilton movie ‘Take Every Wave.’

On Saturday the festival played host to a surf market, talks from some of Europe’s best outdoor photographers including George Karbus, Tim Burrow, and Ian Mitchinson. In the cinema theatre Sligo native Gearoid McDaid introduced his new movie ‘Misery Loves Company’ to a packed audience, while Easkey Britton took home the top prize for her new movie ‘ A Lunar Cycle’, which will now be showcased at the festivals partner event in Vienna next month.  Derry born musician Keith Harkin, who has made a name for himself in the States, flew back for the festival and put on a three hour show in Connolly’s bar as a fringe event to the public before Seamie O’Dowd showcased his Rory Gallagher style show on stage in 5th on Teeling.

Sunday morning of the festival coincided with ‘Earth Day’ and so begun with a beach clean at Strandhill in conjunction with Clean Coasts and a marram grass planting session with climate action officer Gary Tyrrell. As a reward everybody who took part was treated to brunch in The Strand Bar courtesy of festival sponsor Tullamore Dew. Back in the model theatre festival goers attended an ‘Earth Day’ panel discussion on single use plastics pollution in our oceans and attended movies including ‘Smog of the Sea’ and ‘A Plastic Ocean’.

Festival organiser Allan Mulrooney commented “Our attendees traveled from all over Ireland including Cork, Clare, Waterford and Dublin. We also had people travel from the UK, France, Portugal, Germany and a small few from the States which is fantastic.  When we surveyed them on site, it seems 60% had never been to Sligo before. Saturday was a beautiful day with fun waves and sunshine so we’re delighted our guests saw the North West in all its glory. The event was a huge success and we believe it’s the perfect fit for Sligo to showcase the work-life balance, the outdoor lifestyle and the world class waves on our doorstep”. Allan also added that more needs to be done to help small festivals progress and grow in Sligo with no funding, organisational help or structure in place to support grassroots initiatives. “We believe our festival has great value for Sligo and the North West and with more support could grow into an event that attracts three thousand or more in years to come. This structure needs to come from within the local council and tourism board if we wish to see our events grow to attract more beds nights and increase tourist spend here.”

For more on Shore Shots visit

Image Credits: Johnny Frazer


Two New Bursary Programmes for Flmmakers based in Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon.

As part of a new partnership Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon County Councils have come together with filmmakers from the three counties with a view to enabling the film sector here to grow and develop.​

Each of the three local authorities involved in this project recognise the value of film as an artform and the contribution that film can make to the region – socially, culturally and economically. In adopting a regional approach, we recognise that we can achieve a lot more by harnessing the capacity, resources and energy of agencies and practitioners of all three counties.

Find out more about the SLR Film Development Project at Leitrim County Council Website HERE

The closing date for both opportunities is 30th June 2018.

Courtesy Leitrim County Council

queen maeve

Follow in the footstep of Queen Maeve through Roscommon and Sligo

Take a journey back in time and follow in the footsteps of the kings and queens that shaped Ireland for centuries. The online travel company Expedia has recently launched a website that tells the stories of eleven historic Irish Kings and Queens, from the great Brian Boru to Mael Muire, the first non-Celtic Queen of Ireland.

Who Was Queen Maeve of Connacht?

The warrior queen of Connacht, Queen Maeve (or Medb, the old Irish spelling) is most famous for battling it out at the Táin Bo Cuilnge (Cattle Raid of the Cooley), a story told as part of the Ulster Cycle. She was supposedly born in Rathcroghan (in Irish Ráth Cruachan, meaning ‘fort of Cruachan’), County Roscommon and legend has it that she died and was buried in Knocknarea. Today, visitors can take the Queen Maeve Knockerea Trail and see the site of her supposed burial place.

In the many stories cataloging Maeve’s life, she is described as a goddess and brave queen, but in others as feisty and difficult.

Maeve is believed to have taken over from her father who was the King of Connacht, when he went on to become High King of Ireland. Maeve’s first husband was Conchobar mac Nessa, the High King of Ulster, with whom she had a son, Amalghad. Maeve supposedly left Conchobar after taking a disliking to him and is said to have gone on to marry four other kings during her lifetime.

The mystery that surrounds Maeve is probably what makes her such an interesting character. To some, she was a goddess and impressive woman, and the reason behind most of her husbands becoming kings. For others, a feisty and belligerent character who set out to cause trouble. Whatever her true character, Maeve will certainly be known as a unique and memorable part of Ireland’s history and culture.

Today, visitors can make up their own mind about Queen Maeve at the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre in Tulsk, County Roscommon, where an exhibition takes you through the story of Maeve and how she ruled over Connacht.

You can make up your own mind about Maeve on a visit to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre in Tulsk, County Roscommon, where an exhibition will take you through the story of Maeve and how she ruled over Connacht.

Follow In Queen Maeve’s Footsteps

Expedia has created a driving route following in the footsteps of Queen Maeve, the famous warrior queen, through counties Roscommon and Sligo.

Check out Maeve’s 2-Day Itinerary on the Expedia Kings and Queens website as part of a trip to the west of Ireland.

Historic Ireland –

Content & Illustrations Credit:

Dumhna Selga Video by Copter View Aerial Productions

West of Ireland’s Ancient Kings and Queens are Brought to Life by Expedia

It’s the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster or Netflix series as Expedia brings to life some of Ireland’s most ancient kings and queens.

With the help of historians from the National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College, Dublin and Queen’s University, Belfast, Expedia creates a fascinating account of the kings and queens who reigned in Ireland thousands of years ago on their new website: Kings and Queens That Shaped Ireland. This includes a wonderful display of illustrations depicting the different kings and queens, as well as a series of connecting timelines and stories dating back some thousands of years ago.

As you enter the site, expect to be taken on a journey through the lives of some of Ireland’s most notable kings and queens as they battle for power, marry numerous times, and eventually relinquish or pass on their throne.

We, at, are especially delighted to see Queen Maeve of Connacht and Co Mayo’s famous Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, highlighted in the series.

Going one step further, the site has an array of travel itineraries that connect to each of the kings and queens featured, allowing visitors the opportunity to literally follow in their footsteps. These itineraries feature locations of significant historical importance, including Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal, as well as other places of interest across Ireland.

Find out more at – /




st patricks day

Top 5 Things to do in the West for St Patrick’s Day 2018

It’s one of the biggest days in the calendar and a day for Irish people at home and abroad to celebrate our culture, identity and heritage.

But St Patrick’s Day is so much more than that.

We give you the rundown on the ‘Top 5 Things to do in the West of Ireland this St Patrick’s weekend’. 

1. Sunrise and Pipe Bands (17th March)

Achill Island is famous for its pipe bands and its sunrise tradition. The pipe bands begin to play at sunrise on Achill and will march and perform until sunset.

This schedule allows visitors and spectators to join the bands for a while and then to explore Achill’s other attractions – for the active visitor these include watersports, golf or hillwalking, while for the more relaxed visitor there are always the restaurants and bars to enjoy.

Celebrate Ireland’s national day in traditional style, and follow Achill’s pipe bands on their annual parades.

2018 Schedule: Reveille at 06.00am, marches from 09.00am, Dookinella meet at 13.00pm, then return to villages. >>

St Patricks Day2. Galway’s St Patrick’s Day Parade  (17th March)

2018 marks the 116th anniversary of the Galway St. Patrick’s Day Parade and you can expect a wonderful spectacle of all things Irish with this Year’s Guest of Honour being Galway native and extreme adventurer Gavan Hennigan. The iconic fountain in Eyre Square will even turn green as part of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.  The Parade will start at 11.30am and finish at approximately 1.00pm.

The parade will feature an array of community, cultural, sporting and international groups including Ireland’s pioneering spectacle theatre company Macnas, led by the Macnas Young Ensemble. Recognised worldwide for its quality and innovation, Macnas will be accompanied by a fantastical, flowery giant Macnas owl alongside a cacophony of rhythm passion and purpose from the next generation Macnas drummers.. >>

3. May The Road Rise To Meet You (17th March)

St. Patrick’s Day, with a difference in South Sligo as athletes will once again take to the roads for the Tubbercurry St. Patrick’s Day 10K Road Race.

The first ever Tubbercurry 10K road race was planned for St. Stephen’s Day but was postponed due to snow and ice. It was rescheduled for St. Patrick’s Day 1973 and ever since it has become an annual fixture in the running calendar. Last year saw 375 runners take to the streets of Tubbercurry. >>

4. Go Native in Donegal (17th March)

Since 2005, the people of Burtonport, Co Donegal, and surrounding areas have hosted a celebration of Irish culture on St Patrick’s day.

A formal warning has been issued to all Leprechauns in the area to please stay away from the Burtonport Old Railway Walk in the coming days.

Word has it that a Leprechaun catcher is at work at the minute and has already caught a dozen leprechauns which he has restricted to a cage in a bid to limit their mischief over the run-up St Patrick’s day.

Organisers encourage a ‘Bring and Share’ event where everyone brings along food to share on the day.  Experience home baking, the Irish language, traditional dance, music, food, games and a warm welcome. >> More on their Facebook Page here

St Patrick's Day5. Join Ireland’s friendliest place for the Ennis St Patrick’s Day parade

In excess of 10,000 people lined the streets of the Clare County Capital during last year’s parade, which featured 50 groups representing the many aspects of life in Ennis and County Clare.

The theme for this year’s Parade is ‘Ennis – Ireland’s Friendliest Place’, which the Local Authority says provides participating groups, organisations, bands, schools and members of the public an opportunity to celebrate the recently awarded status. >>


strandhill sand dune

The Insider’s Guide to the Sligo Surf Scene

The Insider’s Guide to the West Coast Surf Scene is our new series exploring the vibrant West of Ireland surf scene county by county. Your surf guide will be writer, pro bodyboarder, and surf school manager Seamus McGoldrick.

Seamus began surfing in Strandhill, one of Sligo’s hidden gems and followed his passion by setting up his own thriving surf business. So, who better to give you the inside scoop on the Irish surf scene?

Turning now to his home county of Sligo, Seamus meets some lucky surfers who manage to chase the dream of surfing all year round on the wonderful west coast of Ireland.

Sligo Surf Scene: An Overview

Although the name Sligo is derived from the Irish placename Sligeach or Shelly Place, this coastal county has become synonymous with surfing. One reason is that the Wild Atlantic Way from Cassiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore in North Sligo to Rathlee Tower in Easkey in West Sligo is rich in the raw material of surfing: good waves.

The other reason is that the surf scene in Sligo has exploded in the last fifteen years with the indigenous surfers, artists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs interacting with the legion of foreign surfers who have become magnetised to Sligo shores in a way that exemplifies the very best of modern Ireland.

In Sligo, it is a simple case of West is best. So meet the surfers who will explain why.

Meet The Surfers:

1. The Local: Kian Egan – Surfer/Musician

kian egan

When Kian Egan left home at seventeen to tour the world and make lots of hit records with his band Westlife he knew nothing about the surf scene in Sligo. When he returned from his musical odyssey back to Sligo over a decade later he had already surfed in Hawaii and had bought his first surfboard. Now the local Sligoman is an avid surfer who makes the most from consistent waves on his doorstep at home in Strandhill.

I ask Kian how he got into surfing in the first place?

“My Dad was a big golfer who played golf in Strandhill Golf Club” explains Kian.

One day while out on the beautiful seventh hole overlooking the famous waves of Strandhill, Kian spotted a bunch of people out surfing.

“I said to Dad, ‘I’d really like to do that, I’d really like to be in the ocean trying to catch a wave’. And Dad was like, ‘why don’t you’.”

The pair finished their game of golf and Kian went down to Tom Hickey at Perfect Day Surf School who took Kian for his first surf that evening. After his first surf Kian was hooked. He bought his own board and wetsuit and sped off on another great life adventure which complemented his passion for music perfectly.

“As the years rolled on, I met some of the local lads who helped show me the way,” recalls Kian.

“We became mates and all of a sudden you become part of the community. That is what happens in surfing.”

“A lot of people would have seen me as that guy from Westlife trying to be a surfer. And I was, I was that guy from Westlife trying to be a surfer. But I stuck with it because I had a passion for it. I loved being in the ocean. I loved the freedom of it especially after doing what I was doing. Living in a stressful city world where it was all about success and selling records and doing concerts in front of 1000s of people. All of a sudden I’m out in the ocean, nobody can ring you, no one can even get to you.”


2. The Surfer Mom: Jane Lamberth – Surfer/Businesswoman.

jane chambers

Jane & Myles Lamberth of Shells Cafe in Strandhill

Dubliner Jane Lamberth first came to Strandhill over eight years ago on a surf trip with some friends. Since then, she and her surfer husband Myles have moved to Strandhill, set up a thriving seaside business called Shell Cafe and Little Shop plus started a family.

One reason Jane relocated to the west coast was to combine her twin passions for the sea and good food but the main reason was the surf.

“When you live in Sligo there are so many waves available to you. I am an intermediate surfer and my husband is a full-on brilliant surfer and both of us can find waves every day of the week to suit us,” says Jane.

Jane got into surfing in her twenties on a random girls weekend to Tramore in County Waterford where a surf lesson sparked off a surf addiction that would completely alter the course of her life.

“[After that first surf] something clicked and I went, wow, this is something pretty awesome.”

As a result, Jane decided to travel to Cornwall for the summer to hang out on the beach where she met her future husband Myles.

“For him, surfing was literally his life. That sealed the deal with me when it came to choosing a surf lifestyle.”

Jane could now benefit from Myles experience and encouragement and her surf skills steadily built.

“Myles brought me out to new waves and different surf spots and got me beaten up a few times, but Myles lines was ‘you have to learn to enjoy the wipeouts too’.”

“My level of surfing has improved being beside the sea, you have a much better understanding of surfing and there is loads of women in the water. It is infectious.”

“I always look back [at that first surf trip to Strandhill] and wonder does visualisations and things like that work? After the surf, we climbed the sand dunes. I was on a high and I said to myself, I am going to live here someday because I just love it.”

“Based on one weekend away in Sligo I decided to live here, which is kind of ridiculous.”

Except it is not ridiculous. Although I am born and raised in Strandhill and I am admittedly biased on the subject, it is impossible to deny Strandhill has that sort of seaside charm. I have personally witnessed many surfers who show up in Strandhill with the intention of staying for one weekend and they are still here a decade later.

Jane concurs: “I was sitting on the sand dunes feeling life is good, everything is as it should be and there was a connection, just something magical. Strandhill drew me back.”

“When we first moved here, there was too much going on. There were so many party invitations and things we were burnt out. Oh, there is a gig in Sligo town, there is a gig in Strandhill, this one is having a party, oh there is a beach party or a late night surf session or a camping trip. We were stretched too thin on the west coast of Ireland!”

“There are so many like-minded people and the music and arts scene is off the scale. There is something here to keep you busy all the time.”

3. The Shaper: Conor Canavan – Surfer/Shaper

waxon surfboards

Conor at WaxOn Surfboards. Photo: Mark Capilitan Photography

For many years during the development of the Sligo surfing scene getting waves was the easy part but it was near impossible to get your hands on a local custom-made surfboard. Today, things are different with master craftsman Conor Canavan turning out perfect custom-made surfboard at his Wax On surfboard factory at Rathcormac Craft Village near Sligo Town.

Having a homegrown Irish surfboard company located on the west coast was a major boost for the Sligo surf scene.

“Surfing in Sligo is very healthy at the moment.” affirms Conor, “Definitely more people are surfing than ever has been.”

“And, we have literally every amenity here in Sligo. When I was living in Strandhill, I had two restaurants and a bar across the road and another bar and restaurant a hundred metres up the road. I had a cousin living in Swords in Dublin and he told me. ‘You I have more on your doorstep than I have in Dublin’.”

Conor grew up in County Galway and spent his summers sailing, snorkeling and diving with his father.

“I grew up with this respect for nature and it was a very natural that I would get into surfing”

Becoming a surfer is one thing but becoming a surfboard shaper is another. A homegrown surfboard business serving the wide variety of people drawn to Sligo shores for the swells, could it work? Conor’s career path proved to be a wise choice as the Sligo surf boom began soon after.

waxon surfboards

Conor at Waxon. Photo Credit: Mark Capilitan Photography

But how did Conor even decide he wanted to build surfboards in the first place? It was 1998 when Conor embarked on the long winding road towards becoming a surfboard shaper.

“I had a daft idea one day. I was out surfing and I had failed another exam in college so I was going, okay, what do I want to do? It was a beautiful June day with just me and another friend out surfing. I was after ducking under a wave and when I came up, I went, what if I could learn how to make surfboards? That would be great craic.’

In the late nineties, it was not unheard of for people to make their own surfboards at home as a one-off project. Making surfboards, especially on an industrial scale, is a serious disciple involving the skills of shaping, sanding, glassing, spraying, and tinting. There is a craft, there is an art and there is a skill. The aesthetics are huge and a finished surfboard should be next to a piece of art.

Conor has been successfully shaping surfboards now for twenty years. At the start, there was a choice: “You could be Paddy backyard or you could do it right.”

Conor went off and spent six months with renowned shaper Craig Hughes at Raglan Surf Co in New Zealand and learned a huge amount about surfboard design. He also spent two years in Cornwall with Chops (Beach Beat Surfboards).

When he came back to Ireland and set up shop in Sligo his customers were the many people moving past the beginner stage of surfing and starting to take it more seriously. When you are thinking of getting your own board you need to talk to a surfboard shaper like Conor.

“Sometimes people would say I am not good enough to have a board that is made for me, but that is precisely when you need one. A cheap mass produced beginner board will get you from standing on the land and into the water, but if you like surfing it is time to get rid of it, get something decent, and you will progress quicker and get more enjoyment out of it.”

“Surfboards are like people, there are all different sizes, specs, and weights. Every single person is different and so every single board is different. A person gets on one board and they progress and move on to another board. And it keeps going like that. I am not trying to sell you one board, I am trying to sell you fifteen boards over the next fifteen years.”

4. The Architect: Elizabeth Clyne – Surfer/Professional

elizabeth clyne

Eliz Clyne catching waves

Sligo-woman Eliz Clyne has long been one of Ireland’s top surfers. Eliz is definitely a soul-surfer and contests were never her thing. She was in it for the lifestyle and the adventure. For Eliz, the question always was how to combine her love of surfing with her career aspirations.

Growing up near Strandhill Beach, Eliz began surfing at age twelve. She surfed regularly through her school years with other world-class Sligo surfers Jessie Smith and Áine O Donnell. Then she met her future fiancé Barry Mottershead, a traveling South African surfer, who was one of the people who came to Sligo for surf and simply never left.

“Barry and I started going away over summers to Indonesia to surf. At the same time, I was studying architecture in UCD, a long course with long hours, so it was hard to get the surfs in. I would be in my studio designing while at the same time checking the surf back home on the internet. Then, I would be on the last train back to Sligo at the weekend to hopefully get a surf.”

“When I qualified, I tried to get somewhere to work where there was surf. That was first.”

To Eliz, it was always about the proper work/life balance. She didn’t necessarily want to be away from the coast but at times had to make sacrifices for her career. Eliz worked in Dublin for a while before moving to Sydney.

On paper, Eliz’s lifestyle in the Sydney suburbs was ideal, except she could never get used to the large number of people at each surf spot compared to Ireland.

“I did learn to hustle which is a good skill to learn but it doesn’t compare to living here and going to spots that are empty.”

“When I got back to Sligo I started trying to figure out how I could live here and surf. I started working for myself as an architect and now in the last year myself and John Monahan joined to form Noji architects. He is another surfer originally from Sligo who moved back from Dublin.”

“The fact you can do a full days work and get a surf afterwards is amazing, I mean, there is nothing more satisfying. A surf after work, what it does for your head. That is what the drug of surfing is, it detaches you from all that is going on. I don’t think anything matches it for what it does for you, mind and body. ”

Elizabeth is an architect at Noji Architect in Sligo 

Surf Scene in Sligo: A Closer Look

Kian Egan would say Sligo is the best place in the world to live as a surfer.

“I had the option to live anywhere in the world. I don’t say that lightly. I did. I had the option to go and live in any part of the world. But Strandhill in Sligo is where my heart beats.”

“Even over the Californian dream, the west coast dream is where it is at.”

The surf scene in Sligo is multifaceted and composed of a mix of artists, entrepreneurs, architects, film-makers, postmen, bakers, nurses, doctors. You name it and we have it. Sligo town provides an amazing urban centre for the surf community. Many traveling surfers who have settled in Sligo have gone back to education in IT Sligo. Kerry Larkin is a top surfer and lecturer at the IT along with Emmet O Doherty who also runs a Stand-Up Paddle Board business named SUP Dude in based in Mullaghmore.

“If you want to live by the sea and go surfing as much as possible, have good schools, good lifestyle. You can’t really beat the west coast of Ireland.” says Kian, “There is little traffic compared to Dublin or a large city. Sligo town is an easy commute. The surroundings are incredible.”

surf sligo

A Global Community

Eliz Clyne affirms Sligo Town, which may not be Europe’s prettiest town, nevertheless is surrounded by world-class beauty. But the main factor for Eliz is not the surf nor the spectacular setting, it is the community that comes as part the surf scene in Sligo.

“I am sure the GAA has it in a certain way but that is much more organised. What I love is that you can go out in the water and meet someone you haven’t seen in two months and chat and just pick up where you left off. Lovely organic chats about all sorts.”

“We are surrounded by nature and community, that is the big thing, the surf community, and how open it is. It isn’t a closed club. From the outside, when you are not part of it, it might seem a little cliquey, but, when you meet someone you don’t know who surfs there is that instant connection.”

“I think it is important for the Irish in general to remain open to the travelers and surfers they meet on the Wild Atlantic Way who are coming.”

Jane Lamberth, whose friends know her to be a queen of hospitality, tells me, “At the end of the day, Strandhill is just a small village on the west coast of Ireland but any day of the week in Strandhill you could bump into a local or visitor from anywhere in the world.”

Kian Egan is a global ambassador for Sligo. He says, “Sligo has so much to offer. If you take Strandhill as a centre point and you go north towards Donegal you have plenty of great surf and if you go west towards Enniscrone and Mayo there are loads of breaks.”

surf sligo

“And the surfing community in Ireland is still a very tight-knit community. The west coast is very connected it seems when it comes to surfing. I didn’t know anyone from Clare ten years ago and I lots of guys from Clare now.”

One main reason surf communities around the world are so tightly knit is because at some stage everyone gets a fright out while out surfing. A close call, a near collision or a bad wipeout are just a part of the game. As you learn to surf you begin to realise that people need to watch out for each other.

Conor Canavan particularly likes the van culture in the Sligo Surf scene and the pre and post-surf gatherings that organically happen as part of the process of surfing.

“That is where I do most of my socialising, nowadays, when I am out and about surfing” explains Conor.

As a father of two young kids Conor doesn’t find as much time to socialise in the many great pubs in Sligo, ‘but then the beach and the reefs become it and it is a great thing’.

“The kids love it, particularly with the van. In and out at different places, preparing hot chocolate or frying a few sausages. I am of that generation that was all about hanging out in your van. I have a full oven in my van and am very self-sufficient. It is lovely, however, to be able to go into Shells for a hot chocolate or coffee or take your kids for a treat to Mammy Johnstons and get them all ice creams and have a great day.”

Just as Conor’s surfing business provides surfers will the equipment they need to catch the waves, Jane Lamberth’s business all about providing that space where hungry, tired surfers like to go to relax and, more importantly, talk about the surf.

“It is lovely,” Jane tells me, “you come in from a surf and all the guys and girls hang out on the benches outside and have their coffee and catch up. It is lovely to see. And when you have your coffee and cake after a surf you have really earned it. Everyone talking about the waves, did you see the wave where I did this or who is going out later? It is great craic.”

Parents Jane, Conor, and Kian all tell me they feel blessed to be able to raise their children in Sligo.

The Next Generation

Sligo surf hour of power

The Hour of Power at Co Sligo Surf Club. Photo: Andrew Kilfeather

Kian explains his reasons why. “One day, when myself and my wife Jodie were in London in Liverpool Street Tube Station, one of the busiest train stations in England, and we saw thirty kids lined up with their teachers going on to the tube. The kids were six or seven years old, it was a dark, busy underground environment, not very nice for the children.”

“Then we came back to Strandhill a week later and we saw the same age school kids going down to the beach with their teachers on a sunny day. And you say, hold on, the difference here is incredible. That was one of the big turning points for us in the debate about bringing up kids here or in London.”

“Life can be hard on the west coast in one sense if you are used to a fast-paced world. But we still would never change it because it is not about us it is about our kids. I have three little boys now.”

“Now I feel we couldn’t be in a better place, and surfing is a massive part of my life.”

“I got involved in the Sligo Surf Club committee because I want the kids of the village to learn to surf and County Sligo Surf club is the perfect vehicle for that. They do an Hour of Power surfing program in the summer and my oldest son, who is six, started doing that when he was four. ”

Conor Canavan agrees. “I think it is great that the surf club is encouraging young people to go out and have fun and let them know the ocean isn’t this dark dangerous place.”

Kian explains, “The surf club brings local kids surfing each week in the hope of teaching them skills that will last them a lifetime, which will get you catching waves all around the world, which will get you friends all around the world. That is what surfing is.”

Strandhill sunset

Sunset Surfs in Strandhill. Photo: Andrew Kilfeather

Loads of parents are involved. Shells are fantastic because they got on board with the surf club this year and sponsored a parent Hour of Power session so the parents can learn to surf too.”

Jane recalls, “I remember watching the surf club doing the kid’s surf sessions. I would often see these moms who I would never see in the sea with smiles on their faces, in their wetsuits pushing their kids into waves.”

“Surfing sometimes seems like a bit of a cliche but it is quite a cool sport. It can feel a little intimidating if you aren’t in that age bracket or that genre. I had this idea, I saw all these mum and dads on the beach and they were so happy, I thought wouldn’t it be so cool to get them in surfing now they have a taste for it now they are used to being around the water.”

“We partnered up with the surf club and did the Shells parents sessions. Lots of parents showed up and were so enthusiastic about it – some were people who would have never considered surfing or thought they were too old.”

“Surfing enhances your life living here. If you are a family, even on the rainy days there is something to do with your kids, you are going to get wet anyway so it doesn’t matter.”

Although it is very beginner and family friendly, make no mistake, Sligo is not exclusively all about beginner surfing. The most striking element the Sligo surf scene, which makes it world-famous in fact, is the high-performance surf scene which seems to be growing every year.

Kian Egan tells me, “In Sligo, we have a very high standard and it is only going to get better. Gearoid McDaid is the first professional surfer from Sligo whose sponsors pay him to travel the world. He has paved the way.”

Gearoid McDaid grew up surfing in Strandhill and was a part of the County Sligo Surf Club. He turned professional after he left school and is now sponsored by RipCurl [vid link].

“Gearoid is at such an amazing level and the kids in our club will look up to that. The future is very bright. With surfing, you are going to see a huge change here in the next ten years because you are going to see kids in Ireland doing what the kids in Hawaii are doing.”

Eliz agrees, “Gearoid has his whole surf career ahead of him. You would hope that in the future that there will be more potential Gearoids.”

Conor Canavan from Wax On surfboards supported many top Sligo surfers like Gearoid McDaid and Aron Reid. Eliz Clyne herself and her friends Aine and Jessie are some of the most stylish and accomplished surfers in the country. Eliz’s fiance Barry Mottershead has become a world famous big waves surfer since he landed on Sligo shores. Even her business partner John has had the opportunity to take his surfing to the next level by moving back to Sligo.

Mullaghmore – Bringing Sligo Surf to an International Stage

“John said to me early last year one of his big aims was to surf Mullaghmore.” Eliz explains, “Mullaghmore is a big wave spot beside a beautiful little-sheltered harbour one side and a wild side around the corner where one of the best big waves in the world breaks.”

“My fiance Barry would surf there a lot and John would chat to Barry about it whenever they would see each other. John was aware that you needed to be part of the safety team and there is a very strict etiquette out there. There always has to be two jet skis out there for safety. There is a good bit of learning in it but John was totally up for that along with his tow partner Art, a guy who runs a little surf pub in Strandhill village called The Dunes.”

Art Counihan is another Sligo surf entrepreneur. In fact, before getting involved in the bar businesses, Art was working at Wax On with Conor Canavan studying surfboard design.

“I met Art when he was seventeen: a good local kid from Carney who grew up surfing. He came in and began learning the craft and now he makes a kick-ass board. I trained him that he can do a board from start to finish including shaping, sanding, glassing, colours, tints, the whole shebang.”

“When an opportunity came up with The Dunes and himself and his friend Tom took that over. I personally think it is fantastic, it has given another avenue of life to Strandhill. He has his own surfboards up on the wall.”

Conor tells me Art and John have been training for over two years since they got a jet ski. Practicing towing in, build up their experience and doing freediving and surf safety courses.

“Out surfing, a lot of people would say to me, ‘where is Art, I haven’t seen him in ages?’. They were fobbing off good days to train but it is all coming good for them and now. This winter they are braving Mullaghmore and they are doing really well.”

Kian Egan fills us in on this world-famous big wave spot:

“Mullaghmore has just exploded. All a sudden you have people who are traveling from all around the world to surf Mullaghmore, this massive wave sitting on our doorstep in Sligo. People are surfing it bigger and bigger year in and year out. The whole world is noticing. Mullaghmore is the new thing.”

When I hear people are coming to Ireland I always tell them not to make the mistake of just staying in Dublin, fly into Knock or rent a car and explore by driving up the west coast. There is a list of places to visit and Mullaghmore is at the top of that list, especially in winter when you will get to see guys charging twenty-foot waves. Whether you are a surfer or not, for anyone to stand there and watch that happen your jaw will hit the floor.”

Jane has stood on that cliff and watched those waves and backs up what Kian is saying:

“Yeah, it is surreal, but there is no ego about it. They come in and can look shy and quite retiring and then you see them being towed into these massive waves, you are thinking where does that come from, that courage, the training, the bravery? I often wonder what it is that lets them by-pass that thing in their brain, it is insane.”

And the spectator aspect. When Mullaghmore is on, the guys are out there and everyone on land is cheering them on. It is really insane.”

Who To Know:

1. Peter Clyne: If you want to know what the surf scene in Sligo is all about just check out a few of the surfing films from the creative mind of Peter Clyne of Outer Cells media. Peter started out making surf films and moved on to films focusing on nature, music and of course, adventure. Peter’s big sister Eliz recalls a trip with Peter to Baja Mexico two years ago.

“Myself, Barry and Peter headed down to a friend in California. Barry is a kayak guide. He set up his business knowing that he loved the water and the outdoors but he didn’t want to go straight into surf so he went into nature guiding. So he wanted to use kayaks to go explore a piece of coastline in Mexico.”

“Peter was drafted in to film the whole thing and the three of us headed off with a Californian friend. We were away from the world for thirteen or fourteen days with no phone signal. We probably saw only four or five other humans. We came back and Peter entered that at the Shore Shots film festival in Sligo.”

Peter won a recent surf film festival in Donegal with his film Halycon about professional big wave surfer Conor Maguire.

Super talented surf videographers like Peter Clyne and Peter Martin from Sligo and Fionn Rodgers from Enniscrone contributed enormously to the perception of Sligo as a surf mecca and imagery of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way as the ultimate surfing journey.


2. Barry Mottershead: A South African surf adventurer who set up Sligo’s first adventure business showing people the stunning inland waterway and tranquil coasts of the region, Sligo Kayak Tours.

After taking the biggest drop of his life by proposing to longtime girlfriend Eliz Clyne on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Barry can usually be found expertly guiding groups around famous Sligo beauty spots or else out on the massive waves at Mullaghmore when conditions permit.


Barry Mottershead

Barry Mottershead. Photo Credit: Toby Butler

3. Conor Canavan: Need a board in Sligo? We know just the man.

“Sometimes people ask me what I do for a living and my standard line is, ‘I make people happy’. I make glorified toys for adults and that in turn makes them happy.”

“What I absolutely love is when I paddle out in the water and I see someone surfing on a new board I have made them and you see them more confident and surfing better with big smiles on their faces.”


4. Allan Mulrooney: Allan Mulrooney is a local Strandhill surfer who has worked closely with Barry on a number of projects including the successful Strandhill Indonesian Relief Fund in the wake of a devastating tsunami in a surfing region they had both visited.

Allan has helped set up the definitive online guide to Strandhill (, the Strandhill People’s Market at Sligo Airport – which fast became the biggest and most popular market in the northwest – and the ever popular, at home and abroad, Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival which is now in its fifth year.

@almulrooney @gostrandhill @strandhillpeoplesmarketallan mulrooney

5. Veronika Kinsella: Veronika is the brains behind Loved & Upcycled – a freshly grown eco-label based in Strandhill, Sligo. Veronika upcycles post-consumer materials into new products giving them a new lease life and saving them from ending up in a landfill. Loved & Upcycled product range includes laptop cases made out of wetsuits and bags and wallets made from bike tubes and kites.Veronika Kisela

“I moved to Ireland nine years ago for a job in Google. I had my first surf lesson seven years ago and got instantly addicted. When I lived in Dublin, leaving the office after work on Friday heading West was my favorite feeling.”

“I had dreamt about living in places like Lahinch, Strandhill or Bundoran and eventually gathered enough courage and left my job. Despite a few bottlenecks, I’m happy living here now with the ocean at my doorstep in an amazing community of people who are willing to do utmost to shape their work-life around their lifestyle and passion for the ocean.”

I’ve moved to Strandhill only a year and a half ago, so I am still fairly new here, but I’ve felt welcome from my first day. My surfing connections made it easier for me to become a part of the Strandhill community. For example, just a few days after my launch in 2016 I got a stall at the Strandhill Christmas market. I got invited to participate at various local events such as Shoreshots surf film festival 2017, where I was able to showcase my work alongside well established local businesses and artists such as Atlantic Equipment and Lanis Surf Art.


6. Ashleigh Smith: Born on the northwest coast of Ireland, raised on the side of a mountain overlooking the bay, Ashleigh Smith grew up with nature in her bones. To be outdoors in the countryside or on a beach is to be at home for her.

Ashleigh Smith occupies the rare position in the Irish surfing community as a female bodyboarder and was awarded several Irish and international titles in her teens.

Ashleigh now focuses her efforts on designing her own range of bags, the Atlantic Equipment Project, inspired by the surfing culture on the west coast.

@atlanticequipmentAshleigh Smith

7. Gearóid McDaid:

At just 16, Strandhill native Gearoid McDaid became the best surfer in Ireland by winning the Men’s National Championship. Just 3 years on and Ireland’s surfing prodigy is fast earning recognition as one of Europe’s best young talents. Gearoid is on the brink of huge success and has already represented Ireland on the world stage.


8. Ian Mitchinson

Always in the water when the waves are big at Mullaghmore, adventure photographer Ian Mitchinson’s feed is one to follow for its stunning range of adrenaline-filled photography from across the North West. @ianmitchinson

Where to Hang Out

1. Shells Cafe and Little Shop

Shells Cafe has helped build community in Strandhill since they opened in 2010.

“Shells are fantastic.” says Kian Egan, “Shells is the hub for people visiting Strandhill. It is where to go to grab their coffee or chat inside the Little Shop.”

“The ideal morning for me,” says Eliz Clyne, “is to drive out the beach early and have a crisp winter surf session and follow that with a little takeaway Shells coffee.”


2. Kilcullen’s Seaweed Bath

This traditional Seaweed Bathhouse in Enniscrone was established in 1912 and is the perfect place to relax and unwind on a visit to Enniscrone. Or you might fancy a hot seaweed bath after you try surfing for the first time at one of the surf schools on the fantastic Enniscrone Beach. You might even catch Cain Kilcullen, a multiple Irish surfing champion, delivering fresh seaweed to the Bathhouse.

3. The Strand Bar

The Strand Bar is Strandhill’s famous surfing pub run by the Byrnes brother who grew up surfing in Strandhill. A great pub with a classic Irish atmosphere with plenty of surf memorabilia up on the walls for any curious visitor.


4. Strandhill People’s Market

With so much entrepreneurial talent in Sligo, Strandhillian Allan Mulrooney had a vision: the Strandhill People’s Market. Within a few years, it has become one of the most popular markets in the northwest with plenty of special events to keep people entertained.

Of course, lots of surfers are there each week with their wares including surfing sisters Ashleigh Smith from Atlantic Equipment Project and Jessie Smith of DriftWood Coffee.

@strandhillpeoplesmarket strandhill market

5. The Building Block

The Building Block in the centre of Sligo town on the banks of the Garavogue is a co-working space which allows small business to have a place to work with high-speed internet, hotdesks and lots of fresh air, space and light.

John Monahan from Noji Architects was a co-founder of the Building Block. Eliz Clyne explains:

“The Building Block is quite unique, I would say that over fifty percent of the people there surf. One business here, Ox Business Systems, is a three-person team. When two of them, a husband and wife, moved back from Australia and she sent him out on a field trip and said ‘go find where we are going to live’. He explored the whole west coast and chose Sligo and the Building Block to set up their business.

@tbbsligothe building block


Don’t Miss

Shore Shots Irish Surf Film festival, The Model Sligo, April

Shore Shots

Shore Shots is an annual surf festival which takes place in Sligo in April. Don’t miss this action-packed weekend of surf, adventures, and parties along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Jane – “Shore Shots is unbelievable, and the crowd it draws to Sligo. There is this great food, great talks, and speakers, brilliant movies plus the social side of it, the connecting of people. I know people who have made great business connections at that festival.”

Conor – “Shore Shots is great at promoting Sligo, there are people who come here and they say, wow, I didn’t know this was going on in The Model. I set up a stand there and people come and you talk about boards and you show them different models and stuff.”

The County Sligo Open, August Bank Holiday Weekend

Jane: “I wouldn’t classify myself as a good surfer but I actually entered the women’s longboard this year. That will tell you how inclusive it is. It was so much fun. I was blown away by the experience of surfing in a competition. It pushes you, which is great, and I would say to anyone to compete in one just for the craic.”

Kian “There is lots of really cool events based around surfing in Sligo. The County Sligo surf contest is going to grow and turn into a surf festival as the years roll on. It brings such a buzz to the village, everyone is hanging around the promenade watching it. People get to know each better because they are down at the beach all day. The Sligo Open is on every bank holiday weekend in August. We had a big junior contest in Strandhill last summer too. I got Quiksilver on board and they sponsored 1000s of euros worth of prizes through a local surfer and former club member David O Donnell who now works for Quiksilver.”

Article Credits:

A huge thanks to Seamus McGoldrick for this article. @seamusmcgoldrickYou can watch more about Seamus in this video about him by Peter Clyne.

Featured Photo Credit: Strandhill Sunset, Andrew Kilfeather @andrewkilfeather

Conor at Waxon Photos: Mark Capilitan Photography –

Like this? Read our Insider’s Guide to the Donegal Surf Scene here.






sligo walking festival

Sligo Walking Festival Hits the High Notes in 2018

Sligo’s 2018 Hiking season kicked off to a glorious start with a sold -out County wide Walking Festival. Northwest Adventure Tours attracted large numbers of hikers to experience Sligo’s expansive landscape with hikers arriving into Sligo town from Galway, Dublin, Cork and as far afield as the UK, Germany and France. Many confessed to rearranging their travel plans to link in with the festival and with a great turn out of locals the many people visiting Sligo for the first time were treated not only to Sligo scenery but also pure Sligo wit and charm.

On Friday evening eager participants were bundled onto the festival bus at the Riverside hotel in Sligo town and were taken off into the wilderness on their mystery adventure.

It began in Slish wood where the torch lit hike crossed over Ox Mountains to finish at Union Wood. It was a magical evening under the stars with the twinkle of the local village lights far below in the distance.
The walks on Saturday and Sunday were graded as either A, B or C. The most experienced hikers were brought out on walks graded as A such as the Royal Peaks and the Sleeping Giant of the Dartry Mountains. These were for experienced hikers and involved greater distances and more elevation.

sligo walking festival

B walks were for experienced hill walkers or those with a standard of fitness and ability usually gained through regular exercise. These included the iconic tabletop Benbulben Mountain and the Classic Sligo Way.
C-Walkers were brought out to the Gleniff horseshoe on Saturday and to Knocknarea on Sunday. Both were nice 3 hours walk interspersed with snack stops and fascinating facts from Sligo archaeology enthusiast Auriel. The C walks or C-Trails were hosted by Auriel from Seatrails bringing participants on a journey through the hills and history of County Sligo.

William from Northwest Adventure Tours said ‘The festival would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the epic collaborative efforts that is fast becoming synonymous with how Sligo does business. Package deals provided by the Riverside hotel and other local accommodation made visitors experience all that sweeter and support from additional adventure providers such as Seatrails, Wild Wet Adventures, Terra Firma, Call of the Wild and Feehilys Executive Travel made for diverse and engaging walking tours. ‘

Many were visiting Sligo for the first time and got rewarded with incredible hikes and stunning scenery. The weather was perfect as we hiked through a light dusting of snow on the higher peaks and enjoyed wonderful views of the Wild Atlantic Way under moody skies.

Northwest Adventure Tours are delighted with the event and are already making plans for next years event.

Check out Northwest Adventure Tours for more information on upcoming events and tours.

networking west

Top 5 Networking Events in the West this Spring

It’s the new year and it’s time to get out there and promote your business, get inspired and expand your network.

There are so many great networking and business events taking place across the West of Ireland; we’ve rounded up our list of the ones not to miss.

1. Leveraging Ireland West Airport, How can your Business Benefit? BOI Workbench, Galway, 18 Jan 2018

Ireland West Airport had a record-breaking year as the airport’s passenger numbers increased by 7pc or 48,000 to 733,869. How can your business benefit from that, and even create more demand for those routes?. Join an interactive talk with Donal Healy, Head of Marketing & Route Development. This event welcomes hoteliers, tour companies, local business owners and anyone who can add value to the west region’s airport. Learn about the routes in place for 2018, the demographic of people through the airport into the west region, and how you can target cities of origin. All welcome!

Register at

2. Hackaholdem, The Building Block, Sligo, 03 & 04 February

sligo hackathonHackahold’em – a gamified version of a hackathon is set to take place in The Building Block, Sligo on February 03-04 2018.
Bringing together up to 40 programmers, designers and product developers, the event will take place over a 24 hour period with 5- 7 teams set to participate.

The event is for developers, designers and all-rounders in the digital space and our aim is to bring the fun and community feel back into hackathons, while providing a space for participants to network and build something cool together.

Sign up now!

3. Digital West, GMIT, Mayo, 30 January

Emerging trends and careers in Digital Media and how companies can stay competitive will be the focus of a public seminar in GMIT Mayo on Tuesday 30 January, delivered by leading professionals and academics in digital media, marketing and technology.

Organised by the Mayo campus academic staff in collaboration with the Innovation Hub, the “Digital West” event will include topics on Digital Media Strategies, Bots & Automation, Google Analytics, Automation of Digital Media, Blockchain, and more.

This Dynamic FREE event will focus on emerging trends in Digital Media and how they will affect companies and individuals in 2018 and beyond.
As the digital media landscape rapidly evolves with the introduction of new technologies such as AI, analytics, automation and a movement towards high definition video communication, companies are finding it increasingly hard to attract and maintain talent.
More at

4. Open Talent Speed Dating, Galway, 06 April

Open Talent Galway

Open Talent is a two-part event where people of all backgrounds come to Galway city over two days in April for a sweep of 1-1 interviews, and speed dating events with local businesses. Want to get straight to interview?

Register at

5. Startup Weekend West (Ire): Future of Towns, Achill Island, 27 April

Keel Beach

Keel Beach, Achill

Achill Island, Co. Mayo is the destination for the upcoming Startup Weekend West taking place on Friday, April 27, 2018. The theme is the future of towns.

This unique Startup Weekend will bring together designers, developers, county councillors, urban planners, founders, and much more to conceive ideas and build solutions that will bring life and economic vitality back into Irish towns.

The weekend costs just €60 to attend, and that includes all meals each day, a t-shirt and some cosy accommodation.

On Friday, some of the attendees will pitch an idea for 60 seconds. The best ten ideas (voted for by attendees) will progress to build a team and then through to pitch at the final. On Saturday, mentors and coaches (who are established business owners or experts in their area) will be brought in to help guide the teams through execution. On Sunday, the event will finish with the final pitches and winners announced. There’s also a cracking after-party.

TechStars Startup Weekend is the place to look for a team, create a prototype of your idea, validate your business idea, and receive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs, all in one weekend.

Full details on how to get involved at


January 12th is cut-off date for South Sligo Tourism membership

Local tourism organisation South Sligo Tourism are really hitting the ground running for 2018 with big plans to promote the rural areas of south and west Sligo. The cut off date for membership is 12th January, so if you want your business to benefit, be sure to contact them without delay.

The fledgling organisation printed 10,000 brochures this year and plans to have their new brochure ready for the beginning of the 2018 tourism season. All members will be included as well as a calendar of events, useful for tourists and locals alike. A video, media visits and a sustained social media campaign are all part of the plans for the coming year.

South Sligo Tourism held a couple of very successful networking event and information sessions recently. Over 50 businesses attended these events and even more are expected to join up for 2018.

Chairman Paul Taylor is hugely enthusiastic about the potential for this project and said, “We look forward to driving this project forward in 2018, working in collaboration with Sligo Tourism and neighbouring counties. With this group of committed, enthusiastic people working together, south and west Sligo will soon be firmly on the tourism map.”

South and west Sligo have a lot to offer the incoming tourist but, as is common outside urban areas, the businesses have tended to operate alone rather than in conjunction with one another. By joining South Sligo Tourism, businesses will come together, building a stronger tourism product and benefiting the entire community.

The closing date for 2018 membership is 12 January 2018. Membership is an absolute essential for anyone involved in the tourism business. Contact for further information or visit the website #SouthSligo


wdc insights

Census 2016: The Western Region’s Labour Market – in pictures!

As the final Census 2016 Profile ‘Employment, Occupations and Industry’ was published by the CSO last week, we now have a pretty good picture of the Western Region’s labour market in 2016.  The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published an infographic on some interesting facts about the Western Region’s labour market.

This is the second in a series of infographics to be published using data from the Census and focusing on the Western Region – the seven counties under the remit of the WDC.  The aim is to make key regional statistics available in an easily accessible manner.

In this infographic we show that:

  • The Western Region had 17.4% of the State population in 2016, 16.6% of all employment and 19.5% of all self-employment
  • There are over 100,000 retired people living in the Western Region
  • Industry is the biggest employment sector in the Western Region and also enjoyed the biggest gain in employment between 2011 and 2016

You can download ‘The Western Region’s Labour Market’ infographic here

west of ireland work force

See more from the WDC Insights Blog here.