Travel to Ireland in 2012 – Leap Year movie tourism

It’s Leap Year and what better time to vacation in Ireland where it is believed that romantic traditions of marriage proposals began. Legend says that St Bridget went to St Patrick on the subject of marriage proposals in the 5th century, since some women were waiting forever for the man to propose marriage. He agreed to allow women that opportunity every 4 years, but it didn’t actually become law until the 13th century in Scotland. One interesting and amusing part of their law was if the man refused the proposal, he was forced to pay a small fine, maybe a kiss or a new dress. (I doubt that such a law still exists.) The Leap Year tradition where the woman supposedly gets her man originated in the U.S. in the 1930’s with Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner, known as Sadie Hawkins Day usually in November.

Hollywood released the film Leap Year starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in 2010. Most of this light, romantic comedy was filmed in Ireland, primarily Dublin, so we chose the small town of Sligo and the 12th largest in the country as a vacation destination. Located in the far northwestern corner of Ireland on the Garavogue River, Sligo is about 135 miles from Dublin and only 40 miles from the border of Northern Ireland. It is certainly best known for the beauty and mysticism in words by Ireland’s most famous poet William Butler Yeats. In a land where romantic verses and fascinating folklore appeal to travelers worldwide, we offer a warm “Failte go Sligeach” (Welcome to Sligo).

Things to See & Do:

Sligo Abbey, built in the 13th century, was destroyed by fire in the 1400’s and again in the Irish rebellion of the 1600’s. Numerous carvings, the cloisters, and the only remaining Irish monastery altar from the 15th century have been well preserved. Stories of ghosts in this Dominican abbey written about by Bram Stoker in his novel Dracula were no doubt inspired by his mother, who came from Sligo.

Hours: 21 Apr-mid-Oct, 10-6pm, daily. Oct-2 Nov, Fri, Sat, Sun, 9:30-4:30pm.

Admission: Adults – $4, $3. Children – $1.25. Guided tours available, handicap accessible, parking, restrooms.

Hazelwood Sculpture Park on Lough Gill at Half Moon Bay is about 2 miles from Sligo. Visitors will find a nature trail of outdoor sculptures by Irish and international artists. Here is a perfect place to relax, picnic, and take pleasure in the enchantment of your surroundings, as Yeats expressed so eloquently, “I went out to the Hazelwood, because a fire was in my head.”

Woodville Open Farm will be of interest to families and school groups. Guided tours through the farm buildings, fields, and museum. Adults – $10. Children & Seniors – $8. Appt needed. Open: May-Sep.

Sligo County Museum houses artifacts, Yeats’ 1923 Nobel Prize medal, and other memorabilia representing the significance of the Yeats family to Irish history. Open: May-Sep, Tues-Sat, 9:30-12:30pm, & 2-4:45pm. Oct-Apr, 9:30-12:30pm. Free admission.

Visitors can view a permanent exhibition of Yeats’ works, the art gallery, and arrange walking tours of Sligo at the Yeats Memorial Building. Hours: 10-5pm, Mon-Fri, year round.

Where to Stay:

The Sligo Park Hotel & Leisure Club, about a mile from town, is a 4 star establishment in a garden setting near Lough Gill and the Isle of Innisfree, with beautiful views of Benbulben Mountain overlooking Drumcliff Churchyard and the grave of William Butler Yeats. You can still read the celebrated poet’s own epitaph “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!” There is a lovely Tea House with books and crafts on the Drumcliff site, open daily 9-6pm. Guests will find the hotel is conveniently located, with spacious rooms, restaurant, coffee shop, terrace bar, and a fully equipped fitness suite. Tennis courts, indoor pool, free Internet, shops, and a golf course nearby.

Rates: $90-$110 sgl & dbl.

Riverside Hotel offers standard and executive guestrooms, some with balconies, a lounge, restaurant, & leisure center. Friendly staff and good value for the money.

Rates: $80 – suite, $76 – dbl room.

The 18th century Coopershill Country House Hotel, the Irish manor owned by the O’Hara’s and still occupied by a 7th generation family member, is a private 500-acre estate that offers wonderful, luxurious accommodations. With no TV or radio, this is ideal for a romantic weekend or quiet getaway. Relax in an elegant guestroom of antique décor, catch up on your reading, and enjoy tea or coffee in the comfort of your surroundings. The hospitality is superb, and the food is among the best in Ireland, with fresh locally produced fruits and vegetables and their specialty farm-raised venison. Spend hours walking this beautiful estate of lush lawns where peacocks stroll, and explore farmland and forest trails.

Rates: 5 nights for 2 guests – $1,100 total (breakfast included)

Open: 1 Apr-31 Oct for overnight guests. Weddings and other special events can be arranged throughout the year.

Castle Dargan Golf & Wellness Resort, about 8 minutes from town, is popular for the variety of packages available. Travelers can choose from 1, 2, and 3-night specials on golf and pampering, Valentine’s Day, holidays, mid-week, and other offers. Packages include breakfast, and most have one evening meal and wine. Many visitors drive to the resort from Dublin to play golf on weekends. Green fees, cart, clubs – $25-$38. Enjoy gourmet dining at the Hall Door, refreshments and live music at the Middleton Bar, full afternoon tea for $25 p/p in the Coach House Lounge, or Sunday lunch, 12:30 – 4:00pm. Reservations required.

Room rates: $44-$64. Packages: $75-$165.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Shenanigan’s Bar & Restaurant on Bridge Street is known for excellent food and drinks, with a DJ and laser-lit dance floor. Upstairs restaurant and Club Cojones for late night drinking and dancing. Special events can be arranged in the more private Cotton Club at Shenanigans. Whether in a group, as a couple, or single, this is one of the most famous places to visit in Sligo. Irish cuisine, avg prices for 2 – $19 for meal & drink, $32 for a 4-crse meal & drink.

Harp Tavern on Lower Quay Street offers a cozy place to socialize and listen to local musicians, Sunday afternoon jazz, and watch televised sports events at no charge. Open year round (except Christmas Day & Good Friday): 11:30am-closing.

Other recommendations: J McLaughlin’s, a traditional Irish pub, with live music nightly and sing alongs. Enjoy the camaraderie and a pint of Guinness for $5 at Shoot the Crows. Great food, atmosphere, and service at Hargadons (open 12-3:30 & 4-9pm, Mon-Sat). Travelers gave positive reviews for Limoncello’s Italian cuisine, and Fiddlers Creek for sports gatherings, music, and menu variety (open 7 days, Noon-3:30 Lunch, 5pm till late).

Getting there: Inter-city rail from Dublin Connolly Station to Sligo every 3 hours, $40 one-way, $56 rd trip. Bus from Dublin, $24 one-way, $35 rd trip. About 2½-hours’ drive from Dublin.

Sharon L Slayton

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