Saturday in Sligo saw me happily escape the shopping duties to take a stroll along Rockwood Parade. My wandering took me along the banks of the Garavogue River near the end of its journey to the sea in Sligo Bay.
This part of Sligo city centre along Rockwood to JFK Parade was redeveloped over the past 20 years, creating lovely riverside walks, pedestrian bridges and a nice mix of retail units, cafes, and restaurants.
Walking from Hyde Bridge, the eye is drawn to the imposing Glasshouse Hotel at Swan Point – a dramatic 7-storey building that rises like the bow of a huge ocean liner (at least to my eyes) over the city – echoing Sligo’s strong maritime past as a busy port.
The innovative design of the modern glass structure that so beautifully contrasts with the surrounding historic buildings is a lasting tribute to the vision of Vincent Hannon Architects (VHA) of Sligo and Galway.
The 116-room hotel has its critics, but for me, it is a striking building that speaks eloquently of a modern and progressive Sligo.
It was the perfect opportunity for a photograph as the late evening sunlight spilt its warm glow over one side of the hotel building creating a dramatic contrast with some of Sligo’s more historic architecture.
The tower of Sligo’s 19th-century Town Hall, one of the town’s most beautiful buildings, described as Italian Renaissance in style, shares the Sligo skyline in my photograph above of the Glasshouse Hotel.
And the sash windows of the older two-storey building to the left of the hotel made a lovely contrast to the glazed vertical cladding that gives the Glasshouse Hotel its name.
Feed the birds
The city centre walk and cycle route along Rockwood are hemmed between the banks of the Garavogue River and a ribbon of colourful retail units and restaurants that make this part of Sligo a relaxing place to visit.
It may be just a short stretch leading to JFK Parade, but it’s a car-free zone and a welcome retreat from the noise of a busy city on a busy Saturday afternoon.
On my wanderings, I met up with a local man feeding the resident pigeons, seagulls and swans. The birds swarmed around his feet, and some even perched on his arm, as he fed them pieces of bread.
An obviously good-natured gentleman, he told me he often feeds the birds with bread he buys in town on his way home in the evening. It was a nice scene in a busy urban setting – and it was rewarding to randomly meet such a pleasant person.
The Sligo Woodcarver
As dusk began to creep over the riverbank, I walked back towards the old warehouse car park near the Quayside Shopping Centre – but not before stopping off to talk to Michael Quirke in his shop on Wine Street.
Michael, who styles himself The Sligo Woodcarver, has created many wonderful wooden ornaments with his chisel and mallet in his premises where he once operated a butcher shop.
Michael sculpts figures and scenes from Irish folklore in locally grown Beech, Ash, Oak, and Sycamore.
When I visited, he had just completed a piece entitled Tá Fergus ag Teach, telling the legend of Fergus mac Róich, the exiled King of Ulster, who is reputedly buried not far from Sligo. Fergus was murdered when a jealous Ailill Finn, king of Erris, Co Mayo, tricked his blind brother, Lugaid Dalleces, to kill him with a spear when he saw him swimming in a lake with Queen Medb.
Evidence of Michael’s love of the arts, dedication to his craft, and appreciation of literature surround him in his workshop. The many ornamental wooden creations he has carved over the decades grace his shop window and the posters and memorabilia decorating his endearing workshop evoke memories of a time in business when substance trumped marketing and related nonsense.
The next time you’re in Sligo call in on Michael and see a true craftsman at work.
And then it was time to head home after an enjoyable – shop-free evening in Sligo.