In County Sligo, step into Irish history with SeaTrails

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Sea TrailsIn the shadow of Sligo’s Benbulbin mountain, the Atlantic crooks inward onto Irish shores at Streedagh beach. A walk along this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way offers an encounter with geologic time, pre-history and centuries of Irish participation in  world affairs.

When we visited Ireland last fall, a major highlight for me was a guided walk along the bluffs above Streedagh with Auriel Robinson of SeaTrails. A maritime archeologist, Auriel is both knowledgeable and passionate about her subject.

A geology lesson

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Auriel Robinson gets our attention with tales of 330 million-year-old rock formations (same as Appalachia in the US) and fossilized coral reefs.
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Along the shore, coral and chrinoids, or sea lilies, are everywhere underfoot in this fossilized seabed delta.

Pre-history

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Five thousand years ago, megalithic stone-age people constructed wedge tombs, comprising a gallery with a passage to an inner chamber. Of the 550 wedge tombs in Ireland, this burial ground above Streedagh Beach is situated, unusually, on a dune.

 The world stage

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On a blustery promontory, we hear about the role landowners hereabouts played in the massive departure of so many Irish for North America during the Great Famine. In the distance, Inishmurry Island is a pencil-thin mark on the horizon. Until the last families left the island in 1948, it was an infamous distilling ground for illegal whiskey (poteen).
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The Spanish Armada came this way after the fleet’s humiliating encounter with Tudor ships in the English Channel. Three ships capsized off-shore, and are still buried in just eight meters of water.
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Auriel pointed out many natural features and approximate locations of the ships that were wrecked in 1588 when the Spanish Armada took refuge from a severe Atlantic storm in the cove.
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Francisco De Cúellar, a ship’s captain in the Armada, avoided a watery grave, and made his torturous way home to Spain across occupied 16th century Ireland. It was a tale of extraordinary resolve and travel derring-do!

Auriel– an ambassador for the Wild Atlantic Way–guides visitors on walking, cycling and horseback tours along Sligo’s rough-and-ready coast. It’s an energetic, enjoyable way to down some history!

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Thanks to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, who hosted our group of TBEX travel bloggers, for an advance look at the Northwest section of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and to Sligo Tourism for introducing us to local attractions and people. The SeaTrails walk was a highlight of our trip!

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