Wednesday, 10 July 2013


The name Ballintogher derives from the Irish Baile an Tóchair. A tochar was a wooden trackway or road. Ballintogher village is situated approximately eight miles (12kms) southeast of Sligo town. The surroundings encompass the ancient parishes of Killerry, Kilross and Ballysumaghan. The surrounding area contains some of the most striking natural beauty in the North West, being bounded to the north by the mountains of Sliabh Daeane and Slishwood and the shoreline of Lough Gill, which encompasses the scenic area of Inishfree.

The area has many interesting geological features, the landscape having changed drastically during the last ice age when the drumlins were created. There is a large range of soil types and rock structures, including the dark-green band of magnetic serpentine in the Slishwood gap. This very varied environment supports a large and diverse population of flora and fauna, and one example - the arbutus tree, has the northernmost limit of its growth in Slish Wood.

There are numerous sites of archaeological and historical interest indicating a civilization that has its roots in pre-Christian Ireland. At Carricknagat, Knockatober, Carrowcrin and Carnaugh and on the western summit of Sliabh Daeane there are megalithic tombs, and in virtually every townland ring forts are to be found, a testament to settlements dating back over several millenia. One of the best preserved cashels in Co. Sligo is located at Castleore. It is thought that some of the stones from the cashel were later used to build the first settlement at Ballintogher, where the Anglo Normans created a borough in 1266. The village has had an interesting past, changing hands and fortunes many times, and it is probably its strategic location south of the Killery pass, which separates the baronies of Tirerril and Carbury, that has led to so much of the attention it has received.

Many of the locations and legends of the area have inspired the poetry of W.B. Yeats and references to local place names abound in his writings. Ballintogher is the nearest village to the Lake Isle of Innisfree. Dooney Rock which is located on the road between Ballintogher and Sligo provided the inspiration for Yeats’s poem, the Fiddler of Dooney.

Traditional music, song, story telling, set dancing and straw/rush crafts are also an integral part of the living tradition of the area. The many bands in existence in the early years of the last century - the Sooey Fife and Drum Band and the Ballintogher Temperance Band - were widely known and indicate the existence of a large body of musicians. John Egan of Ardleybeg was a renowned flute player who passed on his skills to a whole generation of musicians in Dublin. A festival held in his honour takes place annually in Ballintogher.

A railway line, the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway, which was constructed in the 1870s ran near the village. This railway linked Sligo town with Enniskillen and was in operation until 1957.

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