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.