The Glen is one of the most magical dells in Ireland and one of Sligo’s best-kept secrets.
In the heart of the Coolera peninsula, running for over a kilometre, 20 metres deep and 12 metre wide, the Glen is one majestically long cleft in Knocknarea Mountain, said to be formed by some ancient eruption or earthquake that parted the side of the mountain, tore apart veins of limestone and filled the gaps full of fairies.
Filled with every sort of vegetation, the Glen could be the backdrop to an Indiana Jones movie – it would be no surprise if the only thing that disturbs you, as you wander amongst its holly and honeysuckle, bramble bushes and beech, was the soft rumble of a giant boulder rolling down towards you as you escape with a golden idol.
Of course, you are unlikely to find anything like a golden idol here but then for a long time you were unlikely to find anything here at all, so secret was the Glen to anyone outside Sligo. In fact, such was the omerta of silence that surrounded the Glen that any local found telling a non-Sligo person about it risked inviting a fatwa against them or, worse still, being exiled off into Leitrim.
While this has changed and tourists are now welcome to come and visit the Glen, finding it can still prove a challenge with the best directions a Sligoman gave me being ‘head out towards Knockarea until you get onto a steep slope overlooking the sea. Park here and then continue along the road until you get to the second tree on the left. You can then climb across a fence here, head through a gate and you’ll find it’. After that, I was on my own.