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St James R.C. Church
Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 54°17′19″N 8°57′42″W / 54.2886°N 8.9617°W / 54.2886; -8.9617Coordinates: 54°17′19″N 8°57′42″W / 54.2886°N 8.9617°W / 54.2886; -8.9617

Country Ireland
Province Connacht
County County Sligo
Elevation 1 m (3 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Urban 240
 • Rural 1,233
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)
Irish Grid Reference G374381

Easkey or Easky (Irish: Iascaigh, meaning "abounding in fish") is a coastal village in County Sligo, Ireland. It is located on the Atlantic coast, 26 miles from Sligo and 15 miles from Ballina, County Mayo. The village name derives from the Irish language term for fish ('iasc') and 'Iascaigh' literally means "abounding in fish," due to the Easkey River that lies adjacent to the village itself. Easkey, as a parish, was originally called "Imleach Iseal." The area is a popular tourist destination due to attractive scenery and water sport options. There are several walking routes around the river estuary and coastline (with views of the Slieve League and Benbulbin mountains) and through the local woods situated in the townland of Fortland. Geologists have become increasingly interested in the rugged coastline around Easkey, as it holds fossil structures that date back for millions of years.

History of Easkey

The parish of Easkey is part of the barony of Tireragh. Tireragh translates as 'Tir-Fiachrach' in Irish, meaning "the land of Fiachra." This barony was founded by the Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe, who were, themselves, a branch of the Uí Fiachrach dynasty of Connachta.

Easkey was originally named "Imleach Iseal/Isil" which means the "low imleach," or "low land verging on the water." The first settlements in the area seem to have taken residence in Castletown, a townland that exists to the west of the present-day village.

In John O'Donovan's textbook "The Genealogies, Tribes and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, commonly called O'Dowd's Country," it is documented that a man called Maoldubh, a son of Fiachra Ealgach (the son of King Daithi), was born and bred in Easkey and established a fort in the area called 'Dun Maoilduibh.'

In O'Donovan's book, Easkey is also mentioned through the following reference: "To Iasca, of the land of the white-blossomed apple-trees, Belongs the O'Mailduns of high renown." This is a reference to a powerful clan known – in modern parlance – as the O'Muldoon's, a surname that is virtually non-existent in the area today. They held the "mansion seat" in Castletown and were defenders of the area at large.

In Samuel Lewis's 1837 publication of A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Easkey is described in the following words:

"EASKEY, a parish, in the barony of TYRERAGH, county of SLIGO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 11½ miles (N. N. E.) from Ballina, on the old road to Sligo; containing 6124 inhabitants, of which number, 289 are in the village. This parish is situated on the north-west coast, between the entrances to the bays of Sligo and Killala; it includes the Point of Kinesharrow, called also Rathlee Point, and comprises 12,977 statute acres, principally under an improving system of tillage; there is a large quantity of bog. Limestone, which abounds with fossils, is found on the sea shore: much seaweed is collected for manure. The village consists of one long street of 76 houses, and has petty sessions once a fortnight, a market on Wednesday for provisions, fairs on 3 June and 18 November, and is a chief constabulary police station; fairs are also held at Rosslee in July, and on 28 October. (...) The glebe-house, on a glebe of nine acres, was built by a gift of £300, and a loan of £500 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1815. The church is a neat building with a square tower, erected by aid of a loan of £1342, from the same Board; the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £130 for its repair. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church, and contains a chapel. Here is also a place of worship for Baptists. About 600 children are educated in five public schools; and at Killenduff is a school supported by Col. Irwin, who built the school-house, and endowed it with three acres of land. In the village are the ruins of the old parish church; and there are considerable remains of the old castle of Rosslee, formerly belonging to the O'Dowds, and, on the opposite side of the river, the remains of another, on the lands of Castletown. There are several Danish forts, and on the lands of Townamodagh is a cromlech, seven feet high, and supported by four square pillars. The shores of the parish are bold and rocky, and abound with curiosities. At Alternan is a station, holy well, and saint's bed, named after St. Ernanus, and much frequented by pilgrims; the patron is held on the last Sunday in July. Near Fortland is a chalybeate spring."


O'Dowd Castle

Built in 1207, the castle became home to the O'Dowd chieftains of Tireragh (the barony of much of West Sligo). The castle was originally built for Oliver McDonnell who came to the area to marry an O'Dowd widow. A dominant landmark in West Sligo, the castle is situated adjacent to Easkey pier. Much of the original structure of the castle has been lost over time, yet the main body of the castle remains. 19.2 metres (63 feet) high, the highest part is known as the "Sailor's Bed."

The Split Rock

Outside the village, in the townland of Kileenduff lies the Ice Age boulder known locally as the "Split Rock." Local legend holds that the rock was split as a result of an argument between two giants on the Slieve Gamph mountains (Ox Mountains), one of whom was Fionn MacCumhaill. It is said that the rock will close if one walks through the rock 3 times.

Easkey Abbey

The centre of the village is dominated by the structure of the Old Abbey and graveyard which dates back to Medieval times. The graveyard contains many uniquely designed tombstones, and remained in use until 1888.

Easkey Bridge

The bridge provides access to the main village from the Sligo side of the area. It was built in 1847 after the old bridge was washed away in a storm in 1844. It contains the Bullance stone, which is built into the bridge wall and is a symbolic drinking trough, which qualified the village to hold a "Fair Day". The water is reputedly a cure for skin infections. Hangings took place at the bridge in the 19th century. A similar type bridge is located south of the village in the local woods. This is known as "Fortland Bridge."

Easkey Courthouse

In the townland of Aderavoher, opposite the local vocational school, is the location of Easkey Courthouse. It came into existence during the Irish Famine and is one of Easkey's most historical buildings. At the start of the 20th century, the County Sligo court held its sessions here. The building was attacked during the Irish Civil War. In 2010, the Courts Service of Ireland announced that Easkey Courthouse would no longer hold its monthly sessions.

The parish of Easkey, including the townlands of Rathlee, Killeenduff and Owenbeg are littered with numerous forts and mounts which date back to ancient times.

Water sports


Surfing is an popular attraction in Easkey. The village is widely known for its surfing areas, including two reef breaks. The waves in Easkey break over rocks rather than on sand which makes the waves hollowed and faster than beach breaks.

In 1979, the Pro/Am Surfing World Championships came to Easkey. Various national surfing events continue to be held here.

In 1995 the Irish Surfing Association established its headquarters in the Easkey Surf and Information Centre on Main Street. The building, now known as "Easkey House" is located in the centre of Easkey village.

The popularity of Easkey as a surfing hot-spot was highlighted on the RTE travel programme 'No Frontiers,' in the episode broadcast on 31 January 2010.


The Easkey River is a popular river for kayaking and canoeing. In 2003, Easkey hosted the World Surf Kayaking Championships.


The Easkey River is an attractive river for fishing of salmon, grilse and trout. The river rises in Lough Easkey in the Ox Mountains and moves through bogland and various terrains before flowing past the village. Most of the best fishing spots are owned and managed by the Fortland Fishery, but significant stretches of the river are open to the public.


Jack Harte (Irish writer) was born in the Easkey townland of Killeenduff, where his father was the local blacksmith. He draws on his experience growing up in the area, and ultimately being torn away from it as his father was forced to move in search of work, in his novel In the Wake of the Bagger. Another novel, Reflections in a Tar-Barrel is also set in the area. Harte also draws on Easkey, its people and mythologies, in many of his short stories.

The sculptor Fred Conlon was born and grew up in Killeenduff, Easkey.

The mother of Irish playwrights Martin McDonagh (director of the film In Bruges) and John Michael McDonagh (director of The Guard) comes from Easkey. In a recent interview, John Michael McDonagh revealed that he has written a new script, a comedy-drama about a priest called 'Calvary' that Irish actor Brendan Gleeson has signed up for. McDonagh stated that: "I've written it for a county called Sligo, and the reason it's there is there's a town called Easkey where my mother is from, and it's one of the Top 10 surfing scenes in the world because of the rips they get. I wanted again a widescreen backdrop, surfers, there's sort of a meditative quality about the sea rushing in."[1] It is unconfirmed whether or not the drama will be filmed in the Easkey area.

Local townlands

The parish of Easkey contains a numerous amount of localised townland-names. They are (in alphabetical order): Aderavoher, Alternan Park, Ballybeg, Ballycummin, Ballymeeny, Ballymeeny (Armstrong), Ballymeeny (or Hillas or Carrownabinna), Ballymeeny (Jones), Booakaun (Browne), Bookaun (Tottenham), Bunowna, Caltragh, Carrowmacbryan, Carrownrod, Carrownrush, Carrowpadden, Castletown, Cloonagleavragh, Cloonagleavragh Park, Cooga, Curraghnagap, Easky Town, Finned, Fortland, Keadues, Killeenduff, Kilmacurkan, Lenadoon, Monereagh, Old-Grange, Owenbeg, Owenykeevaun or Tawnamaddoo, Rathlee, Rathmeel, Shannonspark East, Shannonspark West and Shraheens.

Local amenities

The village itself has a cafe, take-away, 2 pubs, several shops, a post-office, St James's Roman Catholic church (which dates back to 1833) and St Anne's Church of Ireland (which dates back to 1820), a community centre, family and resource centre, indoor sports hall and a History and Genealogy Centre.

To the east of the village is the local vocational school. The parish of Easkey has 3 primary schools situated in the townlands of Rathlee, Killeenduff and Owenbeg.

Gaelic football

The parish holds a very strong tradition in Gaelic football with Easkey G.A.A. club being founded in 1888, just 4 years after the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association. They were amongst the first teams to compete in the first Sligo Senior Football Championship of 1888, playing St John's in Collooney on 11 March 1888.

They hold 5 Sligo Senior Football Championship titles, the last arriving back in 1966, building on previous wins in 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1941. They last contested the 1999 Senior-Championship final, but were defeated by Tourlestrane. The 1999 final was the club's 16th Senior-Championship final appearance.

'Reeling in the Years'

Easkey G.A.A. was the focus of a segment of the popular RTE series Reeling in the Years. In the 1986 episode, it was highlighted that the club had lost 15 players (a full-team) due to emigration to Britain and the USA.

See also

  • List of towns and villages in Ireland.


External links

  • – Info page on Easkey
  • Easkey G. A. A. Website
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