Trafalgar Square


Sooner or later, when out and about in London, you are bound to end up in Trafalgar Square. It has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages when it was known as Charing, and later marked by a cross, the point from which all distances from London are measured. Designed in its present form by John Nash in the 1820s, it is famous for its fountains, pigeons and of course Nelson's Column. On the north side is the National Gallery where the nation's art collection is held on behalf of the British public. All art lovers and students of art history will be in their element here. The gallery houses outstanding works by all the important European artists, dating from 1250 to the present day. Although not a particularly large collection by international standards, it is certainly one of the most impressive in terms of the quality of its paintings.
On the north-eastern corner of the squareis the 18th century St Martin-in-the-Fields church where you can attend a free lunchtime concert. There arc also regular evening candlelight recitals and jazz nights in the crypt. You can just walk in and listen to some music or go down to the crypt cafe, an atmospheric den in the nether regions of the church where you can get good subsLanlial food at very reasonable prices.
You can spend an entertaining couple of hours at the National Portrait Gallery in St Marlin's Place. You don't come here so much for the greatness of the paintings (although there are some wonderful works) as for the fascination of seeing famous (and infamous) people recorded for posterity, both before and after the invention of the camera. All the great characters from history as well as contemporary figures can be seen here. The Tudor Galleries are among the most interesting displays and the temporary exhibitions are particularly popular.


WHERE
Central London

BEST TIME TO GO
Any time

DON'T MISS
The controversial sculpture 'A Conversation with Oscar Wilde' by Maggi Hambling in Adelaide Street behind St Martin-in-the-Fields. The only public monument to Wilde, it is a bronze sculpture of his head and arm, cigarette in hand, mounted at one end of a coffin-shaped granite block.

AMOUNT OF WALKING
Moderate

COST
Reasonable

YOU SHOULD KNOW
Trafalgar square is only a short walk from Somerset House in the Strand, which houses the Courtauld Collection, and the ICA (Institute of · Contemporary Arts) in The Mali, where there is a continuous programme of avant-garde art, film and events. 

Sligo Castles


Much like Scotland, its Celtic neighbour, Ireland was a hotbed of clan rivalry and the scene of ferocious political activity in centuries past. The result is a legacy of fine early castles, each built by a player of the day to defend his territory from ambitious rivals, even as he plotted their downfall. An outing by car will combine the opportunity to see some fine Sligo castles with wonderful landscapes. The tour begins at the popular seaside village of Easkey, facing Donegal Bay west of Sligo Town. There, beside the pier, is Roslee Castle, a prominent landmark in West Sligo; built by the powerful O'Dowd Clan in the early 1200s, substantial remains survive. 


Return to Sligo and - just south of town - find Ermiscrone Castle at Inlshcrone, a 17th-cemury forLiiied house, once the pride and joy of the Nolans but now somewhat distressed. Continue dovm the N4 and turn right for Ballymote - and find the last and mightiest of Cormaught's Norman castles.
Go back to the N4 road at Castlebaldwin, where the 'castle' is actually another rather fine fortified 17th-century house. From there, continue down Lough Arrow to the next classic ruin, Ballinafad Castle by Lough Key. Known as 'The Castle of the Curlews', this sturdy military stronghold defended an important pass through the Curlew Mountains. It met its Waterloo in 1642 when sacked by insurgent Irish after running out of water and was soon abandoned. Round off the day by driving southwest from Ballinafad via Boyle almost to Roscommon, where Clogher Castle may be founded near Monasteraden and Lough Gara. Situated on a rounded ridge with the ground sloping away on all sides, this is an exceptional and well-preserved example of a Cashel fortress with massive walls, set in sublime landscape. Hotels in Sligo

 WHERE
County Sligo

BEST TIME TO GO
April to September

DON'T MISS
The atmospheric Abbey cemetery and grounds at Easkey, wherein may be found some splendid monuments - get the key from Forde's shop in the village.

AMOUNT OF WALKING
Moderate

COST
Low

YOU SHOULD KNOW
Ballymote Castle well illustrates the turbulence of Irish history. Built around 1300 by Richard de Burgo, the infamous Red Earl of Ulster, it was soon lost to O'Connors. For the next 250 years it regularly alternated between them and MacDonaghs, before being taken as an English base, retaken by Red Hugh O'Donnell In 1598 before ... you get the general idea!