The Secret Scripture walking tour

Book a ticket for the guided Secret Scripture walking tour and discover Sligo town at the turn of the 20th century, from the perspective of one Sligo family, follow in their footsteps and see where they lived, worked and played. The Sligo secret scripture trail, is a local history and literary tour based around Sligo town. The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time. This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, combining the books and social history of Sligo.

Organiser: Melcoo Tours

Email: melcooireland at gmail dot com or info at melcoo dot com

Walking tour Sligo
Book a local history and literary tour of Sligo


Self-guided App Tours

You can also download an app I have created for the Secret Scripture tour.  The walking tour app is available on iOS and Android


Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with a gmail, facebook or email account.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo.

Book the Sligo Secret Scripture Walking Tour

Guided Walking Tour – Sligo Secret Scripture

The Sligo Secret Scripture Trail, is a literary & local history tour based around Sligo town and county.  The tour takes a snapshot of Sligo in the 1920’s and 1930’s from the viewpoint of one semi-fictional family, who lived and worked in the town.  The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time.  This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, giving you a sense of the local history and architectural heritage of the locations during this time

Click on the contact form on the blog or send a mail to melcooireland (at) gmail dot com to book private group tours.


The Secret Scripture trail is also available to download as an app from Guidigo.

Walking Tour App available on iOS and Android

Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with gmail, facebook or email and download the tour to your smartphone.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is loosely based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the tour and no major spoilers are revealed, as the tour combines the books, social history, fashion and architectural heritage, to paint a picture of Sligo in the 1930’s.

To Edgeworthstown and Beyond

We took part in a new walking tour over the summer in County Longford.  The St. Mary’s to St. John’s & Beyond walking tour is an historical and literary trail based in the town of Edgeworthstown.

St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking heritage trail
St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking Tour (Click on images to enlarge & click outside of images to close)

The walking tour tells the history of the town and of the Edgeworth family and other famous literary figures connected with the family in County Longford, including the head of the family, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who was an inventor, (find out what he invented here) and also about his daughter, the novelist Maria Edgeworth.

Maria Edgeworth Portrait
Maria Edgeworth Portrait in the Rectory

Maria Edgeworth, was born on 1st of January 1767 near Oxford in Great Britain but spent most of her life in Ireland.  Her novels include, Castle Rackrent and The Absentee, which were novels about Irish tenants and the Landlord classes.  Castle Rackrent was the first novel to give the ordinary Irish peasant a voice.

The tour starts from the gothic style St Mary’s Church, which is just off the N4 road in the town, we got an introduction on the Edgeworth family and a short history about the church.  The guide that day was Matt Farrell, he has a nice pleasant manner and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, which really helps to bring the stories and sites we visited to life.

St Marys Church Edgeworthstown
St Marys Church Edgeworthstown

We left the church and walked across the road into the grounds of the Manor nursing home which, was the ancestral home of the Edgeworth’s family.  We got to see the house and grounds where they lived and also the walled garden’s.

Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Literary Trail Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens

As this is private property, it was great to view this site in particular on the tour.  We then moved onto the Main Street and found out about a few of the buildings in the town, this was very interesting as having passed through the town for many years, it was great to find out the background, one in particular was the connection to Charles Bianconi.

The Lodge Edgeworthstown
The Lodge Edgeworthstown
Porter House Edgeworth Trail
Porter House Edgeworth Trail

The tour then moved onto the Rectory and to St John’s Church and graveyard, where the Edgeworth family are buried.  We heard lots of interesting stories and history along the way connected to the Edgeworth’s and visitors to Edgeworthstown over the years, you can check, out the tour to hear all about them.

St Johns Church Edgeworthstown
St Johns Church Edgeworthstown

We were lucky to attend the walking tour during the Maria Edgeworth Literary festival and when we arrived, at the Rectory there was a short presentation by the artist Bernard Canavan as he presented a painting of the Edgeworth’s to the town, I really liked this painting it reminded me of Jack B Yeats work.  We also got to attend an interesting lecture on Maria Edgeworth given by Dr Derek Hand  in St John’s Church.

Matt Farrell Tour Guide Bernard Canavan Artist Edgeworthstown
The artist Bernard Canavan presents a painting to the people of Edgeworthstown

The tour is a great idea and is run by the Edgeworth Society and is a great boost to tourism in the county, I recommend doing the tour and afterwards, you can visit nearby Ardagh village.  This quaint village is synonymous with the poet Oliver Goldsmith.  (Check out our post here).

You can book a group tour or contact the Edgeworth Society through their website or on their Facebook page, to find out about their next organised public tour.

Landmark building in Clonmel

We are always visiting Clonmel as it is Richard’s home town,  a few months ago, we decided to do the heritage walking trail of the town. We used an old heritage trail illustration booklet that we had in the house, I checked online and can’t find a copy of it but I believe you can pick up a newer version in the Tourist office,

One of the main buildings in the town that you will see at the top of O’Connell Street is called The Main Guard.  In the late 1990’s, the building was boarded up and had fallen into disrepair, the OPW (Office of Public Works) took it over and spent a few years renovating it back to its original 17th century structure when it was used as a Courthouse.

The Main guard building Clonmel Clock tower and arches
The Main Guard building in Clonmel

Since it reopened in 2004, the OPW, maintain it and we didn’t realise until we were taking photos outside, that the building is now open to the public on a seasonal basis (April to October), it was opened on the Sunday of the May bank holiday when we visited, you can go inside and have a look around and admission is free. Richard, a local, had actually never been inside the building so it was great for him to see inside, this landmark in Clonmel.  When we visited there was a photography exhibition of Tipperary’s medieval castles and monasteries on the ground floor and upstairs there are some information banners and photographs of The Main Guard renovation project and on a Father Sheehy who was convicted of murder in the Main Guard building when it was used as a Courthouse in 1766, you can read more about the trial here.  I believe they use upstairs for exhibitions and history talks throughout the year and you can also arrange to have a group tour organised.  You can check out the heritage website here for opening times.

Brief history of The Main Guard building

(Click on an image to enlarge it and click outside the photo on the screen to close the image)

This elegant 17th century building occupies a prominent position in the Clonmel streetscape, closing the O’Connell Street vista at its eastern end.  The building is located at the intersection of the four main streets in Clonmel.  The Main Guard was built by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, between 1673 and 1684, as a prestigious courthouse for the Palatinate (Administration) of County Tipperary. Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

The Mainguard building Clonmel Clock tower and arches
The Main Guard building in Clonmel

The building has many of the hallmarks of a Sir Christopher Wren design, and it seems likely that its architect was influenced by Wren’s works.  As well as the courthouse, there were private apartments, a dining room and a drawing room.   Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

The Mainguard building Clonmel old thorsel
17th Century Architecture

The Main Guard was also used as a Tholsel in the 17th and 18th Century, which was a public office where tolls, duties and customs dues were collected.  It was also a convenient place for civic gatherings.  Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

After a new courthouse was built in 1810, The Main Guard was converted and used at first as an army barracks, from where it got its current name and then later became a public house and shop.

The Main Guard
The Main Guard

The prominent arches have now been renovated back to the original design, the ground floor is an open arcade with 5 semi-circular arches at the west side and 1 arch on each side.

Stone archway The main guard building Clonmel
Stone archways at The Main Guard building Clonmel

This is the old Clonmel heritage trail illustration booklet we used for our self guided walking tour around Clonmel’s sights.  It has wonderful illustrations of the old buildings and sights around Clonmel. I’m not 100% on who the artist was, but the booklet states, designed by a Jim Fegan.

Clonmel Heritage trail booklet
Clonmel Heritage trail booklet produced by Clonmel Corporation.

In 1810, The Main Guard building was converted and the stone arches were enclosed, as seen in this illustration.  By the late 1990’s, the building had fallen into disrepair and was taken over by the OPW and renovated back to the original 7 arches.

illustration of the Main Guard building
illustration source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

Pictured in the late 1990’s before renovations. Up to recent times, The Main Guard building was used as a bar and grocery shop, called Cooney’s.  Image Source: OPW

Old photo of the Main guard building in Clonmel before renovations
Old photo of the Main Guard building in Clonmel before renovations

The trail we did is based around these information map boards pictured below, which will you find dotted around Clonmel.  The boards have a map of Clonmel and each board, includes the illustrations of the buildings and sights.

Clonmel walking Trail signs
Heritage trail maps dotted around Clonmel

Original form of the Palatinate Courthouse in 17th/18th Century setting with the town square and market cross.

Model of Mainguard from 17 and 18th century
Model of Main Guard from 17/18th century

This model depicts the way the building looked from about 1810 up to the 1990’s when the stone archways were enclosed and it was converted to stores.

Model of Main guard before renovations
Model of Main Guard before renovations

Exhibitions are held in The  Main Guard building.  This one was aerial photographs of Tipperary’s many medieval castles and monasteries.

Monastery exhibition inside the Mainguard in Clonmel
Photography exhibition
Inside the Main guard building in Clonmel
Information boards on the history of The Main Guard
Original stone walls inside The Main Guard
Original stone walls inside The Main Guard
Inside the Main guard building in Clonmel
Timber casement windows
View from the Main guard building in Clonmel
Click to enlarge, View from the 1st floor window looking down to the Westgate

Another tourist trail you can do around Clonmel is connected to the Butler Family.

Clonmel Trail signs Butlers
Tourist Information board on the Butler Family trail

The Main Guard building is very similar in style to other buildings we have come across on our travels around Ireland and I believe they also served the same purpose as a courthouse and tholsel. There are similar buildings in Kilkenny and in Westport.

Check out our other blog posts on Tipperary.

Let us know, if you have visited Clonmel or other sights in Tipperary to visit ?

Sacred centre of Ireland

We visited the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath in the midlands of Ireland.  We got a guided tour at the Hill of Uisneach as it is Heritage week, we also got an archaeological lecture with Dr Roseanne Schot from University College Galway.


Dr Schot at Catstone
Dr Schot talking about the significance of the Catstone


We first heard of Uisneach, when we attended the Festivals of Fires a few years ago. Uisneach is the original seat of the High Kings of Ireland and there are many stone monuments on the large site, which is 4 kilometres in size.  There have been a few archaeology studies completed and a geophysical survey has taken place, which has identified evidence of different structures and stone monuments on the hill.  The lecture was very interesting, we learned so much about this site, from the mythological stories, ancient Irish history and archaeology.

Wood Sculpture
Wooden Sculpture on Hill of Uisneach


Uisneach was the home of the goddess Eriu, after whom Ireland is named. The views from the hill are beautiful and you can view mountains hundreds of miles away in other counties on a clear day, we could see the Slievebloom mountains in Offaly.


Catstone on Hill of Uisneach
Catstone on the Hill of Uisneach


There is a large stone boulder, which was left over from the Ice Age on the hill, which is called the Catstone, it has also been called  ‘Umbilicus Hiberniae’, ‘Axis Mundi’, and ‘the Naval of Ireland’

Notable visitors to the Hill of Uisneach, include Daniel O’Connell, Padraig Pearse and Eamon De Valera.

James Joyce also regularly visited the Hill of Uisneach while he was working in Mullingar in 1900 – 1901.

Hill of Uisneach Wooden Sculpture
There are several wooden carving sculptures dotted about on the Hill of Uisneach


The Hill of Uisneach is now including on Ireland’s Ancient East road map and there are plans to be build a small visitors centre. There are guided tours every week and you can also book a private tour, check out the Uisneach website for details.

All images:

Sligo Town Walking Tour Video

A few months ago, we did a self guided Sligo town walking tour, it took us several hours as we stopped to take lots of photos and read the tour booklet I had, it was interesting to read about the buildings and places and get the background.

Then during the Fleadh Cheoil last week, we got a guided walking tour with the Sligo Tourist office.  It was engaging and informative and our guide John Ryan, was very knowledgeable and passionate. If you are a tourist, it’s a great way to get the lay of the land and a good summary of Sligo’s history and how other Irish and world events affected Sligo.  It’s a great way to find out about a place, even if you have lived there all your life, you will learn something new about the town.



Contact Sligo Tourism office for dates and times of tours.


Sebastian Barry Literary Trail – Café Cairo

Are you a fan of the Secret Scripture ?  this café is referenced throughout all three books and provides the backdrop to many scenes from the books.  As a child Eneas’s mother brings him here for tea as they sheltered from the rain in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, “usually they would not go into such a place, out of respect for the expense of bought tea..” after visiting the Cathedral.

The Café Cairo did exist in Sligo town, it opened for business on 13th January 1911, an announcement in the Sligo Champion newspaper at the time, declared that the owner a Miss Murtagh “begs to state that she will undertake to cater for all dinner, supper and luncheon parties” and as in the book it was located on Wine Street in Sligo town.

The original Egyptian themed café changed owners over the years and expanded to include a delicatessen and grocery section, it closed in the late 1970’s, it was located in the building on Wine street, now occupied by Cara Pharmacy.

Download the Sligo Secret Scripture Walking Tour

Sligo Walking tour

In The Secret Scripture, Rose Clear works here as a waitress and it is where she becomes acquainted with the McNulty brothers.  “The café served everyone in Sligo without criticism.  It was owned by a Quaker family, and we were told to run no one from the doors.”  Rose in her old age remembers her time working in the café fondly, serving the dames of Sligo, the lonely pensioners and Tom and his brother Jack,  “China tea and a deadfly bun.  Earl Grey for the brother.”

Then: Café Cairo circa 1930’s

Cafe Cairo 1930s
Source: Tom Harte Family Copyright – Owner of Café Cairo in the 1930’s

The café was well established in Sligo by the 1930’s and sponsored sporting events in the town.  In the café, an orchestra played daily to entertain customers and in The Secret Scripture, Rose played the piano in Tom McNulty Senior’s Orchestra in the dance hall at Strandhill.

An advertisement from the Café Cairo in the 1930’s, when Tom Harte owned and ran it.

Menu Café Cairo in the 1930's


Then: Nuns from Nazareth Order, walking on Wine street outside the Café Cairo in 1959

Cafe Cairo 1950s Sligo
Source: Jim Eccles Photography Copyright

Notice the Egyptian decorative motifs running along the side of the building front.

Now:  Former buildings of Café Cairo on Wine Street, today it is a pharmacy business.

Original site of Cafe Cairo Sligo melcoo

The windows and shop front remain largely the same and the shop sign attached to the building, is in the same spot as the original sign for the café in the 1950’s.

Original building of Cafe Cairo

A fire engine outside the Café Cairo in 1959, a small fire had broken out in the building but it continued to trade for another 20 years.

Cafe Cairo 1960s
Source: The Sligo Champion

This old postcard from the Francis Frith collection in 1960, shows the inside of the café serving cakes and selling groceries and cooked meats at its delicatessen counter.

In The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry uses the Egyptian theme in the café, to describe the ladies, the dames of Sligo, chatting and gossiping, “rising from them like dust from a desert caravan of camels” and in The Temporary Gentleman, Mai is one of the fashionable ladies of Sligo,  drinking tea in the Café Cairo, “arranged among the tables like the fabulous beasts of some impossible watering hole”.

Barry creates a wonderful picture of the exotic sounding cafe in his novels, the café operated for nearly 70 years in Sligo town, it closed before I was born, although I remember my mother mentioning it.

In the Secret Scripture movie released in 2017, the main character Rose, played by the actress Rooney Mara, works in a cafe referenced in the movie as the less impressive sounding Prunty’s.  This is an ode to the character in the books who owned the cafe, Rose in the books refers to the Quaker owner as Mrs Prunty.  Let us know in the comments section, if you ever visited the Café Cairo in Sligo ?

Check out other locations that inspired Sebastian Barry’s novels here.

Also, available on Android and iPhone, download the Guidigo App from the Play or Apple store and search for Sligo Secret Scripture.

You can also check out the guided tour here.

This blog post was first published in 2015 and updated in 2017.

Featured Image Source: Brown Betty tea room – Shorter College, c.1920

Hidden gems around the Round Tower

The west Dublin village of Clondalkin, has a great walking tour with various different historical and heritage points of interest, dating as far back as the 5th century.  We recently did a self guided walking tour.

The Clondalkin walking tour takes about an hour and a half to do and is about 4 Kilometres, if you are short on time, you can also do a shorter version, which is only takes about 30 minutes and 1.5 Kilometres.  It generally takes us longer as we stop to take photos.


Round Tower

In the heart of Clondalkin village, is the impressive 8th century Round Tower, built around 790 A.D., it may have been built to house the relics of St. Mochua or Crónán, who founded the monastery of Clondalkin in the late 5th Century.  It is now accepted that one of the the main functions of a round tower was the safety and veneration of the relics of the monastery’s founder. The height of the tower is calculated at 27.5 metres.

The Clondalkin Round Tower visitor centre has opened in 2017 beside the Round Tower and includes public gardens.  The first three houses on Millview Terrace, which are protected structures were renovated into the visitor centre, along with a new building which which houses a Happy Pear cafe and exhibition space.



St John’s Church  and Church Terrace houses

On the same street as the Round Tower, are these quaint row of houses, that were built originally for the Church in 1879, to be used as Alms houses.  The schoolhouse was built in 1870. The houses were built in 1879 in memory of a former incumbent, Rev. David John Reade. The houses were also known as the Alms Houses. The Alms Houses were opened and in partial use by 1880 and contained four houses with eleven rooms together with one large room to be used as a classroom.



Tully’s Castle
This is a small 16th Century tower house, possibly one of the outposts of the Pale.

Tully’s Castle – This is a small 16th Century tower house, possibly one of the outposts of the Pale.


Its origins are mostly undocumented, however the “Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1899” gives the following information:  The name “Castle of Clondalkin”’ is applied to Tully’s Castle in a number of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century leases, which deal with a place called “The Sheepus”.   The Castle was occupied for many years by a family named Tully.

Source: South Dublin Libraries


Photos of Clondalkin Walking Tour

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We found the self guided walking tour, on the South Dublin County Council Libraries website, they have several different audio tours covering all the main South Dublin  villages, you can click here to find a list of villages covered.  We used the walking tour PDF printout and also this Clondalkin village walking tour map.

They don’t have a mobile app yet for the all the tours, but I believe its in development.  You can also visit on your mobile device or scan the QR code below to open the audio tour on your smart phone.

West dublin audio walking tour
QR scan – Clondalkin audio walking tour

Have you done the Clondalkin Walking tour? or other Walking tours in Dublin? Let us know of any other Walking tours to do.


Blog post first published in 2015 and updated in 2017