Banner: Knocknarea sunset
A group visiting the ruined passage-grave called Knocknarea North on the summit of Knocknarea in County Sligo.
A group visiting the ruined passage-grave called Knocknarea North on the summit of Knocknarea in County Sligo.

Guided Tours of Sligo Sites.

The Benbulben country in County Sligo is one of those rare places in Ireland where fairies are thought to be visible, and our first witness from there claims to be able to see the fairies or 'gentry' and to talk with them. This mortal so favoured lives in the same townland where his fathers have lived during four hundred years, directly beneath the shadows of Benbulben, on whose sides Dermot is said to have been killed while hunting the wild-boar. And this famous old mountain, honeycombed with curious grottoes ages ago when the sea beat against its perpendicular flanks, is the very place where the 'gentry' have their chief abode.

W. Y Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911.

Welcome to the Father Michael O'Flanagan History and Heritage Guided Tours page. I have worked for many years as a step-on guide, bringing groups and individuals on tours around the beautiful County Sligo region. I am a Fáilte Ireland approved guide with 25 years experience of leading tours. I am also a traditional musician and love to include musical interludes on my tours. Having taken up the fiddle twenty years ago, I now also play banjo and uillann pipes.

Planxty Irwin, a Composition by Turlough O’Carolan. Gaelic wire-strung harp duet. Arranged by Meg Byrne.

Both myself and my wife Meg, who is an accomplished traditional musician and harper in the Gaelic Medieval style, and a Fáilte Ireland approved guide, give house concerts and recitals where we play and explain the history and folklore of Irish traditional music. Click to visit Meg's page and her Youtube channel.

You will find reviews of recent house concerts below:

Sitting with Martin, Margaret, their many instruments, and their big-hearted stories was a highlight of my trip to Ireland. I felt transported back to a time when more of us remembered the power of song and story. I felt a stirring of remembering the deep connections that have been lost, the grief that accompanies that, and the joy of being alive. They are modern day bards and I highly recommend sitting with them.

——— Laurie Archbold, June 2023.

One of the highlights of a recent trip to Ireland was spending time in the company of Martin and Margaret Byrne, transported to another time and place by the music and stories they shared. What a special evening as they treated us to a house concert in the Great Room of the B & B we were staying at, complete with a beautiful Atlantic evening sunset in the background timed as if on cue.

A great assortment of instruments were played – the highlights being Margaret's Traditional Irish Harp, Martin’s Uilleann Pipes and the Banjo! The Harp and the Pipes were wonders to behold and listen to. So much interesting history of the tunes and the instruments was shared which really brought them to life. A truly memorable evening where we were encouraged to ask questions and pick up an instrument and participate as well!

——— Barbara Kaun, August 2023.

I have had the pleasure of being around Martin Byrne several times when visiting Ireland. His knowledge of the area and his music have always enchanted me. This May I had the pleasure of being at a private home concert with Martin and his lovely and gifted wife Margaret. The music was sublime, I was moved to tears at a few songs. Their combined deep knowledge of Irish music, instruments, and local history was compelling and fascinating. The evening was one of the best of the tour. I highly recommend you seek them out or book a private concert while visiting Ireland.

——— Ann Sargent, July 2023.

They are engaging, passionate, knowledgable entertainers of traditional Irish music. They are versatile, multi-talented and amazing. They encourage participation with instruments and teach as they play with background stories and historical facts. They played songs that took me to mystical places, and laments that made me cry. I can't wait to hear them play again!!

——— Jacque Kelly-Adams, July 2023.

The house concert with Martin and Margaret Byrne felt enchanting. the uillean pipe and metal-stringed harp sang. With a backdrop of the Atlantic there was a sense of peace and kindness. i felt their commitment to the land, music, and ancestors. I was inspired to fly home and pick up my fiddle and penny whistle. I also wanted to learn the harp, but decided to remember Margaret's haunting music.

——— Betsy Dickes, July 2023.

A group of students from Summerhill on a school tour of Sligo Abbey.
A group of students from Summerhill who recently joined me for a tour of Sligo Abbey.

I currently work as a seasonal Office of Public Works guide at Sligo Abbey, the oldest remaining building in the historic Town of Sligo. A recent visitor left this kind comment with my managers:

To whom it may concern,

I've never done this before, but I've got to leave a review for whoever manages the O.P.W. heritage teams of Ireland. Martin, the guide on staff during the afternoon of June 10th 2023, was absolutely excellent. He is quick, intelligent, able to answer all kinds of questions and simply a student of history. Give this man a raise! A true highlight for my grandfather's only trip (at almost 90) to Ireland. Thank you!


A lecture I gave for the Sligo Field Club - The Art, Astronomy and Mythology of the Irish Neolithic - March 31 2023.

I often give public and private lectures on Irish archaeology, mythology, astronomy, house concerts and musical recitals. Having started out as a guide at Carrowkeel in South Sligo, I now reside in the north of the county where there are many remains from the neolithic such as Creevykeel court cairn scattered throughout the beautiful landscape. Click to see a slideshow of visitors over the years enjoying tours!

Living in Cliffoney village has been an education in local history. Many of the buildings here were erected by the twice British prime minister and Landlord, Lord Palmerston, between 1830 and 1860; Classiebawn Castle was completed some ten years after his death. Other famous individuals associated with the area are Countess Markievicz, Lord Mountbatten, the poet William Butler Yeats, and the rebel Sinn Féin priest, Fr. Michael O'Flanagan.

Playing the Inishmurray hornpipe on the magical island of Inishmurray, for a group of visitors on a Thin Places tour a few years ago.

There is such an abundance of ancient remains of all kinds close to Sligo, that there is generally no need for a set itinerary. Tours usually last from 9.30 to 5.30 and cost €200 euro per day, or €120 per half day.

Dear Martin,

This note is long overdue. We toured Sligo last year with you, and it was amazing and wonderful. The depth of your knowledge, and your personal engagement with it made it an exceptional tour which helped us to feel the sacred quality n the land. Thank you. Do you have any suggestions for the next pilgrimage we make in Ireland?


A fascinating old photograph of my current workplace, Sligo Abbey, by Robert Welch.
A fascinating old photograph of my current workplace, Sligo Abbey, by Robert Welch.

Thank you Martin, for sharing your art, knowledge and stories with us here in San Francisco! I found the workshops with you and Padraig to be fun and creative, your Sunday afternoon presentation was chalked full of information and I enjoyed hearing you play the banjo and recall personal experiences as well as mythological connections with the ancient places.

Perhaps our group will go again to Ireland and if we're lucky you'll lead us to some of the magical spots you have told us about.

I hope the rest of your trip goes well,

Sincerely, Lisa

Queen Maeve's cairn, the massive unopened passage-grave on the summit of Knocknarea Mountain in County Sligo.
Queen Maeve's cairn, the massive unopened passage-grave on the summit of Knocknarea Mountain in County Sligo.