The county was created in 1579 and got its name from the principal town, which was in turn named after the river running through it: sligeach means "full of shells". The river is now known as the Garavogue.
Sligo is one of the most varied and beautiful counties in the country. Its wild Atlantic coastline is dotted with long sandy beaches, while inland are the spectacular Dartry and Ox mountains and the wooded tranquility of Lough Gill. The region is also rich in pre-historic remains, from the huge funeral mound on top of Knocknaree, reputed to be the burial place of Queen Maeve of Connacht, to the dramatic neolithic graveyards of Carrowmore and Carrowkeel.
Originally the territory was under the control of the MacDermots, whose power was usurped by the Norman de Burgos from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. It was then claimed by a branch of the O'Connors, who ruled under the patronage of the northern O'Donnells, and became known as the O'Connor Sligo.
The county is now inextricably linked with the name of W.B. Yeats, the Nobel prize-winning poet, who spent much of his boyhood here and immortalized its landscape and culture in his work.