Visiting Yeats Grave – Drumcliffe Sligo

W.B Yeats, whose poem said  “tread softly, for you tread on my dreams”

The great Irish Poet Yeats was laid to rest in 1948 under the shadow of Ben Bulben Mountain in Drumcliffe, Cemetery County Sligo. An unassuming grave holds his remains in St. Columba’s Church.

There is no cost to view the grave or to enter the church but donations are always welcomed. There is a parking lot a lovely church and graveyard along with a small tourist centre and cafe and across the road, you will spot the remains of an ancient Round Tower.

Yeats grave in Sligo Ireland

Yeats wrote one of the most famous epitaphs of all time:

Cast a cold Eye

On life, on death

Horseman pass by!

This is the epitaph that was placed on Yeat’s Grave at his request.

Yeat’s Grave in Drumcliffe, Sligo

Yeats grave overlooking Benbulben

This Church and cemetery is a place of quiet beauty, the stunning mountains that surround the Churchyard and the outstanding natural beauty that is Sligo will haunt you forever. 

Benbulben Sligo where Yeats is buried

W. B.yeats grave faces an unparalleled view of the mountains in their many colours, washed by sunshine and cloud.  The peace settles into your bones and you can hear Yeats poetry in your ears. Words cannot convey the silence, peace and beauty of this place.

a view of Benbulben in Sligo from Yeats Grave

The Church itself is connected to the Yeats family through his great-grandfather who was rector here in Drumcliffe. Yeats died in the South of France on 28 January 1939 and was buried at Roquebrune Cemetery.

The Church at Drumcliff Benbulben Sligo where Yeats is buried

In 1948 his body was exhumed and brought back to Drumcliff. Yeats, who had strong family links to County Sligo, had asked to be reinterred in Drumcliff when press interest in his death had subsided. The poet instructed his wife:

“In a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.”

doorway to church at Sligo

It has been an ongoing saga for many years with respect to Yeats bones that were supposedly sent to Ireland from France. However, it turns out that it was a bit of a conspiracy and that the bones resting in Yeats place are of a few French folks and Yeats’ bones have been lost over the years. You can read more about the controversy here.

Benbulben Sligo where Yeats is buried

As Yeats requested in his last poem – he was buried within sight of Ben Bulben.

Under Ben Bulben

Benbulben Sligo where Yeats is buried

W.B. Yeats


Swear by what the Sages spoke

Round the Mareotic Lake

That the Witch of Atlas knew,

Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.

Swear by those horsemen, by those women,

Complexion and form prove superhuman,

That pale, long visaged company

That airs an immortality

Completeness of their passions won;

Now they ride the wintry dawn

Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.

Here’s the gist of what they mean.


Many times man lives and dies

Between his two eternities,

That of race and that of soul,

And ancient Ireland knew it all.

Whether man dies in his bed

Or the rifle knocks him dead,

A brief parting from those dear

Is the worst man has to fear.

Though grave-diggers’ toil is long,

Sharp their spades, their muscle strong,

They but thrust their buried men

Back in the human mind again.


You that Mitchel’s prayer have heard

`Send war in our time, O Lord!’

Know that when all words are said

And a man is fighting mad,

Something drops from eyes long blind

He completes his partial mind,

For an instant stands at ease,

Laughs aloud, his heart at peace,

Even the wisest man grows tense

With some sort of violence

Before he can accomplish fate

Know his work or choose his mate.


Poet and sculptor do the work

Nor let the modish painter shirk

What his great forefathers did,

Bring the soul of man to God,

Make him fill the cradles right.

Measurement began our might:

Forms a stark Egyptian thought,

Forms that gentler Phidias wrought.

Michael Angelo left a proof

On the Sistine Chapel roof,

Where but half-awakened Adam

Can disturb globe-trotting Madam

Till her bowels are in heat,

Proof that there’s a purpose set

Before the secret working mind:

Profane perfection of mankind.

Quatorocento put in paint,

On backgrounds for a God or Saint,

Gardens where a soul’s at ease;

Where everything that meets the eye

Flowers and grass and cloudless sky       

Resemble forms that are, or seem

When sleepers wake and yet still dream,

And when it’s vanished still declare,

With only bed and bedstead there,

That Heavens had opened.

Gyres run on;

When that greater dream had gone

Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude

Prepared a rest for the people of God,

Palmer’s phrase, but after that

Confusion fell upon our thought.


Irish poets learn your trade

Sing whatever is well made,

Scorn the sort now growing up

All out of shape from toe to top,

Their unremembering hearts and heads

Base-born products of base beds.

Sing the peasantry, and then

Hard-riding country gentlemen,

The holiness of monks, and after

Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;

Sing the lords and ladies gay

That were beaten into the clay

Through seven heroic centuries;

Cast your mind on other days

That we in coming days may be

Still the indomitable Irishry.


Under bare Ben Bulben’s head

In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,

An ancestor was rector there

Long years ago; a church stands near,

By the road an ancient Cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase,

On limestone quarried near the spot

By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death.

Horseman, pass by!

The area has been made more tourist-friendly with the addition of conveniences like a tea room and washroom facilities.  There is also a small store where you can purchase Yeat’s books and memorabilia.


The Sligo route is also a major stop on the Wild Atlantic Way if you are really interested in touring the WAW there are plenty of things to choose from, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, Donegal, or how about going on a mission to find Puffins?

Visiting W.B Yeats Grave in Drumcliffe Cemetery Sligo Ireland

If you are looking to see more of Ireland from outside Dublin in Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way here are a few articles for you to check out.

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