Sligo Surf Experience Blog


22 March 22

Queen Maeve's tomb is a massive cairn visible from miles around. It is just about the largest Stone Age megalithic monument to be seen anywhere in Western Europe.

Sligo Surf Experience Blog Image: Knocknarea. Queen Maeve's tomb is a massive cairn visible from miles around. It is just about the largest Stone Age megalithic monument to be seen anywhere in Western Europe.

Knocknarea history

Small passage tombs were built on Knocknarea's flat summit and later on, about 3,400 BC, this sacred space on the summit was further defined by a complex series of walls extending 2.5 kilometers along the inland side of the mountain. These walls would have directed and controlled access to the summit of the hill. About fifteen ancient hut sites have been discovered on the hill, mainly on the southern side of the summit. These sites provide evidence that people resided on the exposed mountain but perhaps only during certain times of the year when special rituals were performed on the summit.

Around 3000 BC the large cairn on the summit was built. This cairn, which is called Meascán Méadhbha, most likely covers a passage tomb the entrance of which has never been located.

The builders of the cairn on the summit of Knocknarea transformed the skyline of Coolera thereby turning the entire mountain into a monument! The cairn transformed people's perception of the landscape. The cairn forged the landscape into their character. In this sense Knocknarea and its cairn creates identity.

The ancient monuments of Coolera are built at very specific places. By occupying key places in the landscape the monuments changed the way people perceive the world around them and still do.

Queen Maeve Trail

Queen Maeve's tomb is a massive cairn visible from miles around. It is just about the largest Stone Age megalithic monument to be seen anywhere in Western Europe. More than 1200 megalithic monuments identified in Ireland and one seventh of those works of ancient engineering.

The Carrowmore complex is the largest megalithic site in Europe.

Sligo Myth and Legend

The Annals of the Four Master, one of best known accounts of ancient Irish history, records that in AD 537 there was a rebellion against the King of Connaught. The rebels were assisted by Northmen from Ulster. A terrible battle was fought in Sligo on the banks of the Garavogue. During this battle between the forces of Connaught and Ulster it is said that the waters of the Garavogue ran red with blood. Some writers (probably from Ulster) claim the Connaughtmen were slaughtered and their king was killed, but other writers (probably from Connaught) assert that although Eoghan Bell was mortally wounded the Connaughtmen were the victors and his surviving warriors hung around for several days erecting the monuments of Carrowmore over their dead.

View from the top

Knocknarea stands between the bays of Sligo and Ballosadare. It is a fine, clear-cut limestone hill that forms the most prominent landmark on the Coolera peninsula.

Coolera and Strandhill village are surrounded on three sides by coastline – Cummeen Strand to the north, Sligo Bay to the west and Ballosadare Bay to the south.

Knocknarea holds commanding views and it is maybe for this reason that Knocknarea became an important focal point for the ancient inhabitants of Sligo, specifically the passage tomb people of Neolithic Ireland (approx. 4000 – 2000 BC).

Passage tombs consist of a narrow passage made of large stones with one or more chambers covered in earth or stone. These are commonly called burial chambers but not all passage tombs contain evidence of human remains. Many passage tombs, especially the oldest ones, were covered in a cairn or artificial pile of stones. Cairns were used as waymarkers on the landscape. The were also used as a way of locating buried objects or as burial monuments. Cairns would have been used for ceremonies and were also used for astronomy, a subject ancient people obviously knew quite a bit about. Some cairns were small while others were very large and showed ancient man's (and presumeably ancient woman's) great skill as spectacular feats of large scale megalithic engineering.

Places of interest

In addition to surfing, there is lots of walk, trails and sites of historical interest in Strandhill. Visit the 5,000 year old neolithic cairn � one of the largest Stone Age monuments in western Europe - on top of Knocknarea following the Queen Maeve trail. Or visit Strandhill's archaeological gem past Sligo Airport by taking the Killaspugbron Loop to visit the ruins of a Christian site founded by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.

And trip to Strandhill is not complete without a visit to the nearby Carrowmore neolithic site situated in the centre of the Coolera Peninsula. Carrowmore is one of Ireland's largest neolithic sites and one of the four major passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland. Visit the Carrowmore visitor centre and take one of the regular tours to discover the significance of the this ancient sacred ritual centre and discover the fascinating history of the ancient inhabitants of Coolera responsible for the tomb's construction.