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There are over 5000 recorded archaeological sites in County Sligo – from one of the world’s oldest (4840 BC) and largest (30 monuments) megalithic cemeteries at Carrowmore to the famine graveyard at Strandhill. Many of these are easily accessible and within easy driving distance. Indeed the Knights Templar castle is by the lake shore and this is how Temple House came by its name. Carrowkeel and Knocknarea are other prominent sites.
Carrowmore is one of the largest megalithic cemeteries in W. Europe and the guides and diagrams there can explain the significance of the Dolmens, Passage graves and stone circles around the visitor centre. Radiocarbon dating suggests 3,800 and 4,600 BC for two of the tombs.
The great tomb on Knocknarea is a massive construction of stones probably covering a similar passage tomb to the famous Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in the Boyne valley. A similar cairn can be seen at Heapstown, at the north end of Lough Arrow.
Knocknashee is an isolated 20 h. limestone plateau rising NW of Tubbercurry and was fortified about 700 BC to 200 AD. It is the largest Hillfort in Connaught and the enclosure has three cairns and about 30 circular house sites which formed a prehistoric village.
The surrounding area of South Sligo is rich in field monuments of earth or stone: Ringforts, Raths etc.. These vary in size and were farmsteads or hillforts, some of them had wall passages and souterains [underground chambers]. Several South Sligo lakes, Temple House, Cloonacleigha, and Mullagh etc. contain Crannogs, these were artificial island dwellings of the late bronze and early iron age and were similar in function and date to Ringforts. They were made of layers of stone, wood turf etc. encased in a circular palisade of poles driven into the lake bed, some have an underwater serpentine pathway for defensive purposes.
The Achonry monument consists of three huge boulders [2x1mts] supporting a large one and east of Knocknashee at Knockatootaun is a 3×2.7mts roofslab supported by 7 irregular upright rocks.
Carrowkeel, on the Bricklieve Mts.. west of L. Arrow has 14 passage tombs scattered over the hilltops. (You can also see 6 counties on a clear day from up here). Two of the tombs can be entered along a low 3m passage that leads to a chamber with three alcoves in the form of a cross. So don’t forget to take a candle or torch with you! The National Museum in Dublin displays some of the beads, pins, pendants & pottery grave goods found in this cemetery.
The Labby rock Portal tomb has a massive capstone weighing approximately 70 tons and stands on the Moyturra plateau east of L. Arrow. There are many other sites to be visited in this region, Ballindoon Abbey, Ballinafad Castle, court tombs etc.
Creevykeel at Cliffoney, beside the Donegal road and the Deerpark monument at Calry are possibly the best displayed Irish Court tombs and Co. Sligo has 57 others too, plus 11 Portal tombs and 35 Wedge tombs.