Knocknarea - Queen Maeves Cairn

Knocknarea - Queen Maeves Cairn

25 minutes From The Hotel

Queen Maeve's Cairn, perched on the summit of Knocknarea, is one of the most impressive megalithic monuments remaining in Ireland. Knocknarea is the most prominent and beautiful mountain in County Sligo, it's only possible rival being the majestic plateau of Benbulben.

Aside from Queen Maeve's cairn, there are six more neolithic monuments, five on the summit, while an overgrown boulder circle is on the edge of the large lower ledge to the east. There are also the foundations of some 28 neolithic houses and 1.2 km of stone walls and banks on the south side of the summit.

The passage and chamber have remained hidden since prehistoric times. The cairn is known to be the resting place of the legendary Queen Maeve of Connaught; its good state of preservation is probably due to her fierce reputation. Maeve ruled Connaught from her palace at Rath Croghan near Tulsk in Roscommon, and she is best known for her role in the Tain Bo Culainge, where she led her province to war against Ulster to take the Brown Bull of Cooley, when Cuchullain single-handedly held off her army. That she chose to be interred in the Great Cairn of Knocknarea says something about its prestige as the most important and ancient sacred site in Connaught.

Gabrial Beranger's 1779 record of Queen Maeve's Cairn.
Legend tells us that Maeve was buried standing upright within the chamber, with her armour on and facing her ancient enemies in Ulster. There are also stories of chieftains being buried in Knockma, Carns Hill and Heapstown. These legendary burial practices echo the Egyptian customs of burying the kings within the pyramids - in death, they act as symbolic and spiritual guardians of the landscape they once ruled.