Knocknarea, (Mountain Top Cairn – Queen Maeve) Co. Sligo


Knocknarea is about 4 miles West of Sligo Town (probably about 17 miles North of Kilmactiege (Southern Sligo). In Irish or Gaelic is it- Cnoc na Riabh

It is 1078 feet tall. At the Summit Top is “Queen Maeve’s Cairn” a burial mound where it is reputed to be the resting place of Queen Maeve, Queen of Connaght.

Queen Maeve has a storied History. No one knows what is at the bottom of this Cairn as it is made of (literally) millions and millions of small rocks all piled up on the top of Knocknarea — a clear testament to the regard Queen Maeve was held by those back then as it took very considerable effort to build, probably over years, possibly decades, to bringing so many small stones to the top of Knocknarea.

It is an impressive site, and anyone can climb it in several Hours (provided you are fit enough as it is a considerable effort), but, you are rewarded with when finishing the Hike to the Top with an incredible view of the surrounding area!

It is free and has a public right-of-way which the the ancient right to climb is preserved. However, please be mindful of the adjoining land owner’s property (Cattle mainly) as it goes through private property so close gates behind you and PLEASE subscribe to the responsible Hiker’s motto – leave no indication you were there. Let no trash remain, take it with you (cans are provided at the car parking areas) and make no damages the the Earth. Make sure the openings that are present are closed if you open them to pass. Also, be careful, carry a fully charged cell phone if you need to (try) to summon help. One must be fit – do NOT try it otherwise. And generally do NOT try the climb without assistance, travel in a group.

LEGEND has it one who takes a stone from the top will be punished. so, it is much better to pick one up at the bottom and bring it to the top (and deposit it on the Cairn).

P.W. Joyce preferred the interpretation Cnoc na Riaghadh, ‘hill of the executions’. Cnoc na Riogha, ‘hill of the kings’, has also been suggested. The
huge cairn on the summit plateau is called Meascán Méabha, ‘Maeve’s mound’. It is considered likely that it conceals a passage tomb, though it has not
yet been excavated. For more information on the archaeology, see “Transforming Knocknarea – the archaeology of a mountain” by Stefan Bergh, Archaeology Ireland, vol. 14, no. 2 (2000), pp. 14-18


No confirmation IF Queen Maeve is in the burial chamber, or if any burial chamber exists at the bottom, or what things are at the bottom of the Cairn.  It is, however, quite a considerable Mound and was obviously very important as it took no doubt considerable effort by a large group to create such a Cairn. It is  not to be missed if visiting the N.W.  Ireland are in the area of Sligo Town if Ancient History is important to you — it is without question quite old. And by this we mean it is Ancient,  and probably goes back several thousand years (and given the age of other burial sites, could be older than this perhaps older than the Pyramids in Egypt). It is an Amazing site to see !!


Climbing is an effort and requires endurance and some 2 hours of time, plan accordingly —  But it is NOT that difficult a Trek if you are in reasonable physical shape and do not have any issues climbing over uneven ground with some considerable angles at the top — being prepared is the most important thing —Good all weather clothing (as Rain will unquestionably be possible — as it is all over Ireland). Sturdy, well-broken-in-Hiking-Boots are important,  having an experience walking partner is critical as this is one Hike you do not want to do alone. Indeed, Hiking over uneven ground experience is also critical as this is somewhat steep towards the top – not the place to start for Hiking experience. One must take deliberate, intentional steps, and one must avoid at all costs  twisting one’s ankle as rocks — large and small — are all over the entire path (if it can be called that). It is also important to have communication equipment that is fully charged and tested as working (in case of emergency). Plan for the Worst, Hope for the best! Enjoy the below photos taken along the Hike up to see Queen Maeve’s Cairn.

GETTING THERE, There are markings on the  N17 Highway out of Sligo to the South, and from the (marked) Car Park off the Highway it is about a 2 hour climb (each way). It becomes more steep closer to the top.  Several gates are on the way that one must enter and exit (so livestock cannot escape) and it keeps the farmer’s fields with the animals in them — do not disturb them and they will not bother you.

Below is a series of photos taken every few minutes on the trek to the top in 2006. Sometimes a photo of the view is taken but is mainly the trek to the Top to see Queen Maeve. They ARE copyrighted (just contact Us for permission which always include attribution to Use and depending on use, We will confirm any other restrictions).IMGP1967   IMGP1968 IMGP1969   IMGP1973 IMGP1972







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