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

Co. Sligo
Nearest town: Sligo Nearest village: Standhill Map references: G.62.34

Knocknarea in Irish is –  Cnoc na Riabh

It is about 4 km West of Sligo Town (probably about 17 km North of Kilmacteige  (in Southern Sligo).

It is 1078 feet tall and an easy climb on the NW side, the back side it harder/steeper and (partially) closed.

At the Summit (Top)  is a Mound what is called  “Queen Maeve’s Cairn” (a Cairn is a burial mound).

This Cairn  is made of millions and millions of small rocks piled up — a clear testament to the regard Queen Maeve was held by those back then !

It surely took  considerable effort to build, probably years, possibly many many years of bringing small stones to the top of the Mountain. It is an impressive site you are rewarded with when finishing the Hike to the Top. It is free and a public right-of-way which the public has an ancient right to climb — however, please be mindful it goes through private property. Leave nothing behind, in fact pick-up any trash you see and stuff it in your pack (do no damage the the Earth).

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 actually buried in the burial chamber — or if any burial chamber exists at the bottom — It is, as noted, quite a considerable Mound and was obviously very important 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 — and a good day’s outing (but be prepared for any weather as it is a couple hours climb and one needs to be physically fit (see more on this below).

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 Hiking. 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 VERY important to have communication equipment 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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