• Trailhead: Roadside Parking
  • Length: 5.5km return
  • Ascent: 120m
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Suggested Gear: Sturdy walking shoes, trekking boots, waterproofs, fluids, snacks and mobile phone
  • Longitude: 54.0587765452
  • Latitude: -8.394112587
Don't climb the cairn

The Trail Map:- OSI Map Series 25

Carrowkeel is a megalithic hill top passage tomb cemetery. There are 14 cairns located at different positions on the hilltops with a further group of 6 cairns extending west towards Keshcorran Mountain, which is also capped with a large cairn. The main group of cairns was examined in 1911 when 14 cairns were excavated were given letters to differentiate them with Cairns G and K been the most significant of all.


The Route
The walk up to Carrowkeel can be done as a linear walk or as part of the Miners Way and Historical Trail. To assess the tombs as part of the Miners Way and Historical Trail you can start from Ballinafad and walk up across the Bricklieve Mountains over to the tombs before heading down past the donkey sanctuary to Castlebaldwin. The Miners Way and Historical Trail is waymarked using black marker posts with yellow arrows.

Did you know?
The mountain range containing Carrowkeel is called the Bricklieve Mountains, meaning the speckled mountains in Irish.

The tombs were opened by R.A.S. Macalister in 1911, accompanied by Robert Lloyd Praeger and Edmund Clarence Richard Armstrong. Although Macalister was acquainted with contemporary archaeological methods, he acted hastily at Carrowkeel and his removal and disturbance of the chamber floors have hampered investigators who followed him. In ‘The Way That I Went’, 1937, Praeger gives an eerie account of the first entry into one of the Carrowkeel monuments.

“I lit three candles and stood awhile, to let my eyes accustom themselves to the dim light. There was everything, just as the last Bronze Age man (sic) had left it, three to four thousand years before. A light brownish dust covered all… There beads of stone, bone implements made from Red Deer antlers, and many fragments of much decayed pottery. On little raised recesses in the wall were flat stones, on which reposed the calcinated bones of young children.”

Directions - How to get to the Trailhead.

Take the N4 from Sligo towards Dublin for 26.5km. At the end of the dual carriageway, take the last exit from the roundabout for Castlebaldwin. When you enter the village, turn left at McDermott's Pub. After 300 metres the road forks, take the left turn here. Continue for approx. 4km before taking a road to the left. Follow this until you reach a gate that crosses the road, where a small amount of roadside parking is available. You can pass through this gate (remembering to close it behind you) and further roadside parking is available further on as the road ends.

6 thoughts on “Carrowkeel

  1. Wonderful secret walk. I just came across 3/4 cairns with different alignment 40 degrees north east, northwest and north. Wonderful views . I wonder how far towards Loughcrew you can see?

  2. The time for this walk says 30minutes? To walk 5km up a mountain? That couldn’t surely be right is it? Or am I just really unfit?

  3. I had heard about these Cairns from a friend and put it on the Todo list. I had little expectations which I now see as a good thing. After the walk up I ventured in side the first cairn and was blown away by how pristine the inside was and thinking they built this up to 4,000 years ago followed this with a venture into the larger cairn and this was even more impressive. Just the thought of how these were constructed in that time on the side/top of these beautiful mountains and here I am enjoying the fruits of their labour all this time later. How did they bring the boulders up the mountain,put them in place so they could withstand all mother nature can throw it them and based on the first escavation had remained closed to all humans for all that time. Truly a day I will never forget…just to appreciate the Mammoth endeavor that was involved….and being able to see this in all it’s glory on a rainy day in Jan 2022

  4. Nice walk, spectacular tombs including two that you can crawl into, so bring a headlamp. My 8 and 10 year olds loved it.

  5. Did the walk today with the kids , fantastic views from the top , road part definitely easy , climb from the road to the passage tombs was a bit steeper. Tombs themselves were fascinating.
    Well worth the effort.

If you have been on this walk and would like to leave a review or pass some comments on to your fellow walkers or to Sligo Walks, please fill in the boxes below and click Send.

Your email address will not be published.