Queen Maeve Trail – Knocknarea

  • Length: 2.4km
  • Ascent: 300m
  • Time: 1.5 - 2 Hours
  • Longitude: 54.2703551161
  • Latitude: -8.5847854614
  • Trailhead: Car Park, Roadside Parking
  • Waymarking: Red Arrows
  • OSI Map Series: Series 25
  • Suggested Gear: Sturdy walking/trekking boots, waterproofs, fluids, snacks and mobile phone

Directions - How to get to the Trailhead.

The clear-cut limestone mountain of Knocknarea, located on the Cúil Irra (Coolera) peninsula, forms one of County Sligo’s most conspicuous landmarks. Knocknarea Mountain (320m) dominates the skyline of Sligo. Formed from limestone over 300 million years ago, the summit is crowned by the great cairn of Queen Maeve (Miosgan Meadhbha) and has been an importance ritual focal point since Neolithic times. The presence of the passage tombs, along with circular house foundations and an extensive system of earthen banks enclosing the eastern approach to the summit, are all reminders that this was a place of intensive activity. The large cairn was probably built around 3400BC, while some of the smaller passage tombs are potentially some one hundred year older. A visit to the nearby interpretive centre at Carrowmore is highly recommended in order to gain a greater understanding of this landscape.The summit of Knocknarea provides panoramic views of Sligo and the North West of Ireland and is a magical place where land meets sky.

The Route

Upon leaving the car park follow the stone path for 1.2km then continue along the “bog bridge” to the summit above. The ascent takes approximately 1 hour and the descent approximately 40 minutes (1.5 – 2 hours total duration). Good footwear/boots are recommended as the trail can be both wet and slippery. Please take extra care on the “bog bridge” section of the trail, particularly during icy conditions.

Please Note: The property traversed by this route is private and access is available by the kind permission of the landowners. Dogs are not permitted on sections of the trail that cross the open farmland above the wood due to the presence of grazing sheep and lambs.
It should be noted that this path traverses mountain terrain and can be subject to rapidly changing weather conditions including cloud cover, mist, fog and high winds. Extreme caution should be exercised during such weather events and in this context walkers are advised to remain upon designated paths and to turn back in case of any doubt. In the event of an emergency please call 999112 and ask for Mountain Rescue.

The summit and its surrounds once constituted a sacred burial place to people in this area and should be treated with dignity and respect -Please do not climb the cairn.

Did You Know?

In Irish mythology Knocknarea is the burial place of the beautiful Warrior Queen Maeve of Connaught. Queen Maeve was granted rulership over the kingdom of Connaught by her father, the High King of Ireland and whosoever should be her husband would be King. Maeve had several husbands including Ailill. Táin Bó Cúailnge or The Cattle Raid of Cooley is the great “epic” of Irish Mythology. The story begins when Maeve and her husband Ailill compare their wealth and find that the only thing that distinguishes between them is Ailill’s possession of the phenomenally fertile bull Finnbhennach. In order to gain equality with her husband Maeve determines to get the equally potent bull Donn Cuailnge from Cooley. She successfully negotiates with the bull’s owner, Dáire mac Fiachna, to rent the animal for a year until her messengers, drunk, reveal that they would have taken the bull by force even if they had not been allowed to rent it. The deal breaks down, so Maeve raises an army and sets out to capture the bull by force and a great conflict ensues.
Queen Maeve is said to be buried upright in the cairn at the summit of Knocknarea, spear in hand, still facing her enemies in Ulster.

The beauty and mythology associated with the Sligo Landscape were the great inspiration for Nobel Prize winning poet W.B. Yeats. As a dominant regional landmark Knocknarea is particularly prominent in his work featuring in a total of seven poems.
“The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knocknarea and thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.” W.B. Yeats

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