Knocknashee

  • Trailhead: Roadside Parking
  • Length: 1.5km Return
  • Ascent: 120m
  • Time: 1-1.5 hours
  • Suggested Gear: Sturdy Boots, waterproofs, fluids and snacks
  • Longitude: 54.11675
  • Latitude: -8.669593

The Trail Map:- OSI Map Series 25

Knocknashee (Cnoc na Sí – Hill of the Fairies) is one of Ireland’s largest Bronze Age hillforts. While not as well-known as its larger mountain cousin Ben Bulben, Knocknashee is nonetheless a beautiful table top mountain which overlooks the drumlins and plains of south Sligo. This trail is linear in nature and provides access to an open plateau at the summit.

Knocknashee, is a notable feature in the generally flat, low-lying landscape of South Sligo. Rising to 270m, the 53-acre limestone plateau is clearly visible from the nearby N17 Galway-Sligo road. With its encircling earth and stone ramparts, burial cairns, and hut sites, Knocknashee is rich in megalithic history and holds a central part in Irish folklore. It is believed to have been a fortified pre-historic town, possibly the ‘capital’ of late-Bronze Age Connacht (c. 1000 BC). Michael Gibbons, one of Ireland’s leading field archaeologists, refers to it as “one of the great European hill-forts”.

The Route
The trail begins at the ‘kissing gate’ which leads to a steep gravel path and steps towards the summit. The ascent is c. 120m and about 0.5 km in length. Sturdy footwear/boots are recommended as the trail can be wet and slippery. At the end of this path is a stile leading to an open grassy plateau, continue straight ahead to the summit and cairn, or turn right and follow the stone wall, taking a circular route around the plateau with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including Keash Hill (17km to the east), the Ox Mountains (6km to the west), Knocknarea (32km to the north) and on a really clear day, Crough Patrick (80km to the southwest). Just a few kms the the southeast you can clearly see Court Abbey, which is worth a visit.

Knocknashee is part of the Ox Mountain range, formed 300-340 million years ago during the Carboniferous period. It is a table top mountain which, although not as well-known as Ben Bulben to the north, provides an arresting feature in the landscape of south Sligo. It is the location of one of Ireland’s largest Bronze Age hill forts. At the summit you will find evidence of two cairns which were possibly passage tombs, evidence of the hill’s importance to our ancestors. One of the cairns is located towards the northern end of the hilltop, has a diameter of 28m and a height of 2.5m. The second cairn is located on the northeastern face, 28m in diameter and just 1m in height. There is also some evidence of the outline of the foundations of dwelling structures around the summit.

Did You Know?
Exposed rock on the southern face of the hill is known locally as the wishing chair and it is said that if you can see Croagh Patrick on a clear day when you sit in it, your wish will come true.

WB Yeats mentions Knocknashee in his poem The Ballad of Fr O’Hart.

NB: Please note that the property traversed by this route is private and access is available by kind permission of the landowners. The summit and its surrounds once constituted a sacred burial place and should be treated with dignity and respect.

Directions - How to get to the Trailhead.

From Sligo take the N4 to Collooney and then the N17 to Achonry turning right at the Aurivo Co-Op, and then right again at the church. The walk is ca. 30km south of Sligo. Roadside Parking is available at the trailhead.