A tour of mystical, mythological Ireland
Take a tour through Irish ancient myth
Carrowmore is classified alongside Newgrange and Loughcrew as part of the Irish Passage Tomb Tradition.
Within Carrowmore lies the Great Cairn of Knocknarea – also known as Queen Maeve’s Tomb.
The monument, 197 feet in diameter, was built about 6,000 years ago and is situated on the highest part of the flat top of Knocknarea mountain, 327 meters above the sea.
The cairn is one of the most impressive and well-preserved ancient monuments in all of Ireland, and stands in one of the most beautiful and visible locations of any passage tomb.
According to legend, the site is the resting place of Queen Maeve of Connaught in the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology, and an iconic Irish mythological warrior (this may help to explain why her tomb is so well preserved).
Queen Maeve is notorious for inciting the Tain Bo Culainge (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”), where she led her province to war against Ulster to steal their prized bull.
Maeve’s choice to be buried on Knocknarea speaks volumes of its importance in Irish mythological history.
Carrowkeel, which lies atop the Bricklieve Mountains, is a collection of some of the most mysterious mounds in all Ireland. It is a lesser-known ancient site than Carrowmore, but is equally significant in Ireland’s mythical past and has one of the most beautiful locations of any megalithic site. Carrowkeel is the fourth major passage tomb cemetery in Ireland (the others being Newgrange, Loughcrew and Carrowmore).
Today, 14 passage tombs can be seen at Carrowkeel. One of the tombs is a “classic” Irish passage tomb – one that consists of a short passage you can crawl through, which leads to a central chamber with three equally spaced side chambers. What’s unique about the tomb is the roofbox above the entrance. The only other known roofbox exists at Newgrange, but while Newgrange is aligned to the Winter solstice, the Carrowkeel roofbox is aligned to the midsummer sunset, signaling two different types of rituals that must have taken place in the locations.
Both Carrowmore and Carrowkeel are very accessible from main roads in South Sligo.
Stop 7: The Rock of Cashel Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Legend has it that the Devil took a bit out of a side of a mountain in North Tipperary – now known as the Devil’s Bit – and then spat out a rock, which landed at Cashel. That rock is now known as the Rock of Cashel.
The Rock was the traditional seat of the high Kings of Munster prior to the Norman invasion.
Numerous buildings are perched on the site, the majority of which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, and today hold some of the most extraordinary collections of Celtic art in Europe.
The Rock of Cashel is also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, because Cashel is the presumed site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.