To get to the legendary Maeve's Cairn requires great physical energy but is an exhilerating experience that is a must do when visiting Sligo - must say however that as you drive towards Knocknarea Mountain you may be slightly alarmed by the height that you have to climb. Once you get to the car park however you have actually begun the ascent so the 2.5 mile walk is less than I anticipated.
The mountain is approximately 5 miles from Sligo and is easy to find on a map (it is well signed). The site is Neolithic and about 5000 years old. It is the alleged burial site of the Iron age queen of Connaught, Maeve, who supposedly watches over Connaught from her vantage point to be ready for invaders from Ulster. However Romantic this may be the age of the site makes it highly improbable - good story though!! The foundations of huts have been found nearby.
The climb and I do mean climb is not for the faint hearted. They warn you before you start that it could take an hour to climb up and the path is often slippy and hard work. I'm pleased to say I did it much quicker but it was tough. Make sure you wear suitable shoes and also have a coat for the inevitable rain showers. The views from the top of the mountain are great and you can look down on other remains. You can climb onto the cairn if you want to but I think this may be damaging the structure and so would not recommend it. The cairn is huge as you walk around it (and gives you a good chance to catch your breath after the walk!!!).
Knocknarea is a green mountain with woodland upon its slopes and farmland at its feet. Although its not as large as Benbulben to the North, I'd say its probably more varied and prettier. There are paths leading up there, but Wayne and I, being the adventurous types, took a harder route through the trees (see my travelogue for more details).
At the summit of the mountain your tiring climb will reward you with the site of Queen Maeve's Tomb. To be honest, it's not much of a grave, considering she was a queen - it's just a huge pile of rocks! The view at the top is great though, so your climb will be well worth it anyways.
Make sure that you climb Knocknarea. It os easy to recognise as you can see an unsual 'Lump' at the top. The lump is a big pile of rocks covering the grave of an old celtic Queen. If you are staying at Strandhill, then you can easily have acess to the mountain as it is right near. If you are staying in the centre of town, or at rosses point, you can get a Bus to it for around €2.50. If you prefer the easy way, there is a stony path leading to the top. But in my opinion, thats kind of boring! Once at the top, just listen. You will never have heard of such silence. Sligo is a quiet place already, and listening to it from the summit of a mountain just makes the silence so unreal.
The trek up the side of the mountain is very injoyable it takes about 45 minutes to get to the top. Here there is a great panoramic view of county sligo with its mountains & lakes and a great view of the Sligo coast!!!!
Overlooking the megaliths at Carrowmore is the legendary Maeve's Cairn. It sits on top of Knocknarea, the only mountain around so easy to spot. The site is Neolithic and about 5000 years old. It is the alleged burial site of the Iron Age queen of Connaught, Maeve, who supposedly watches over Connaught from her vantage point to be ready for invaders from Ulster - another romantic Irish fable.
Time and wind didn’t allow for us to make the journey up the mountain, but others who have made the two plus hour climb to to see the huge Cairn say the views from the top of Knocknarea are worth the climb.
We walked to Knocknarea from Sligo town- it took us 2h- and climbed the mountain including Queen Maeve's tomb :o)))the wind almost blew us off, but the view was awesome!!!
The fist part of the trail is quite easy- if you're not going there in Oktober, coz it's flooded- but after the gate( almost halfway) you have to find your own way...
The view from the top of Knocknarea is magnificent. We were at the top just before sunset, and the waters of Sligo Bay waters looked really beautiful. My photos don't really do it justice.