Overview

Knocknarea dominates the skyline over the Coolera peninsula and is one of the most striking landmarks in the entire country. The giant rocky cairn of “Queen Maeve’s grave” is clearly visible atop the mountain from various approaches to Strandhill.

On a clear day from the summit, you can witness a panoramic view that is hard to rival. Overlooking the village of Strandhill, you can see the ocean to the west and the coastline towards Easky. Away to the north, east and south you can see mountains including Ben Bulben, rivers, lakes and woodlands.

History

The gaelic form of Knocknarea is Cnoc na Ri meaning “Hill of Kings” in reference to the myth that on the mountain the ancient Kings of the province were once crowned. On reaching the top you will be greeted by a mound of stones or “Queen Maeve’s grave”. The Cairn is called “Miosgan Meabha”, Gaelic for “Maeve’s Cairn”. The tradition is that Maeve, the legendary queen of Connacht is buried underneath the massive heap of stones.

The cairn itself is 600 feet in circumference and 34 feet high. Experts have calculated that the stones in the cairn weigh in the region of forty thousand tonnes. “Such immense labour as went into the making of this monument would only have been undertaken to perpetuate the memory of some person or event of the most outstanding importance” wrote Richard Hayward.

There are six other smaller tombs on the summit. One of these, according to another legend, is that of the 6th century warrior king of Connacht, Eoghan Bell, who died as a result of wounds received in the battle of Sligo fought in 537 AD – more in our history section.

Directions

Coming from Strandhill and starting at the beach, make your way up the hill, past the church on your right. Turn right at the top and continue on this road out of the village. The road becomes small and windy from here on so take care. After 2km, you will find a left turn signposted for Knocknarea. Take this road up a steep hill, passing “the Glen” on your right as the road gets very narrow. Take the first left, which is again signposted for Knocknarea, bringing you to the car park. For directions to the summit, see our hike page.