Co. Sligo Ireland


A series of hilltop cairns overlooking the Sligo countryside.

Carrowkeel lies a few miles south of Sligo town, in the Bricklieve Mountains overlooking Lough Arrow and the Sligo countryside to the north. It is part of a considerable megalithic complex consisting of 14 cairns on surrounding hills, extending to the Caves of Kesh. Some cairns can be entered by crawling through a narrow passageway – by a braver man than me.

The main group of cairns G, H and K, lie on terraces dotted along the ridge as you climb, reached by an easy but sometimes boggy path. The cairns were labelled as such by the archaologists who excavated (not very gently) in 1911.

Please treat these monuments with respect. Having survived since 3500BC, they have been damaged by people climbing over them, and removing stones as souvenirs (the cairns may originally have been covered in white quartz stones, mostly now vanished). Some have cracked lintels and are in a fragile condition.

Also, be prepared for the weather – take snacks, waterproofs and decent footwear. We started on an innocent May day with blue skies and an occasional fluffy cloud, which soon turned into a torrential downpour lasting most of the walk.

Cairn G is the first to be encountered. This features a lightbox, a narrow slit above the entrance. Viewed from the back of the chamber this frames a strip of the horizon, giving a view of the midsummer sunset dropping behind the neolithic cairn at Doomore. Source

Looking to the west – a fine cloudscape in-between showers.

Reaching the top cairn we had a few minutes sunshine, before the downpour returned with a vengeance. The three of us huddled in the entrance for a while, sheltering from the worst. Rain found its way down the back of my neck, despite Berghaus’ finest. But – we had the perfect experience for us that day – the rain led us into receiving a close-up blessing from the energies of the stones, which, a year later is still ‘unzipping’ in my awareness. This is a place of considerable connections.

Cairn K.

We retraced our steps down the hill. Sparkling sun and blue skies magically restored themselves, warming us through. Cocoa and whisky afterwards helped, too.

Getting to Carrowkeel

Take the N4 to the village of Castlebaldwin, approx 30km south of Sligo. From there head west into the Bricklieve mountains along very minor roads, following the signs for Carrowkeel Passage Tombs. Turn left at the sign for the donkey sanctuary, and then first right, to park in the designated area just before the gate. Some people drive on through the gate and park at the top of the road. From the gate I would allow 40 minutes for the walk up, less for the return.

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