Carrowmore Neolithic Cemetery, Co. Sligo

One of the small cairns, with Benbulben to the north

Carrowmore is one of the four great megalithic cemeteries in Ireland and is situated in the centre of the Cuil Iorra peninsula in Co. Sligo. It covers an area of 3.8 sq km (1.5 sq miles) and with its large central cairn and 30 surviving small burial cairns, it is the largest, and probably the oldest, of the Neolithic cemeteries.

Carrowmore (a)
The massive cairn of Listoghil viewed from one of the small tombs

Listoghil is the large tomb at the centre and highest point of the Carrowmore tomb complex. It was reconstructed in 2004 and shows what it would have originally looked like (at least, from the outside) with it’s large cairn of stones surrounded by kerb stones at the base.

There are about 30 smaller and simpler cairns surrounding Listoghil and these are typically a dolmen construction surrounded by a small stone circle, or in some cases, two circles. There were originally many more, perhaps about 80, and they would probably have been built by small groups of people at an earlier date than the building of the big, impressive passage tombs. It is quite likely that these tombs were never covered by cairns.

Looking over the Carrowmore tomb complex is the striking limestone hill, Knocknarea, with Miosgan Meadhbha (Queen Maeve’s Cairn) clearly visible on the summit. The legend is that this was the burial chamber of Queen Maeve of Connacht . The massive cairn has never been excavated but it is believed to be a Neolithic passage tomb. Also on the summit, are the remains of smaller tombs, probably small passage graves.

Knocknarea
Knocknarea from Carrowmore

The size of the cairn on the summit of Knocknarea can’t be appreciated from this photo, but it is a massive 55m wide and 10m high, making it the largest cairn in Ireland after those at Brú na Bóinne.