By John C McTernan

Knocknarea, Hill of the Moon, or Hill of the Kings, one of the most striking landmarks in the entire country, dominates Sligo Bay and the Coolera peninsula. Its solitary situation renders it conspicuous from far off and from all sides. On this flat-topped limestone plateau rises a massive stone cairn, known locally as Misgaun Maeve - the most remarkable hill-top monument in Ireland and the legendary burial-place of Maeve, Queen of Connacht in ancient times.Knocknarea from Oyster Island

More likely it was built by Neolithic peoples about 3,000 BC to cover a Passage Tomb on the mountain top. The huge cairn is made up of small stones, extending in circumference at the base to about 630 feet, the slope to the summit being 79 feet on one side and 67 on the other; the diameter at the top is computed to be 100 feet on the largest and 85 feet on the shortest measurements. Experts have calculated that the stones in the cairn weigh in the region of forty-thousand tons. 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.

The panoramic view from the mountain top has few equals and a number of travellers have recorded their impressions but none more eloquently than William Bulfin in his Travels in Eirinn. He wrote: Knocknarea has an epic suggestiveness which you cannot miss if you climb the mountain. It looks down on wide Tir Fiachra, where dwelt the music-loving hosts of fierce engagements. Away to northward and eastward and southward are mountain and valley and river and lake and woodland. To the westward rolls the thundering ocean. The mountain has no partner in its glory. It stands proudly over the rocky coast in solitary grandeur. The mourners who erected the burial mound on its stately summit could not have chosen a more royal throne for their kingly dead.