Carrowmore, Knocknarea and a nipple

Day seven and we’re raring to go. Bags packed, weather nice, and most of all, head not sore from birthday wine last night. We were on our way to our next stopover, Letterkenny, but a detour visit to the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetry, which is the largest of its kind in Ireland, and one of the oldest in Europe, was on the cards. Yippee-hey-ho-here-we-go!

There are over sixty tombs that have been discovered, but only thirty have survived, as some were cleared for farming fields and others for quarrying. One tomb is actually older than the pyramids! A few tombs are on privately owned land, but there is enough to see.

Listoghil, or Carrowmore 51, or Tomb 51. This is a central tomb, which simply means that all the other tombs are facing towards it. It is also the only one here to have had a cairn covering it, which has subsequently been renovated in recent years, with a wire-mesh and a passage for visitors to enter. The meshing is necessary I suppose, but it is too modern or fake-looking for something that is more than 5000 years old. There are a few megalithic carvings on some parts of the tomb, but, if the sun is not shining directly on them, hardly noticeable.

The cemetery consists of two parts divided by a busy road. The tombs shown here are sort of squeezed in between two or three farms, yet they still remain breathtaking. Oh, and the surrounding rolling hills, green fields and mountain views are a dream. Add a few farm animals and wild rabbits to that, and the magic is complete. It is so easy to understand why this very spot was chosen as the last resting place so many thousands of years ago. The last photo, in the distance, is Queen Maeve’s tomb on the mountain of Knocknarea, and about three kilometres from where we were standing. Curiosity wanted to know why Maeve is so big, why did it look like a nippled mammilla, and what could be found there. So we ignored the ticking clock, a rumbling tummy or two, and made our way towards it, by car of course. Oh, oh, oh!!!

We’ve been here a few hours and as the saying goes, could now really eat a horse. Uhm, sorry, not really, maybe, okay! but we were hungry. To reach the last few tombs in the area, you have to walk through a narrow footpath, with a hedge on the one side, and a little horse paddock on the other, where you can say hee-hawllo to this curious neighing friend. Be careful though, he bites! Ouch!!

Getting to the car park at the foot of the Knocknarea mountain was adventurous in itself, as the road was quite narrow. Then looking up towards the nippled one, we could feel a big challenge coming on. Okay, so only one of us felt very challenged about this, because it was STEEP!! Shiver! That’s also because it was quite blustery at the bottom. So, after accosting a few older looking people who had been to the top (or not, some did not make it) asking them how long it took them to get up there, or how difficult it was etc. and a few ginger biscuits later, we proceeded on the stone path going up, up and UP, three hundred and thirty metres UP. The worst part, though, is in the rocky middle. That, and the many children skipping and hopping all the way to the top. The only comment that could be squeezed out was: Wait, you will also get to be my age one day, so hop…*wheeze* After only thirty five minutes of agony, and a lot of stopping to ‘admire the views’ *wink-wink-gasp* we finally reached the top. Wow. Wow. WOW! What a beautiful sight. Worth it! Worth it! Worth it! The most amazing all-round scenery ever!

Nooooo…that’s not a pee-pee pinch, nor is that the tree where some liquid DNA was deposited…it was another one, maybe, not so sure now…  😉 The happy one with the red turban is on the way down, and also proud that she is still breathing. Okay, so there were a few choice “what-the-hell-was-I-thinking” curses, especially when the nose started scraping the ground, but hey…made it. So some information about Queen Maeve’s tomb. This is actually the largest unopened cairn in Ireland and dates back to around 3000BC. Tradition is to collect stones on the way up to place them on the cairn. Yeah, right! Like some of us have the ability to breathe and carry stones at the same time…It is not allowed to climb atop the cairn, signs are everywhere, but of course, a few are blind or cannot read, which is disrespectful considering that this is a tomb. Oh well. The other little titbit which is quite amusing is that Queen Maeve was apparently killed by a piece of hard cheese, which was in a sling. The stories you hear…Oh, and we probably parked at the most difficult end of the mountain. When we were on top, we could see at least two other car parks, and the way up did not look so steep. Whatever…

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