Knockinarea is the name of the prominent mountain on the Cuil Irra peninsula to the west of Sligo, County Sligo. The name of the hill has been interpreted as: The Hill of the King, The Hill of the Moon and The Hill of the Executioner amongst other things, and dominates the views from miles around.
The hill seems to have been the focus for ritual activity during the Neolithic period, with various passage tomb dominated by Miscaun Maeve (Miosgan Medbh), an impressive unexcavated cairn thought to cover a passage grave similar to those in the Boyne Valley.
This cairn is one of the largest in Ireland after the Boyne valley and is thought to contain around 40,000 tonnes of stone, and measures 180 feet in diameter and 32 feet high, it is thought to date to around 3000BC. Other passage graves on the hill were excavated and laid bare to the elements by destructive archaeology in the 19th Century.
From its elevated position at just over 1,000 feet it is obvious that the cairn was built to be seen from far and wide, and it is quite a stiff climb to reach it although the views are rewarding.
The cairn is the legendary burial place for Maeve (Medb): Warrior Queen of Connaught whose exploits are mentioned in the 11th Century manuscript The Book of the Dun Cow. Maeve is said to be interred in the centre of the mound, dressed for battle, facing North towards her enemies in Ulster. The story of Maeve and other legendary heroes are thought to date back much further than the early manuscripts and may be related to the early Iron Age period, although there is little historical evidence to show that they existed.
There has been a tradition here of adding stones to the tomb but this has caused damage and climbing on the structure is to be avoided as is moving any of the stones, as the monument already suffers from high visitor numbers.