Playing a few tunes at Cairn G in Carrowkeel last week; Photo by Claudia Queiroz.

Sacred Sites of Ireland - the Sacred Island website

Of all European lands I venture to say that Ireland is the most mystical, and, in the eyes of true Irishmen, as much the Magic Island of Gods and Initiates now as it was when the Sacred Fires flashed from its purple, heather-covered mountain-tops and mysterious round towers, and the Greater Mysteries drew to its hallowed shrines neophytes from the West as well as from the East, from India and Egypt as well as from Atlantis; and Erin's mystic-seeing sons still watch and wait for the relighting of the Fires and the restoration of the old Druidic Mysteries. Herein I but imperfectly echo the mystic message Ireland's seers gave me, a pilgrim to their Sacred Isle. And until this mystic message is interpreted, men cannot discover the secret of Gaelic myth and song in olden or in modern times, they cannot drink at the ever-flowing fountain of Gaelic genius, the perennial source of inspiration which lies behind the new revival of literature and art in Ireland, nor understand the seeming reality of the fairy races.

W. Y Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911.

Full moon rising at Shee Lugh on Moytura in County Sligo.

This website is dedicated to the Sacred Sites of Ireland, many dating from 6,000 years ago when a complex of megalithic temples were erected on key points in the landscape. The site is an expression of my fascination with ancient chambers and monuments, and especially engraved neolithic art, the oldest writing in Ireland.

I spent 10 years living on the edge of the Carrowkeel neolithic complex in County Sligo, numerous monuments and an ancient village site with 180 house sites, in a marvellous landscape perched on the ridges above Lough Arrow.

Now I live close to Creevykeel, the great central court cairn near Cliffoney in north County Sligo. I am a kind of 'accidental' tour guide; people used to call in to my house at the Donkey Sanctuary with questions about the cairns up the hill in Carrowkeel.

A 32 minute slideshow of Irish megalithic chambers and cairns, photos by Martin Byrne and Padraig Conway; music - Lament for the Harp by Ann Heymann.

There are many sites in the west of Ireland that are not as well known as they could be, and many are listed here. Most of the photos and text by Martin Byrne. The site changes constantly, and at the moment I am experimenting with home made video clips, which include some wonderful ancient Irish and Welsh harp music.

Special attention is given to the monuments of County Sligo where I live, especially the great sites of Knocknarea, Carrowmore, Carrowkeel, Moytura and Kesh Corran, as well as many lesser known sites around the county. Places I know well, such as Loughcrew and the Boyne Valley mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth are covered in detail; early research on sunbeams illuminating ancient art is presented on the Loughcrew pages. A radio documentary about our traditional group the Trad Counsel can be found here.

A day spent with Martin is a day that will be remembered.

If you have an appreciation of history and archaeology, beautiful landscapes and music, stories of the old days and the language of stones, then a day spent with Martin Byrne as your guide will surely rank as a high point, and one your most interesting days. We spent a fine day tootling around the countryside, ducking down little lanes and being shown marvelous things we never would have found on our own, and all the while entertained with stories and comments, drawn equally from ancient history or just a few years back. From court cairns to caves, portal tombs to standing stones, Martin was a perfect guide for us - very knowledgeable yet easy going, his deep familiarity with, and obvious care for, the historic sites nicely seasoned with wit.

We were lucky to have found him as our guide, and I would go back in a shot to spend another such day.

Rachel Kane, Vermont, USA

Guided Tours
Irish music

Irish monuments
Court cairns
wedge-shaped chambers
Chambered cairns
Megalithic art

Map of Irish sites
Map of County Sligo
Map of the Coolera area
Map of Lough Arrow
Map of Carrowkeel

Heapstown cairn
Kesh Cairn
Queen Maeve's cairn
Cairns Hill
The Labby Rock
Caves of Kesh
Neolithic village
Classiebawn Castle
Croagh Patrick
The Burren
Equinoxes at Cairn T
Quarter days at Cairn L
Winter Solstice
East chamber
West chamber

A magical liminal moment at the equinox sunset as the sun's disc drops behind Queen Maeve's cairn on Knocknarea in County Sligo. The vewing platform is a large neolithic cairn, one of two on Cairns Hill just outside Sligo town.