Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
A group of French mythologists on a visit to Ballymacgibbon cairn around 
A group of French mythologists on a visit to Ballymacgibbon cairn around 2002. The cairn is about 35 meters in diameter and probably conceals an unopened passage and chamber.

Ballymacgibbon Cairn

Ballymacgibbon Cairn is huge, unopened and reletavely undisturbed cairn, quite likely to contain a hidden chamber. The limestone cairn is 35 - 45 meters in diameter, and 10 meters high. It is surrounded by a low mound, and kerbstones are visible in several places, one of which has some interesting lines or scratches. There is a large pile of stones on top of the cairn, a kind of pinnacle which would appear to be a fairly recent addition. The boundry of the cairn is wild and overgrown with bushes and shrubs. There is the remains of a lime kiln, a stone structure for burning limestone to make whitewash and lime cement, attached to the north side of the monument.

  cairn from the air.
Ballymacgibbion cairn from the air. Photo by Duchas.

This monument is signposted on the right-hand side of the road as you travel from Cross to Cong. Access is very easy, a short walk up along a track, then in across a stile. Knockma and Eochy's Cairn are visible, as they are all quite close by. There are three more cairns, all pretty ruined, within a kilometer of Ballymacgibbon. The stone circles are about 1.5 km west of the cairn.

There is a large cashel (stone fort) in the field just south of the cairn, which is also worth a visit. It may be a neolithic henge, and date to the same era as Ballymacgibbon cairn.

Eochy's Cairn

This large monument, a somewhat quarried round limestone cairn is located on a low hill about 55 m above sea level, some 4 km north of the Cong stone circles. The cairn is perhaps 35 meters in diameter, with sloping sides and a flat 'platform' top, like some of the Sligo cairns. A sizeable quantity of stones were taken from the east side, presumably for the many stone walls in the nearby fields.

The massive encircling bank at Eochy's Cairn.
The massive encircling bank at Eochy's Cairn.

There is a fine view from the top, especially to the Connemara and south Mayo Mountains. The tip of Croagh Patrick peeps up over the Partry Mountains, rather like a cairn on a flat hill. Knockma with it's similar sized cairn is 22 km to the south east. The Burren may be visible to the south, but it was too hazy to tell the day I was there.

A most interesting feature found at this monument is a large oval enclosure, more intact on the west than the east side. It encircles the cairn with it's long axis running north-south, and probably looks like an eye from the air. There are a few small standing stones set against the inside of the enclosure. The nearby monument, Dathi's Cairn, is also within an enclosure, circular in shape.

Eochy's Cairn viewed from the surrounding embankment.
Eochy's Cairn viewed from the surrounding embankment. There are a few small standing stones remaining from what was probably a complete ring.

Eochy's Cairn is said to be the grave of the king of the Firbolg, who was ambushed and killed by three of the Túatha Dé Danann while he was going to Lough Mask for a drink of water. There was another monument called Eochy's Grave (also known as Cuchullain's Tomb), now submerged beneath the sea in Ballisodare Bay under Knocknarea in County Sligo.

Daithi's Cairn

Daithi's Cairn is located not far off the road about a kilometer southwest of Ballinrobe. This monument was a surprise for me, as it is an enormous cairn, much bigger than I was expecting. Lots of the stone has been robbed for the local field walls, of which there are many. From the top, the cairn appears circular and may be as much as 60 meters in diameter. Similar sized monuments are Heapstown Cairn and Queen Maeve's Cairn in Co Sligo, and Cairn D at Loughcew .

Daithi's Cairn
This enormous monument has had huge amounts of stone quarried from it to build the surrounding field walls.

Another interesting feature of Daithi's Cairn is the enclosing circular wall, which runs right around the monument about 20 meters out from the kerb. Much of this stone wall and ditch is certainly fairly recent, but could easily be built over an earlier, much older embankment. There are plenty of kerbstones remaining around the circumference of the monument. It is surprising that the chamber was not discovered when so much of the cairn was removed.

The view was hazy the day I was there, and I could not see much, but on my second visit I could see much more. A glimpse of Lough Mask is visible from the top of the monument. Both Knockma, 24 km to the south east and Eochy's Cairn which is about 2.5 km to the south are visible. The tip of Croagh Patrick appears, like a monument over the Partry Mountains, and probably marks a sunset in May and August. There is a pond or spring in a field beside the cairn, visible as a low horseshoe-shaped mound.

Daithi's Cairn
Daithi's Cairn, a truly massive pile of stones, measures perhaps 60 meters in diameter, making it as big as Heapstown and Queen Maeve's Cairn in County Sligo, and Cairn D at Loughcrew. The tip of Croagh Patrick is visible above the red building.