Knocknashee is a beautiful table-top mountain in south west Sligo, which rises suddenly from the drumlin plain to dominate the surrounding area. It will be a familiar sight to anyone who passes up and down the N17 between Tubbercurry and Collooney.The road twists between Knocknashee and Muckelty hill, another neolithic hilltop enclosure and cairn. The area around Knocknashee is thickly dotted with ringforts and mounds and there are several ruined megalithic chambers in the area, all with commanding views to the mountain.
Two neolithic cairns are located within a huge enclosure which covers the flat top of the mountain. One of the cairns, picture above, has a chamber composed of large stone slabs, which must have been opened in fairly recent times, as the entry slab was broken to get into the chamber. The chamber resembles the large megalithic structure at Listoghil in Carrowmore, and also the monument just east of Cairn K at Carrowkeel. There are some scratchings, possibly from the Iron age, on one of the slabs. There are also about 30 hut foundations similar to those found recently on Knocknarea, and the large collection of huts at Doonaveeragh in Carrowkeel. Their diameters range from 7 to 10 meters, and several have doorways. The huts cluster around the two cairns.
View from the summit of Knocknashee, with Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's Cairn beyond the Ox Mountains, and beyond again to Benbulben. The summit of Knocknashee is 300 meters above sea level. Photo Ina Gühmann.
Knocknashee is also in fact, one of Ireland's largest Bronze Age hillforts, having three huge ditches running around the hill, one at the top, middle and bottom. Building neolithic chambered cairns on hill-tops within stone enclosures in the west of Ireland seems to have been at least as common as building monuments within enclosures was in the Boyne Valley There is also a ring of splintered limestone chips running in a ring around one of the cairns, a feature also found at Cairns Hill west, Listoghil, Queen Maeve's cairn and Knocknarea north.
The view from Knocknashee; this photo has always reminded me of a Cezanne painting. Queen Maeve's Cairn on Knocknarea and Benbulben form an artificial notch, which marks the extreme northerly lunar standstill rising position. Picture © Leo Regan