Slieve Gullion North Cairn




N 54° 07' 44.82"   W 006° 26' 18.66"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

J 02057 21137

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Monday 27 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

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Approaching the North Cairn from the south.

This might well be one of the highest sites I have visited so far. The climbing to the top of Slieve Gullion was quite a hard one, but every step was worth the result. I took about 35 minutes to reach the top of the hill from the car park, and the reward was a breathtaking view over several Irish counties, a magnificent passage tomb and this cairn.

This cairn is about 900 metres north (345°) from the passage tomb. Between the two monuments, 150 metres southeast from this cairn, is the Slieve Gullion Lake, also known as Callaigh Berra Lough.

A folk tale has tells about then legendary hero Finn McCool. It is said that Áine and her sister Milucra were both after him, so, in order to avoid that Áine would marry Finn, Milucra cast a spell on the lake on the top of the hill that anyone who would swim or dive in the lake would turn very old. Then she tricked Finn by asking him to retrieve a golden ring she had dropped in the lake, and when he emerged he was an old man. Forced by Finn's men, Milucra restored Finn's youth, but his hair stayed grey. It is still said that whoever swims in the lake is turned into an old man.
Milucra is also known as the Cailleach Bhéara, an ancient goddess.

The cairn is about 16 metres in diameter and is rather flat, not very high.
The excavations revealed the presence of two small cists. The one near the centre of the cairn is about 75 centimetres long and 54 centimetres wide. No remains were found within the cist during the excavations, so either it was never used or the remains completely dissolved into the ground. The second cist is much smaller and is situated near the east edge of the cairn. Few burnt bones from a single individual along with some pottery sherds were found.

Visiting both the passage tomb at the south end of the hill top and this cairn gave me a great feeling of accomplishment, I didn't think I was ever able to go up here.
It started raining shortly after I reached the top, the passage of the tomb at south was a very convenient shelter. It was also very windy and cold on that day. Luckily the weather improved a lot during the walk between the two monuments.

The path between the two sites is boggy and tricky, especially in the wet weather.

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