The Northwest – Carrowmore

On a tour of Ireland with Ireland Luxury Tours we will endeavour to at least encourage you to at least touch upon Donegal. It is not to be missed and is cosidered by many to be typical of “rugged Ireland” as people think of it.

Donegal’s spectacular scenery is often considered the best in Ireland, though its location, tenuously attached to the Republic by a thin isthmus of land between the coast and its severed Ulster neighbours, keeps it remote.

Outside a brief, intense summer season, when tourists flit through regions (Counties Sligo, Donegal and Leitrum) can seem forlorn and windswept.  All through the year clouds scud rapidly in from the Atlantic, bringing lashing horizontal squalls or drizzling sea-mists.  Just as suddenly these are followed by shafts of sunlight and vivid rainbows which alchemise its glens, cliffs, mountains and beaches into the landscapes of holiday brochures.  Here, in these far-flung peninsulas, you will find that elusive rural idyll – softly domed ricks of hand-turned hay and whitewashed thatched cottages with scarlet doors.  Yhe postcard scene disguises a history of constant struggle aginst the elements and economic deprivation.  There is little industry other than the old cottage-based crafts of knitting and weaving, though these are now organised to catch the tourist’s eye in village-like studio complexes.

Carrowmore, Carrowkeel and Creevykeel – these confusingly named places are three of the most interesting and important prehistoric sites in the northwest region.

Carrowmore, not far from the town of Sligo, is the largest group of megalithic burial monuments in the whole of the British Isles, containing the remnants of about 60 tombs, stone circles, dolmens and other antiquities, the earliest of which are alleged to predate the famous passage-grave at Newgrange by about 700 years.  Many stones and sites have been damaged or removed over the cnturies, and it is incredible to think that in 1983, plans were drawn up – and thankfully abandoned – to turn the site into a rubbish tip.

Carrowkeel, overlooking the well-stocked Lough Arrow in the Bricklieve hills, is an ancient cemetery of circular mounds dating from the late Stone Age (2500-2000 BC).  There are some splendid views from the exposed hilltop site.

Creevykeel, near Mullaghmore, is a fine example of a neolithic court-tomb dating from about 3000BC, with a double burial chamber surrounded by a wedge-shaped mound of stone.  Polished stone axes, worked flints and some bronze Celtic artefacts found here are now in the National Museum in Dublin.