OPW seek to protect stone cairn on Knocknarea summit

The Office of Public Works is seeking the help of Sligo County Council in protecting the stone cairn on the summit of Knocknarea mountain.

There is increasing concern about people climbing on the cairn over Queen Maeve’s grave, as well as over the theft of stones from the site.

People climbing on the stone cairn over Queen Maeve’s grave, the theft of stones — and even the digging up of the distinctive white quartz stones at the site — are among the complaints about what has been happening at what is a historic and archaeological site of international significance.

The site is growing in popularity as a result of increased promotion . . . which creates challenges in managing and protecting the monument.

At this week’s meeting of councillors from the Sligo Borough District, Cllr. Chris MacManus sought an update on the situation.

It followed a commitment from the Office of Public Works to prepare a conservation plan for the cairn.

The meeting heard any recommendations would be implemented on behalf of and under the guidance of the National Monuments Service of the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The National Monuments Service intends to carry out a detailed recording of the site to establish a baseline to measure ongoing erosion, to identify visitor impact and how best to deal with the situation.

The National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works is also concerned about visitor impact on a smaller tomb north of Maeve’s cairn.

However, in the meantime, the NMS has suggested the council could help by exploring measures aimed at changing the behaviour of those who visit the site and encouraging greater respect for the monument..

The NMS has suggested this could include the use of stronger social media and intent communication aimed at visitors.

It points out that, for example, there is nothing on the Visit Sligo or Wild Atlantic Way websites advising visitors not to climb the cairn.

It also suggests erecting an interpretative panel on the Strandhill approach to Knocknarea, adding that there is a lack of signage telling visitors of the importance of the site.

Cllr MacManus said he hopes the OPW will speed up the process.

He added that the cairn is used to promote the area, this has increased its popularity, but there was also a responsibility in relation to providing infrastructural links such as parking and roadways.