Presiding over the seaside village of Strandhill, Knocknarea is striking and proud, a monolith of a hill set between two bays. From a distance, there’s no mistaking it – the stone-piled cairn of Queen Medb (Maeve) sits in a perfect hillock at the very crest. It’s steeped in ancient history, imposing to behold – and it’s also a popular walk, and an arduous run!
It’s believed that the monument to Queen Medb was built from limestone taken from a quarry out west, to honour the legendary Queen of Connacht. Approaching the steep, rocky hillside, it’s hard to imagine how much work it must have taken to build that cairn – all those tough journeys. But when you finally crest the top, it’s easy to see why that spot was chosen. The top of Knocknarea offers incredible views of Sligo Bay and the mountains of Donegal beyond.
On the Sunday of the TrailFest, we’ll start in the seaside village of Strandhill and make our way up Knocknarea. It’s a 327-meter climb, through dark forests and across rocky ground, always heading up! On the way, we’ll catch glimpses of Ballysadare Bay and rolling green countryside to the south. As you sweat your way up, imagine making the trek with a pack full of limestone on your back!
When we reach the top, the views are fit for a queen. Through history, Knocknarea was a place of ritual and rest; several smaller passage tombs join Queen Medb’s monument. We like to think there’s still a bit of that old magic in the air as you look out across Connacht. Think of the Queen (possibly) buried just steps away – surveying Ireland through the centuries!
We’ll leave Knocknarea behind and make our way toward the sand and dunes of Strandhill’s beaches. With fierce tides, Strandhill is a no-go for swimming, but it’s a popular spot for surfing! We’ll pass woodland, tidal rivers and oceanfront before ending at the Strandhill People’s Market, which takes place every Sunday in a small airport hanger! If it’s a clear day, we might even catch some small private planes taking off and coming in overhead.
At the market, we invite everyone to enjoy the live music, fuel up on some tasty local food and fresh coffee, and hang out for a while. Knocknarea stands just overhead, and the village of Strandhill is just a short walk away.
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