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Saint Brigit's well at Cliffoney in County Sligo.
Saint Brigit's well at Cliffoney in County Sligo. This may have been an ancient church or hermitage, the well, one of five, is within a ruined ringfort. A cattle fair was held here 200 years ago The cross slab is an unusual engraving with a clockwise swastika in the top of the cross.

Cliffoney, County Sligo

Cliffoney is a small, ancient and extremely historic village in north Sligo, within the ancient kingdom of Carbury, close to the headland at Mullaghmore on the west and the fabulous Gleniff Horseshoe Valley to the east. The name Clia Fuinne means the Ford of the Wattles or Hurdles, from the ancient ford over the Cliffoney river at the north end of the village. This has always been a main routeway, along the coastal plain between Donegal and Sligo.

Location of megalithic monuments in Cliffoney

Location of megalithic monuments in Cliffoney and the surrounding area.

There are a number of megalithic mounments around the village in a line that closely follows the modern road. There are also a number of raths or ringforts in the same area, showing that this was an important crossing point in ancient times. St Brigit's well, in the top photo, was a popular site with passing pilgrims. The well is within a ploughed out ringfort, and was one of five wells within a small area.

A megalithic chamber near Creeveykeel court cairn.
A megalithic chamber near Creeveykeel court cairn, illustrated by William Wakeman in 1880. The monument was removed completely around 1900 when a forge was built on the site. Wood-Martin saw a cup marked stone here which has vanished.

The megalithic monuments around Cliffoney are court cairns, a type of communal building with a large open area and an inner chamber. They generally date to around 4,000 BC. The restored court at Creevykeel is one of the largest and finest in the country. It was excavated by the Harvard Archaeological Mission in 1935, one of the first scientific digs to take place in Ireland. There are the remains of three more courts in Cliffoney, while a fourth, illustrated by Wakeman in 1880, above, was destroyed around 1900. The monuments are found along a ridge of sandstone a small geological island in the surrounding limestone.

Wakeman' s 1880 illustration of Creevykeel.
Wakeman' s 1880 illustration of the chamber at Creeveykeel. The imposing entry lintol was pushed over by three brothers around 1905, and was replaced horizontally in 1936.

Wakeman

The artist William Wakeman was hired to travel around County Sligo and illustrate the monuments in the late 1870s. The results of his work are kept in two large sketchbooks in Sligo County Library. Wakeman drew three of the Cliffoney monuments including a rare view of Creevykeel with the entrance stone standing upright.

There were originally five megalithic monuments in Cliffoney, but very little remains of any of the sites in comparison to Creeveykeel which was excavated and restored in the 1930s. Two of the megaliths are covered in thorn bushes and brambles, and few stones can be seen today. The monument once located 300 meters north of Creeveykeel seems to have been completely destroyed when a blacksmith built a forge there. All that remains is Wakeman's watercolour and a description by Wood-Martin, who saw a cup marked stone there.

Wakeman left a wonderful collection of images of the Sligo monuments and landscape. Thirty of these works can be viewed online; the entire collection, in two sketchbooks, one from around the county, the other from Inishmurray, can be viewed by appointment.

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