Banner: Knocknarea sunset
Looking south from the ramparts of the huge neolithic enclosure on Turlough Hill. About 1 km to the south is Turlough cairn, an unopened neoltihic stone mound. The enclosure is circular to slightly hexagonal and has six openings, which appear to be original. There are about 160 hut sites between the enclosure and the cairn.

The Burren cairns

There are several large mounds of stone, probably neolithic cairns on the tops of the mountains, or their north-facing shelves, which bear all the hallmarks of chambered cairns like those at Cong, Knockma and Ballinrobe. These cairns are found on Sliabhcarran, Turlough Mountain and Blackhead on the northern edge of the Burren. The large cairn on Turlough Mountain is surrounded by a collection of some 160 round hut foundations, quite similar to those at Carrowkeel, Knocknashee and Knocknarea in Sligo.

A map of the main central area of the Burren.
A map of the main central area of the Burren by Thomas Johnson Westropp, showing the profusion of ancient sites.

Few of the Burren hilltop cairns have been excavated, but the sites on Turlough Mountain have been surveyed and studied by archaeologist Dr. Stefan Bergh of NUIG, and several hut sites were excavated in 2016.

The Burren cairns are not counted in the inventories of Irish chambered cairns, since their internal structures are not known. However, they appear to form an east-west pattern, a feature of the large and more famous collections of passage mounds.

As most of them are on the north ends of the mountain, thay may have a similar relationship with Knockma as the Carrowkeel cairns do with Knocknarea.

The cairn on the summit of Turlough Hill.
The cairn on the summit of Turlough Hill.

The Poulawack Cairn was excavated in the summer of 1934 by the Harvard Archaeological Mission. Poulawack has been dated to about 3,300 BC, around the same age as Newgrange. The site was reused several times, and it's period of use stretches to about 1,500 BC. It may have been used in later medieval times as an inauguration mound.

Seefin cairn.
The large cairn known as Seefin on the summit of Blackhead on the northwestern extreme of the Burren. This unopened monument has fine views across Galway Bay to Knockma and west to the Aran Islands.