Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
View north from Cairn M to Cairns K and L.
View north from Cairn M to Cairns K and L.

Cairns M, N and Pollnagollum

Pollnagollum is the next place of interest, a few hundred metres south of Cairns K and L, following a sheep trail south. The name of this enormous hole means the Pigeon/Dove Hole and is a common cave name in Ireland.

Pollnagollum is a large natural cavity where the ground has caved in on a fault line, leaving a good sized cavern full of tumbled rock at the bottom. It is a very beautiful place, with small trees, luscious grasses and ferns taking advantage of the shelter provided by the cavity. There may be caves leading on from the bottom of the hole.

A group of students from the USA in Poulnagollum.
A group of students from the USA in Poulnagollum.

Cairn M.

Cairn M is 300 metres south-east of Pollnagollum, where the ground begins to rise again, and is difficult to find since there is very little of it left in evidence. The few remaining stones of the passage and chamber indicate that it is aligned to Kesh Cairn which is prominent on the horizon, and the Beltaine and Lugnasad sunsets early in May and August.

Below is a note by Stefan Bergh who excavated here in 1986:

Carrickahorna East - Passage tomb - G755116

The site, called 'Cairn M', constitutes a part of the passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel in the Bricklieve Mountains, Co. Sligo. It is one of the very few sites that was not dug into by Macalister in 1911, because it was considered as being 'ruined to the base' (PRIA 29C, 330).

The excavation forms part of a study of the passage tomb tradition in Co. Sligo, which will be presented as a Ph.D. thesis in archaeology at the University of Stockholm. The excavation was funded by the same university and was carried out over a two-week period.

The cruciform chamber of Cairn M at Carrowkeel.
The cruciform chamber of Cairn M at Carrowkeel.

The chamber, which lacks capstones, is of the cruciform type and is enclosed in a cairn with a diameter of c. 8m and a height of c. 0.60m. The main aim of the excavation was to record the original size and construction of the cairn.

A trench, 1.20m x 6m, starting c. 3m outside the cairn and ending at the chamber orthostats, was excavated. The trench reached the chamber at the angle between the front and right-hand recesses. No part of the chamber was excavated.

The cairn consisted of a very compact construction of limestone with the size of the stones within the range 0.10m-0.80m. The cairn had slipped slightly towards the chamber and the orthostats in this part were leaning inwards. The uppermost part of the cairn consisted mainly of small stones but lower down a wider range of size was present.

Close to the orthostats a number of relatively large stones formed the core of the cairn. The diameter of the original cairn construction is estimated to have been c. 1m less than the present cairn. No kerbstones were found. A deposit of cremated and un-cremated bones was found between two of the orthostats, at a level similar to the lower part of the cairn.

Stefan Bergh, Department of Archaeology, University of Stockholm, Sweden

Alignment from the ruined chamber of Cairn N.
Alignment from the ruined chamber of Cairn N. The orientation is to Kesh Cairn on the summit of Kesh Corran.

Cairn N

Cairn N is just south and above of Cairn M and is also almost completely destroyed. A few stones from the passage and kerb are all that remain. These two cairns along with Cairns C and D have suffered the most destruction in the Carrowkeel area.

Cairn N is oriented to around 40° west of north. If ever there was a roof on this tiny passage and chamber, it framed Kesh cairn on the summit of Kesh Corran.

View north from Cairn M to Cairns K and L.
View of Carrowkeel from above, photo © Sam Moore.