Banner: Knocknarea sunset
Cailleach a Vera's House.
The megalithic chamber and cairn called Cailleach a Vera's House on a peak of Sliabh Dá Ean in the Ox Mountains in County Sligo. The monument was said to be the home of Garavogue, the local landscape goddess, the hag or witch who is said to have built the megaliths in the region.

Sliabh Dá Eán

Sliabh Dá Ean is the name of a group of four distcintive peaks in the eastern extreme of the Ox Mountains in County Sligo. The hills, Sliabh Dárgan, Sliabh Dá Eán, Aghamore cairn and Cailleach a Vera's House are each capped by a neolithic cairn. Sliabh Dá Eán's cairn is about 15 meters in diameter, built from quarried local gneiss rock on the highest peak of the four hills, at 276 m above sea level.

These sites are rich in local folklore and mythology. A Cailleach (hag) was said to have lived in the chambered cairn on the lowest peak. She befrended the mad king, Sweeney, and after transforming themselves into geese, they dived to the bottom of the small mountain-top lake, Loch Dá Gé, the Lake of the Two Geese (below).

Lough Dá Ge.
Lough Dá Gé, the Lake of the Two Geese. Beyond is Lough Gill, the Garavogue and Carns Hill.

The natural notch between Sliabh Dá Eán and Sliabh Dárgan was used as a foresight by the local neolithic builders. The winter solstice sun rises near the notch when viewed from Listoghil at the centre of Carrowmore. The sun rises in the valley between Aghamore and Sliabh Dá Eán, and the recently discovered megalithic engraving at Listoghil may be a representation of the distcintive peaks of Sliabh Dá Eán.

From Moytura, the extreme setting lunar standstills, which only occur every 18.6 years, should set into the notch between Sliabh Dá Eán and Sliabh Dárgan. The Moytura sunsets and winter full moon sets drop behind Knocknarea in a similar arrangement to that found in Carrowkeel.

In his book, Pi in the Sky, Michael Poynder discusses a large ley or energy line crossing the country from Newgrange to Knocknarea. Many ancient sites are found on this line, incliding these four cairns.

The Cailleach's House.
The chamber of Cailleach Bera's house, with Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's Cairn in the distance.

Aghamore Cairn

Aghamore Cairn located on the next summit north of Slaibh Dá Eán at 266 m above sea level. The two monuments are seperated by a sheer valley, some 40 meters deep. This cairn is the smallest of the four in these mountains, with a diameter of about 10 meters. Again, the stones are gneiss, and there is plenty of quartz in the local mountain rock.

The view is quite stunning, especially to the north, where you can look down on Lough Gill, and follow the river Garavogue as it flows past the big monuments on Carns Hill. Knocknarea also looks beautiful from up here. To the south, Carrowkeel and Kesh Corran can be seen beyond Sliabh Dá Eán, and to the west, Knocknashee, Muckelty Hill and Doomore are all visible. Croghaun peak is lost in the Ox Mountains. The cross on the cairn is from a recent burial in 1996.

600
The Cailleach's house, with Knocknashee and Muckelty Hill away to the west.

Slaibh Dárgan

Slaibh Dárgan is perhaps the most visually impressive of the peaks, as it has steep valleys, especially on the east, which are visible from a long way off. The cairn is again located on the highest point, some 263 m above sea level, with fine views on all sides.

The cairn on Slaibh Dárgan was distured at some stage, and has two large holes dug into the top. The diameter is about 15 meters and the stones are local, probably from the cliff-face just to the east.

Slaibh Dá Eán is to the east seperated by a 40 m deep valley. This valley is the notch visible from Moytura, which is probably an extreme midwinter moon setting position when viewed from the Moytura cairn, Shee Lugh. Slaibh Dárgan also forms a deep notch valley with Aghamore cairn to the north. This notch marks the winter solstice sunrise when viewed from Listoghil at the centre of Carrowmore. Cailleach a Vera's House is located on the hill below to the west.

Cailleach a Vera's House

Cailleach a Vera's House is a very interesting monument, on a lower summit, about 215 meters above sea level. A passage and chamber remain within a cairn of some 16 meters in diameter. Some of the chamber stones have fallen in, and the passage seems to have collapsed. The rectangular chamber can be entered from a hole on the east side. The cairn is made from local gneiss chunks, and there are a few lumps of quartz still mixed with the stones.

The passage seems to be oriented to the SSW, to the region west of Carrickbanagher where there may be another large cairn. It seems to have a bearing to the mid-summer extreme moonsets.

The Witch's House.
Sunset through the Cailleach's House.

The name Cailleach a Vera is derived from the Hag of Beara who is ultimately derived from Buí, the wife of Lugh. Cailleachs or Hags are associated with many cairns and sites, and in some of the tales are said to have built the cairns by dropping stones from their aprons as they hopped across the hills. Loughcrew, Sliabh Gullion, Knowth, and possibly Corn Hill in Longford are associated with the Hag, as are the caves and cairn of Kesh Corran to the south. The local Hag in Sligo was Garavogue, after whom the Sligo river, which is the shortest in Ireland, is named. The local folklore has the Hag living on the mountain with the mad king Sweeney. The dark mountain lake, Lough Dá Gé got its name from a time when they both transformed themselves into geese and dived to the bottom of the lake.

Looking south to the distcintive peaks of Sliabh Dá Eán from the flat summit of Carns Hill West. From here the hills make the shape of a pregnant woman lying down.