Heapstown Cairn

Location : Heapstown Townland, Heapstown Cross Roads, Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, Ireland.

Access : By road and footpath. Is close to the road and is well sign posted as a attraction.

Description : A most impressive Cairn. Higher than a two story house, with a circumference of around 200foot/ 50 meter. This Cairn incorporates thousands of stonesand is surrounded by a ring of larger stones, with the cairn contained within the ring.

The site is also surrounded on the north, east and south sides by a ring of trees planted in the middle of the 18th century. 

Traditional Lore:  Heapstown Cairn is the largest Cairn in Ireland outside of the Boyne Valley. It is traditionally considered to be the grave of Aillil, brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, who ruled the area in the 4th century A.D.  ??


Information:  The Cairn was built over 2,500 years before the death of Aillil in the Neolithic Period and was much larger originally than its present size.  It is really hard to judge the age of these sites, as the official age is usually to get them to fit into the christain timeline of history and have nothing to do with the real age of these sites.

They can date items that may be found inside or around the sites but this also does not give a true figure on their age.

Cartloads of stones were robbed from the Cairn to make roads and walls during the nineteenth century. 

Petrie made a sketch of the cairn in 1837 and from it, we can see that the original structure was much larger than it is today.  

Also missing today is the large pillar stone that once stood on the summit, depicted by Petrie in his sketch.  This stone fell from the top and was broken. 

There were indications that this stone had inscriptions carved on it, from information gathered by the Schools Folklore Collection, assembled by the Department of Irish Folklore in 1937.

Also, according to the Schools Folklore Collection, there was a second Pillar Stone, which had an Ogham inscription carved on it. There is no trace of either the Pillar Stone or the Ogham Stone today.

Measurements : With a circumference of around 200 foot / 50 meter and around 3 stores high.

Big but only half the size it was 150 years ago and was probably a lot bigger before it started being robbed for the stones, for building the boundry walls, of nearly all if not all, the fields in the local area.

The sides of the cairn has been damaged in a number of place, as they though it was a Passage Chamber, and repeatly tried to find the opening, resulting in many areas of stone being removed for this purpose.

Lat. : 54° 05.7' N  ;  Long. : 08° 20.8' W

Other Sites close by : Ballindoon Megalithic Tomb Barroe North Cairn Sheerevagh Cairn  Carrowkeel Passage Chambers

Mythology:  The Heapstown Cairn was created at the Second Battle of Moytura, when Ochtriallaig son of Indech of the Fomorians, filled in the Tobar Sláine (Well of Health) with stones in order to stop the Tuatha Dé Danann from putting their warriors in it to be healed. 

The well had been created by Diancecht the physician of the Tuatha Dé Danann and he had filled it up with special healing herbs. 

The stones represented the vast numbers of the Fomorian army.

Stories: The Second Battle of Moytura  (short version)

Bres Mac Elatha and the Tuatha Dé Danann


Last updated - February 15, 2023


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