More than 200 megalithic monuments once stood on this site, located to the west of Sligo Town. Both man and nature have destroyed many of the passage tombs and dolmens over the years, but today there are still about 40 burial sites to be explored in this ancient cemetery, spread out over roughly 40 acres of land.
Carrowmore is both the oldest and largest burial ground in Ireland, dating back to prehistoric times. The oldest tombs are estimated to be around 7,000 years of age, and items recovered from the sites during excavation include ancient stone tools, bone ornaments, partially burned human bones and assorted arrowheads.
Some of the tombs here are known as Passage Tombs because they are built with a longer passage, or tunnel that leads to an area beneath a capstone where the human remains were buried – perhaps an early version of the present day mausoleum. Anthropologists and archaeologists posit theories that only the most powerful members of the society occupied these special tombs, or that certain members were selected and the site was used for a form of ancestor worship.
It appears that the burial ground was meticulously planned. Sites at strategic positions form portals to the main tomb and the ground itself, and the whole complex is arranged in a spiral pattern. Over the years, the ground surrounding the stones has risen, and some stones that were once over six feet tall are now barely visible. Be sure to visit the cottage house near the burial sites, where you can find a map and view exhibitions related to this mysterious and fascinating ancient site.
From Sligo Town, take the R292 towards Strandhill for about 5 kilometres. Watch out for the signpost after the second crossroads.