Donegal and Sligo – The Day of Death

I am fascinated with old graveyards and burial places, ruins and relics, and of course the old and the ancient. Sunday, I dragged Harry (who tolerates me in silent concession) nearly 3 hours north to Donegal, right on the border of Northern Ireland. 

Donegal Castle built in the 1500’s was the home of the Royal Family of O’Donnell, rulers of Tir Chonaill on the north west coast of Ireland.

This site may have originally been the site of a Viking Fort in the 9th-10th centuries because of it’s strategic position on the River Eske which empties into Donegal Bay and the wild North Atlantic. Tir Chonaill -the name of the region- means “country of the Conall” and its leading families included The O’Donells, The O’Dohertys, and The O’Boyles. Collectively, they were known as the Race of Conall – Conall being a son of Niall, High King of Ireland in the 5th century.

Here’s a look at Donegal Bay from Murvaugh Beach:


Next, on the way back to Sligo, I made Harry stop at WB Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe Church Cemetery. I was on my own for this one…

Then Sligo Abbey, originally a Benedictine Friory, and abandoned in the late 1700s. It was then quarried  by a local builder for stone to use to build houses. (What?!?)

Finally, Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which I posted photos of yesterday. The site has some 60 recorded monuments and is the largest and only large coastal megalithic cemetery within the Irish passage tomb tradition. The location in the virtual center of the Ciul Irra peninsula-one of the major ritual centers in Ireland during the Neolitihic- indicates its significance. 

The biggest tomb -Listoghil- is the largest monument and is distinguished from the others not only by its size but also by its covering by a cairn.


Two major excavations of the site by Swedish archaeologists in the late 1970’s and 1990’s revealed that the sites were in use between 4000- 3000 BC, making them older than the more famous passage tomb at Bru Na Boine (Newgrange). Listoghil seems to be a later addition, dating at some time after 3500 BC, however 2 dates from Carrowmore monument number 3 are very early – 5400 BC and 4600 BC respectively. 

One unfortunate, but not surprising finding was that the sites had been previously excavated, thus no intact and complete deposits were recovered. However, important discoveries were made. Small deposits of cremated bones were pushed into the spaces between the large slabs that form the lower support walls of the monuments. This is an indication of some ritual significance during construction of the tomb. Pretty freaking cool, right?!?

I hope I didn’t bore you with this. I bore my husband to death. (Pun intended)  But I love history and the more ancient the better. Funerary rituals are fascinating. The ideas different cultures had about burying their dead and sending their loved ones AND their enemies to the next world is an unending source of interest to me. And here in this country, I’m particularly captivated… These could be my relatives, after all!

84 thoughts on “Donegal and Sligo – The Day of Death

  1. “And you’re as welcome as the flowers in May to dear old Donegal” … I see you are enjoying yourself in Ireland (the old sod). Nice post and great photos. I have never seen Yeats’s grave before: “Horseman, pass by.” Best wishes. And many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Roger! I am having a good time, challenging weather aside… We visited Yeats’ home too. I’m doing a detailed post about it with photos for Wednesday, I think. I love it here. I really want to stay forever!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating what our ancestors got up to, what they thought when dealing with their dead and how some of their ideas were quite sophisticated really as shown in the places these burial cairns were found.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The best of us test their patience. What fun is life if we do exactly what they want? 😝 Ooh, Dublin, have fun! I’m jealous!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I just love those old castles and abbeys and anything else old. My imagination goes into hyperdrive! I can’t believe they would take those places apart for the stones. Ack! I can’t wait to get to Ireland to see those sites myself. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! Mind whirling with ideas. And yes about the stones! 😱 I believe it was the English enforcement of Protestantism that closed all the abbeys. And thus the stones were up for the taking. A tragedy, really.

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  4. PLEASE! PLEASE! DON’T STEP ON ANY OF MY RELATIVES! :o) Many of the O’Neils are around there, surely in spirit. Of course, all I hear is that “Oh, those records were burned in the church fire.” Thank you for the guided tour and the fascinating history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not a chance! There is too much history, ruin and ancient stuff to see. Unfortunately, the way this works, since the company pays for the car rental, I’m limited to what I can do via public transportation. I am going to Dublin solo on Wednesday- nervous and excited! I get to see the lost Caravaggio I’ve been reading about!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Show them how to make Kraft Mac n Cheese, they’ll be fine… (Why I don’t have kids, right there) and come on, the husband can manage (reason number 2) and if you need a companion while your sister is at work (Pick me, pick me!) just let me know…

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  5. We seem to experience travel in the same way. Love immersing myself in the history and thinking about what happened in the place where I stand. Thanks for sharing your amazing trip and journey through time with us…you brought it to life! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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