Historic Sites to visit while staying in Carrick-on-Shannon

Planning activities for your mid-week venture to Leitrim and the North West? Read on and see if the following suggestions sound like a bit of fun for you and the family, or you and your pals. What follows in a list of some unique historic sites that can also double up as relatively easy hikes, so will appeal to all the gang. Wear your outdoor gear and be ready for some breathtaking views as well as some ancient curiosities!

Many of the following suggested routes are through farmland with sheep and other livestock grazing and so you are advised that dogs may not be allowed. Also, don’t forget that most of these sites are not serviced, so bring a picnic, or snacks and a drink, if you think you might be out for a while.

Sheebeg and Sheemore

An easy outdoor activity for all the family is the well-known local hike up the South Leitrim hills of Sheemore and Sheebeg, just a few minutes outside of town, near Leitrim village. Steeped in mythology, these are an easy hike, even with the kiddies in tow, or if you are not used to tramping up hills. Sheemore is known as the “Hill of the Fairies” and local legend suggests that it is the final resting place of legendary Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill. Famed Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan’s most well-loved compositions “Sheemore and Sheebeg” is said to have been inspired by the landscape and the Battle of Fairies that supposedly took place here.

In more recent times, Sheemore was the site of an ambush during the War of Independence. An Irish Republican Army flying column, no. 1 Column, South Leitrim Brigade of the I.R.A., carried out an ambush on the Black and Tans, in March 1921. The British suffered numerous casualties, and admitted one fatality, a captain in the Bedfordshire Regiment, although local sources claimed several more were killed. The Black and Tans later ran amok in Carrick on Shannon, burning and looting. Among the premises they burned were Carrick on Shannon Rowing Club and the Premises of the Local newspaper, the Leitrim Observer. Nowadays, a Cross on top of Sheemore overlooks a serenely peaceful landscape.


Rathcroghan, or Cruachan Aí, is known as the Ancient Capital of Connacht, where the festival of Samhain (Halloween) is said to have originated. Located in the village of Tulsk, Co. Roscommon (25km from Carrick-on-Shannon), the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre is your starting point for exploring a landscape boasting over 240 identified archaeological sites, spanning a staggering period of over 5,500 years of human history. Experience Rathcroghan’s rich archaeology, mythology and history through interpretive rooms and expertly guided tours of prehistoric burial mounds from the Bronze and Iron Ages, medieval ringforts (settlement sites), standing stones, linear earthworks, stone forts, a great Iron Age ritual sanctuary, and even a Gate to Hell!

Their opening hours vary throughout the season so it would be best to give them a call in advance on 071 96 39 268 or visit https://www.rathcroghan.ie/


Located near the village of Castlebaldwin 35km down the N4 between Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo, Carrowkeel is a cluster of 14 passage tombs (built over five thousand years ago predating even the pyramids of Egypt) set on a number of hills in the Bricklieve Mountains overlooking Lough Arrow. The site can be explored on foot once you leave the small (tiny!) car park between two of the hills (follow the signposts from the village of Castlebaldwin). It is a worthwhile trip with incredible views, but remember to treat the tombs in this designated national monument with respect if you go.

On the other side of the same Bricklieve Mountain range as Carrowkeel you will find the steep hike up top the Caves of Keash– good foot ware is advised for this journey and as with Carrowkeel, you will be hiking through farmland with sheep grazing!

Alternately known as the ‘Keash Caves’ or ‘Caves of Keshcorran’, and also located in the Bricklieve Mountain range as Carrowkeel, the Kesh Caves are close enough to explore on the same day a visit to Carrowkeel. They are also worth a trip in their own right. These limestone caves, consisting of 16 chambers, some interconnecting, have been used by man over several millennia for religious practices and gatherings such as at Lughnasa. An hour or so will allow you time to reach and explore these magical caves by a short, manageable walk from this car park near the village of Keash. Beware that the track can be very steep at times and dogs are not allowed on the site as the caves are located on a privately owned working sheep farm.

Parke’s Castle

A final historic destination for today’s blog is the wonderful Parke’s Castle. Located in North Leitrim close to the border with Co. Sligo, it is well worth the journey.

On the northern shores of Lough Gill in County Leitrim, Parke’s Castle commands a striking presence. The restored castle, dating back to the early seventeenth century, was once the residence of English planter Robert Parke, with a tower house once belonging to Sir Brian O’Rourke, the formidable lord of West Breifne, previously on the site. Following a tragic double drowning in 1677, when 2 of the Parke children lost their lives in a boating accident on the lake, Parke’s Castle fell into decline, only to be meticulously restored in the late twentieth century, using traditional Irish oak and craftsmanship.

Check their opening hours in advance as well, as many sites are open for reduced hours during the winter months. Give them a call on 071 916 4149 or visit email parkescastle@opw.ie.

You can also visit https://heritageireland.ie/places-to-visit/parkes-castle/

As you can see, there is so much to see and do, all within driving distance of Carrick-on-Shannon. You can plan your journey to include a few of these sites in one day-trip, to make it a fascinating day out, something everyone will enjoy. On return to base at Carrick Self Catering you are right back in town, beside all the great restaurants and bars where you can settle in for the evening to reminisce about the day and plan for more adventures tomorrow!

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