The Knocknarea Mountain walk (the Queen Maeve’s Trail) is one of our favourite things to do in Sligo.
To say that the mighty Knocknarea Mountain is conspicuous would be a massive understatement.
And not only is the limestone mountain one of Co. Sligo’s most distinct features, alongside the tabletop-like Benbulben, it also has a ton of Irish mythology attached to it, too!
In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know if you’re thinking about doing the Queen Maeve’s Trail / Knocknarea walk.
Table of Contents
About Knocknarea Mountain
A walk up Knocknarea is a solid way to whittle away a morning. Especially if you nip into Strandhill, first, and grab a coffee from Shell’s to get you going (it’s 11 mins from Knocknnarea).
On a clear day, those that reach the summit of Knocknarea Mountain will be treated to views of Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
Where to find it
Located around 8km west of Sligo town, the mighty limestone Knocknarea Mountain is monolithic in its appearance and is visible for miles around.
Sitting between the bays of Sligo and Ballysadare, its position on the Cúil Irra peninsula gives it an evocative feeling and provoked WB Yeats to include it in his poem Red Hanrahan’s Song about Ireland.
How High is it?
Knocknarea reaches a total height of 327 metres (1,073 ft). Although Knocknarea Mountain is dwarfed by many of the highest mountains in Ireland, it’s instantly recognisable shape can be spotted from many parts of the county.
The Knocknarea walk: 3 quick need-to-knows
Although the Knocknarea walk, similar to the nearby Benbulben Forest walk, is reasonably straightforward, you still need to arrive prepared.
Check the weather in advance to ensure that conditions are suitable and bring a bottle of water and some decent walking shoes/boots if you have them. Here are some other need-to-knows.
1. How long does it take to climb Knocknarea?
The 2.4km walk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete, depending on pace and weather. You’re always better off allowing extra time, just in case.
2. Is the walk hard?
This is a strenuous but rewarding climb. Though a short distance, the 300-metre ascent is steep and could be a slog for those without a reasonable level of fitness.
3. Where to park at Knocknarea
There’s plenty of space to park for the Knocknarea walk. If you pop ‘Queen Maeve’s Grave (Car Park)’ into Google Maps you’ll be taken to a spacious car park at the foot of Knocknarea Mountain.
The Queen Maeve Trail
When you leave the car park, follow the clearly marked gravel path. The first section of the Knocknarea walk is easy-going as you make your way through lush green fields en route to the foot of the mountain.
The path then becomes a reasonably steep stepped section before levelling out for a little while and then presenting a few more steps followed by a gate.
Turn around here and check out the already deadly views of the bay behind you! Head up a few more steps and through a gate before turning right and ascending along a gravel path up the west side of the mountain.
500 steps to conquer
After an easy stroll up this section, stop and take in the sweeping views from a well-placed bench before taking a sharp left and up into the canopied wooden steps section.
This is where the Knocknarea walk starts to prove difficult for some, as there is 500 steps to tackle.
There’s another conveniently placed bench once you’ve climbed them all so I wouldn’t blame you if you took a breather here!
Reaching the summit and descending
You’ll be up onto the heathery plateau now so follow the dirty gravel path towards the cairn while admiring the gorgeous views around you.
The cairn then marks the end of the trail (legend has it that Queen Maeve is buried standing in an upright position fully dressed in her battle gear….).
If you’re reading this, please do not be one of the idiots that decides that they are going to climb the cairn – this is completely forbidden.
Descend back the same way you came.
Have you climbed Knocknarea Mountain?
Have you conquered the Knocknarea mountain walk in the past? Did you think that it lived up to the hype? Let me know in the comments below!
If you fancy checking out what other incredible hikes and walks our little island has to offer, jump into our guide to the best hikes in Ireland.