The Knocknarea Walk: A Guide To The Queen Maeve Trail Up Knocknarea Mountain

knocknarea walk
Photo left: Anthony Hall. Photo right: mark_gusev. (on shutterstock.com)

The Knocknarea walk (the Queen Maeve Trail) is one of my favourite walks in Sligo.

Not only is Knocknarea Mountain one of Sligo’s most distinct features, alongside Benbulben, it also has a tonne of Irish mythology attached to it, too!

Throw in the fact that the views throughout this walk are out of this world and you’ve a fine morning out ahead of you!

In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Knocknarea walk, from where to park to how long it’ll take.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Knocknarea walk

Knocknarea Mountain Walk
Photo by Anthony Hall (Shutterstock)

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.

1. Location

Located around 8km west of Sligo town, the mighty limestone Knocknarea Mountain is monolithic in its appearance and is visible for miles around.

2. Height

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.

3. How long

The 6km 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.

4. Difficulty

The Knocknarea walk 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.

5. Parking

There are several car parks for the Queen Maeve Trail, depending on which side you want to start from. Personally, I like to start this from the Strandhill side where you can park right across from the trail entrance in Sligo Rugby Club (make sure to stick €2 in the honesty box!). However, there’s also parking on the other side, right here.

An overview of the Queen Maeve Trail up Knocknarea Mountain

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. 

Starting the walk

Mammy Johnston's
Photos via Mammy Johnston’s on Facebook

I’m going to tell you about the trail from the Strandhill side as, personally, I think it’s more rewarding, but you can do the Knocknarea walk from whichever side you like.

Park up in one of the Strandhill Beach car parks (you can’t miss them) and grab a coffee from Shell’s or some of the best Gelato in the land from Mammy Johnston’s.

The trail entry point

Knocknarea trail entry
Photo via Google Maps

As this is one of the more popular things to do in Sligo, the trail can get busy at weekends, so try and arrive early, if you can.

From Strandhill village, you’re a 25-minute ramble for the starting point here (just aim from Dolly’s Cottage – you can’t miss the entry point from here.

After heading on through the gate, the Knocknarea walk begins. You’ll The route to the top is nice and clear. You’ll be taking a loose gravel path for the first chunk of the walk, before reaching the steps.

The climb

Knocknarea steps
Photo via Google Maps

You’ll need to conquer several hundred steps until you reach the next gate. The steps are nicely space out, so they’re not too steep.

Go through the gate and keep on going until you get up and over the next set of steps. You’ll reach another gate and then there’s some more steps.

The views begin

half way point
Photo via Google Maps

When you pass through the third gate, the beauty of the Knocknarea walk starts to become very obvious. Rest here for a minute and soak up the views over Strandhill.

From here, you’ll have the mountain on your left and incredible scenery all out on your right. Stop and rest if needed.

The boardwalk

Knocknarea boardwalk
Photo via Google Maps

The walk up Knocknarea Mountain from this point is nice and gradual. After a while, you’ll reach a boardwalk that leads up through the forest.

This section can be a steep aul slog, but the fresh forest air seems to drive you on. Keep on going until you reach the clearing.

The summit of Knocknarea Mountain

climbing Knocknarea mountain in Sligo
Photo by Anthony Hall on shutterstock.com

After making your way through the clearing, the summit will be in sight. After a moment, you can turn around and catch an incredible view out over Strandhill.

Keep on going and the cairn (above) will become visible, along with more glorious views. 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.

Things to do after the Knocknarea walk

One of the beauties of Knocknarea Mountain is that it’s a stone’s throw from many of the best things to do in Strandhill.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do after the walk, from food and more walks to beaches and much more.

1. Post-hike food

strandhill food
Photos via the Dunes Bar on Facebook

If you hop into our guide to the best restaurants in Strandhill, you’ll find plenty of great places to grab a feed. You can head for a ramble along Strandhill Beach when you finish up.

2. A very hidden gem

the glen strandhill
Photos by Pap.G photos (Shutterstock)

The Glen is one of the most unique places to visit in Sligo. It’s right to the side of Knocknarea Mountain, and is tricky to find. Here’s a guide to getting to it.

3. Lots more to do

Benbulben Forest walk
Photo left via ianmitchinson. Photo right via Bruno Biancardi. (on shutterstock.com)

Some of the other nearby attractions include a handful of hidden gems and some of the better-known walks and hikes. Here are our favourites:

FAQs about climbing Knocknarea in Sligo

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long it takes to climb Knocknarea to where to park.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How long does it take to climb Knocknarea?

The 6km 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.

Is the Knocknarea walk hard?

Yes, in places. It’s a steep climb to the top, but it’s a rewarding one. There are plenty of places along the way to stop for a breather.

Where do you park for Knocknarea?

There are several car parks for the Queen Maeve Trail, depending on which side you want to start from. Personally, I like to start this from the Strandhill side, as you can leave the car in the town.

1 COMMENT

  1. Yes, I’ve climbed Knocknarea a good few times now. There’s also a back way up to it. If you park in the Rugby club carpark & cross the road, there’s a gravel pathway & then wooden steps up through the forest. It’s a beautiful climb, especially done early morning to coincide with sunrise. Again, the reward is the stunning views & of course a coffee from Shell’s afterwards enjoyed while watching the waves crash against the shoreline in Strandhill.
    Lovely article, thank you. Definitely hikes there for the to do list.

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