Emerald Isle

Knockma Hill

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Places in Ireland

The home of King Finnbheara

Knockma of the mists is a place wreathed in secrets and myth where they say sleeps the greatest king of the Sidhe, he whose name was Finnbheara! Should you go for a walk around Knockma Hill, pay close attention to that which you cannot see – a warm breeze meant a good fairy was passing by, and a sudden shiver meant an evil one was close!

Just before the Great Hunger, the people around Knockma reported seeing hundreds of fairies fighting in the sky above the high cairns, and battling their way towards Galway too. Those who saw the duelling factions knew that a great disturbance was coming to Ireland, and the famine which followed was no surprise to them.

There are three cairns atop Knockma, one of which is said to be the palace of King Finnbheara, while another is meant to be the tomb of Queen Medb of Connacht who strove so mightily with Cú Chulainn, and the last, Carn Ceasra, is said to be none other than the abode of Césair, the very first woman to set foot in Ireland!

Her expedition was ill-fated, sadly, although she is credited with introducing sheep to Ireland, and was thought by early Christian chroniclers to have been the grand daughter of Noah. They also believed she had been denied passage on the ark, and so created an idol which told her to flee to Ireland to escape the flooding to come, since being previously uninhabited, it was thought to be free from sin, and should therefore escape the deluge.

They were on the sea for seven years and a quarter until they arrived at Dún na mBarc. Two of her three ships were lost in the journey, and before long there was but a single survivor of them all, Fintan the shapeshifter.

The great age of the monuments and ruins around Knockma lends weight to the possibility that she was buried nearby, for they are of tremendous antiquity, going back seven thousand years and more! And among them can be found deep tunnels, fortresses and more cairns.

The Kirwans held sway over Knockma for some time and local legends tell of their conflicts with the Sidhe. Lady Eithne Kirwan was kidnapped by the fairies, and her husband had to dig deep in the centre of the mound to rescue her. But even after her rescue, she slept for a year and a day until he managed to remove the magical girdle that Finnbheara had placed around her waist! The hole can still be found to this day.

And another tale speaks of how Lord Kirwan met King Finnbheara riding on a horse made of fire, and he was blessed with luck at the races forever after.

“Knock Ma, which you see over there, is said to contain excavated passages and a palace where the fairies live, and with them the people they have taken. And from the inside of the hill there is believed to be an entrance to an underground world.

It is a common opinion that after consumptives die they are there with the fairies in good health. The wasted body is not taken into the hill, for it is usually regarded as not the body of the deceased but rather as that of a changeling, the general belief being that the real body and the soul are carried off together, and those of an old person from Fairyland substituted. The old person left soon declines and dies.”

Testimony of a local priest in 1911

Knockma Hill can be found on the map below!


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Legendary Places in Ireland

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