Knockastia Cairn, Westmeath, Ireland

Not much written about this picturesque bronze age cairn on the top of Knockastia (Cnoc Aiste) in Co. Westmeath but is was obviously a place of enormous importance to our Bronze Age ancestors. Cnoc Aiste can be pretty difficult to find but luckily an old farmer was able to point us in the direction, sadly later on through some poor reversing on my behalf I ended up destroying the grass verge outside his hedge, he looked very confused by my driving and apologies were given! Its a short but surprisingly steep 210 metre climb to the top of of the hill, once there the views around the Westmeath countryside are breathtaking especially considering how lucky we were with the clear, crisp September day. Cnoc Aiste is the site of a covered 20m metre cairn, it was excavated in 1932 by the Harvard Archaeological Society and remains of 44 graves were uncovered, most of the graves belonged to noblemen and high ranking officials.

The folklore of the area also says that Queen Maebh’s warriors retreated here to tend to their wounds during the epic Táin Bó Cuailgne (Cattle Raid of Cooley). The sites importance on a national scale is shown by its alignment with many other cairns in the country. One bit of information I didn’t know before scaling the hill was that Cnoc Aiste was also the site of public gallows in Westmeath during the 1700 and 1800s which adds to the morbid-mystique of this wonderful place.

GPS: 53.44024, -7.63004

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