The Caves Tour
Lough Arrow → Ballindoon Friary → Carrowkeel Megalithic Tombs → The Caves of Kesh → Ballymote Castle → Raptor Centre and Bird Sanctuary → Colooney Falls → the 1798 Memorial Collooney.
Lough Arrow lies at the foot of the Curlew Mountains 22 kilometres from Sligo town on the border between the counties of Sligo and Roscommon. It is the largest lake in Sligo, measuring 8 kilometres long and 2.5 kilometres across at the widest points. The lake is fed from waters from spring wells. The lake is drained by the Ushin River which flows into the Owenmore River near Ballysadare and on to the Atlantic Ocean. Lough Arrow boasts some of the finest wild Trout fishing in Europe and is an anglers Mecca during the Mayfly season.
Ballindoon Abbey on the north east shore of lough Arrow is a Dominican Priory founded by the McDonaghs in 1507. Terence McDonagh was buried here in 1713. He maintained an active political role in Irish History and was the only Catholic in an influential position when the penal laws were introduced. He practiced Law until 1692 and he helped many families, including the O’Connors and O’Rourkes to hold onto their Hereditary Possessions and Lands. As we leave Ballindoon and Lough Arrow we travel to Castlebaldwin and on up into the Bricklieve Mountains to visit Carrowkeel Megalithic Tombs.
Carrowkeel Megalithic Tombs are designated as a National Monument and are one of the Sacred Sites of Ireland on a hill in the Bricklieve Mountains. It has 14 Burial Mounds dating from 2500-2000 BC and each tomb is marked alphabetically. There are beautiful scenic views of Lough Arrow and the surrounding areas from this mountain. As we leave here we travel 5 kilometres north west to Keshcorran Mountain and the Caves Of Kesh.
The Caves of Kesh consist of thirteen small caves at the foot of a limestone cliff. A legend associated with the caves is that Cormac MacArt, a famous King of Ireland was reputedly born and raised in the caves by a she wolf. Diarmud and Grainne are said to have taken refuge here from Fionn Mac Comhail. Lughnasa is a festival to honour the Celtic God Lugh was held on the top of the mountain on the last Sunday in July, called Garland Sunday. In past times the festival lasted three days. These days it’s held in the local sports field with a dance in the evening. There are guided tours of the caves every hour during the main tourist season. Next on your tour is Ballymote Castle.
The last and mightiest Norman Castle in Connaught dating from 1300 was built by Richard DeBurgh it was the strongest fortress in Connaught. DeBurgh, called the Red Earl of Ulster, built it in order to protect his newly won possessions in Sligo. He also built a road from Boyle to Collooney called Red Earls Road. In 1601 it was from this castle that Red Hugh O’Donnell marched to a disastrous battle in Kinsale. From Ballymote it takes about ten minutes to go up the road to the Raptor Centre & Bird Sanctuary.
The Centre opens to the public on Good Friday and has tours of one hour duration twice daily at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. You can see Eagles Flying and Training and experience eagles swoop inches above you. You can have a bird land on your head and watch the Bird Whisperers at work. This is a visit that provides both fun and information for all. Next we make our way out to the Sligo road, turn right and pass through the village of Ballinacarrow on our way to the small town of Collooney where we visit the Collooney Mill Falls on the Owenmore River.
At Collooney Mill Falls we see the fish-pass for salmon, in their run to spawning beds up river. We see the old mill which is a derelict building now and serves as a reminder of a different age in a very picturesque area surrounded now by houses and apartments. After a photo session we go to the 1798 Memorial.
At this place in the Battle of Carraig Na Gcat in 1798 where Irish and French armies were pinned down by a British cannon on top of this hill. Captain Bartholomew Teeling, a native of Lisburn in County Antrim, rode his Horse through enemy lines and shot the gunner dead. This Brave and Noble deed turned the tide of the battle and the British were routed. The French and Irish army were later defeated at Ballinamuck in County Longford, the French were granted Prisoner of War status and returned to France but despite this Teeling was hanged by the British in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin. He and his comrades are buried alongside the Fenians in Dublin. About 500 Irish were killed in those battles. Captain Bartholomew Teeling, born 1774, in Lisburn County Antrim, died 24 September, 1798 in Arbour Hill Prison. Now we head for your drop off point or accommodation.