The Ring of Gullion Way (61 miles)
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Slieve Gullion and the conspicuous ring of hills that encircle it are all that is left of a massive volcano that collapsed during a violent eruption some 60 million years ago. The phenomenon is known in geological terms as a ring dyke, and the Slieve Gullion ring dyke was the first ever to be documented. It is also perhaps the finest example of its type in Britain and Ireland.
The Ring of Gullion Way works its way around the hills surrounding Slieve Gullion, linking together many of the area’s sites of scientific and archaeological importance.
The Ring of Gullion Way passes five archaeological monuments in state care and many other earthworks, graveyards and lesser-known sites. In a region so rich with historic monuments, several stand out in particular. Clontygora Court Tomb, known locally as ‘The King’s Ring’, is one of the country’s most dramatic Neolithic tombs. Kilnasaggart Pillar Stone is the oldest known cross-carved stones in Ireland, which can be dated to 700 AD. An old Irish inscription on the eastern face has been interpreted as ”this place, bequeathed by Ternohc, son of Ceran Bic under the patronage of Peter the Apostle’”. Towards the end of the route you’ll find Killevy Old Church and St Moninna’s Holy Well, sites that date back to an early Christian convent founded in the 5th century.
The Ring of Gullion is also rich in folklore and mythology. It was thought that the young Irish hero Cú Chulainn had his residence on the slopes of the mountain. The most epic of all tales, Táin Bó Cuailgne (‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’), tells how Cú Chulainn battled single-handedly at the nearby ‘Gap of the North’ to defend Ulster from the armies of Queen Maeve. In another story, Finn McCool was bewitched by the Cailleach Béara and subsequently lost his blonde locks after swimming in the lough on the summit of Slieve Gullion.