Knockma or Cnoc Meadha, is a prominent hill standing 167m high close to the village of Belclare in Tuam, Co Galway. Often referred to as the ‘Fairy Hill’, Knockma is a place full of myth and mystery.
There are three visible cairns on the summit of Knockma. The central cairn is called ‘Ceasair’s Cairn’ and is said to be the burial place of Ceasair, the first women to set foot in Ireland. She was thought to have been a granddaughter of Noah from the bible story ‘Noah’s Ark’. Apparently, she built her own ark before the great flood and arrived on the Hill of Knockma as the flood waters rose. She travelled with 50 women and 3 men. None of them survived the deluge except Fintan, who lived for a very long time and later became ‘Fintan the white-haired ancient’ – seer of An Tuatha De Danann. Cessair was buried and a great cairn was raised above her grave on Knockma hill.
The next cairn is called ‘Queen Maeve’s Cairn’ and is said to be the burial place of Queen Maeve of Connaught. However, ‘Maeve’s Grave’ on Knocknarea in County Sligo has a much stronger claim to her final resting place.
Nearby is another cairn called ‘Finvarra’s Castle’. This is thought to have been the home of Finvarra who was the high king of Connaught from an Tuatha Dé Danann. He lived there with his beautiful wife Oonagh, in a magnificent palace on the summit of the hill.
Finvarra’s castle has been reduced to a huge mound of stones, but on visiting the hill, it is easy to imagine a majestic palace sitting proudly on its summit.
Even though many of the archaeological structures have been lost or destroyed, it is still a magical place. The hill is host to beautiful forest trails with wonderful trees and flora. The summit commands breathtaking views of County Galway. On a clear day, the Connemara mountains, Croagh Patrick, Cong, Lough Corrib, Slieve Aughty, the Burren and Galway Bay are visible.
It is worth remembering that breezes that blow as you walk the hill are called ‘fairy paths’. They are said to be due to the flight of a band of ‘good people’ (fairies). A soft, warm gust indicates the presence of a good fairy, while a sudden, cold blast shows that a mischievous one is near.