The Winter Solstice at Slieve Gullion, Co. Armagh

I visited Slieve Gullion around the time of the Winter Solstice just recently. It was a really beautiful clear day and the views were incredible.  Three years ago I also came here for the Winter Solstice and it was a completely different experience – the whole area was surrounded by mist the entire time.  There are so many places associated with the Solstice around Ireland and I do my best to find new and interesting places to visit every year…..

The piece below was on an information board just before the steep climb up to the cairn and tells a little about the folklore of this place.

“Slieve Gullion (Sliabh gCuillin, “The mountain of the steep slope”) stands at a height of 573m in the centre of the Ring of Gullion and is the highest mountain in County Armagh. On the southern summit, a large Neolithic burial chamber known locally as “Cailliagh Berra’s House” is the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland. It is aligned with the setting sun of the Winter Solstice.  Local folklore tells how the famous Irish Giant, Finn McCool was bewitched by the wicked Calliagh Berra. Touched by her sadness, Finn was tricked into the bottomless lake to retrieve her lost ring.  The mighty Finn surfaced some time later with the ring but he had fallen under her spell and emerged an old man with hair as white as snow.  Eventually, Calliagh Berra was forced to undo her evil spell and Finn regained his former physique, with the exception of his beautiful blonde hair. The story still goes that if anyone swims in that treacherous lake, their hair will turn white!”

On the way up Slieve Gullion and The Cailliagh Berra’s House

Inside the cairn and the lake on the summit.

A 360 degree view from the summit (Solstice 2015)

View on the way back (Solstice 2015)

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It’s definitely worth visiting any time of year.  The walk on the way up is pretty easy, but it gets a lot steeper when you go off the main tarmac way and start heading up to the cairn. Once you’re at the top it’s really windy and wild but the views are worth it!

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