Fionn mac Cumhall’s Fingers; Forgotten Ancient Irish Heritage Site


Fionn's FingersA short drive from where I live, in the parish of Castletara (Cushintirra) in Co Cavan lies the ancient archaeological site known as Fionn’s Fingers, also called the Fingerstones. It consists of a row of five standing stones somewhat resembling a giant hand. The middle finger is over  six feet tall and weighs an estimated four tons. The rest of the stones are all proportionate.

The stone row is in alignment with NW – SE, and is located on the North side of of a high ridge known as Shantemon Hill. There is also a sixth stone, now recumbent, and local tradition indicates that this is Fionn’s thumb…although that would give him a total of six digits on one hand, not a story I have ever heard before about the great man himself!

The path on the way up is very overgrown

The path on the way up is very overgrown

The summit of of Shantemon, (in Irish known as Seantuimin/ Seantóman) is only 218 m high, yet commands fine views over the hills and lakes of Cavan. Here, a trig point marks the highest spot, and one can see the remains of an old stone fort. In fact, although there is very little information to go on, it seems that this hill and fort may have been the site of ancient inauguration ceremonies for the chieftains of East Bréifne from 1100AD until 1700AD, and most likely even earlier.


We made it…even with Carys in her buggy


Taking a breather

The stones were mottled with lichen.

The stones were mottled with lichen.


My son Malachy sitting on one of Fionn's Fingers

My son Malachy sitting on one of Fionn’s Fingers

Certainly there are stories of various members of the Ó’Raghallaigh (O’Reilly) family being crowned there. East Breifne was an ancient historic kingdom known as Muintir Maelmordha, which later on became what is Cavan today. The inauguration stone itself (something like the Lia Fail at Tara) was called Cois an tSiorragh, which means ‘the foal’s foot’, due to a curious indentation said to look like the imprint of a foal’s foot…strangely.

Unfortunately, there is no longer any trace of this stone, but there is an interesting tale about it; the details are very sketchy, so it is hard to be completely accurate, but I believe there arose a dispute between two members of the  Ó’Raghallaigh clan over the kingship; in 1534, Maol Mordha Ó Raghallaigh outwitted his nephew by crowning himself there, ‘so that he (the nephew) would never be allowed to set his foot upon the stone of Cois an tSiorragh‘.


View of Cavan from the top. There was quite a drop down to the lake


Another view of Cavan from the top. The Chieftains must have felt very powerful, surveying their land from their perch on the inauguration stone as they received their crown.


It was a damp, hazy day, but the view was still breath taking


Heading back down from the top towards the stone row

These two places of interest lie on a path called, rather grandly, the Castletara Millennium Trail, which also takes in Castletara Church and an ancient graveyard. Fionn’s Fingers is surrounded by a conifer plantation, and the path is very overgrown, indicating few visitors. It’s isolation, however, all adds to its atmosphere and mystique. If you can find it, you will be well rewarded for your efforts, you will have the place to yourself, and it’s completely FREE!

New Year's day 2014. Visiting with my lovely friend Jenni and our two hounds. The veil between this world and the magical realm was thin that day

New Year’s day 2014. Visiting with my lovely friend Jenni and our two hounds. The veil between this world and the magical realm was thin that day

16 Comments on “Fionn mac Cumhall’s Fingers; Forgotten Ancient Irish Heritage Site

  1. The stone you mention I was told was near Keto’s Bush in Curratubber which Charlie Boylan talked about some time ago, contact him and he might even point it out provided the road workers have not dug it up, I used to see it in the 50’s as I took a nanny goat to the Buck goat kept by an old lady who lived in that area. Some of the older locals in that area will probably remember her. I used to walk from Clonervy over to her every year and I think the charge for the Buck’s services was half a crown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Seamus! So you think it might still be there? I’ll have to go searching. Was it big? Love your story of the goats! How much Ireland has changed in such a short time. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, and for taking the trouble to get in touch. I’d love to think such an important monument still exists, and if it does, I am determined to find it! 😆 I’ll do my best, anyway. A happy and healthy 2018 to you!


  2. What an intriguing site and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Fionn had 6 fingers! He certainly got around – we have a Fionn’s Seat here from where he liked to chuck rocks, and a possible footprint.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A footprint! I like that! We have 2 hills which are said to be Fionn’s hounds, Bran and Sceolán, who were turned to stone by a witch they were chasing.


  3. Wow, thanks for sharing Ali! I forwarded your post to my mom, because we’re starting to plan a trip to Ireland sometime next year. So many awesome places to see, I definitely want to get to this one!


  4. You did it again, Ali: I am longing to get back to my beloved isle. 🙂
    Not going to happen until November, I’m afraid.


    • You are coming to Ireland in November? Fantastic! You have all the time until then to savour the anticipation and make plans, which is half the fun of travelling!


      • My pleasure, I love finding out about new sites of interest, perhaps you might know of a few more in the area. My sister-in-law hails from Cootehill, but outside of that I would not know Cavan well 🙂


        • My daughter goes to Holy Family school in Cootehill! Its a great place! Cavan certainly hides its light…Im only just discovering whats out there. Planning another trip to somewhere new so will post about that soon. Thanks for the support!


    • ha…it’s something I love AND hate about Ireland! We just don’t care about what we have inherited. No one knows these places exist. On the other hand, it means you get them all to yourself, and they’re free, but then info is so scarce. I spend ages poring over maps trying to identify sites, but if they’re on private land, 9 times out of 10 you’ve no chance!

      Liked by 1 person

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