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.

1367761230963

We made it…even with Carys in her buggy

1367761316660

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‘.

1367761890683

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

1367761903810

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.

1367762000110

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

1367762264567

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

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

  1. 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.

      Like

  2. 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!

    Like

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

    Like

    • 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!

      Like

      • 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 🙂

        Like

        • 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!

          Like

    • 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

Please feel free to join in the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s