Cuilcagh mountains in the north west of the county are the
highest mountains in Co Cavan and rise over 2,000 feet above
the level of the sea. By: Geraldine Lynch
Lewis Topographical Dictionary which was published in 1837
and includes entries on every county and parish in Ireland
and includes a 5,047 description of county Cavan, and describes
the north west of the county as such;
the Leitrim mountains overlook its western confines
while towards the north-west rises the bleak, barren, and
lofty range of the Slieve Russell mountains. But the chief
mountains are those which separate this county and province
from Connaught, encircling Glangavlin, namely, the Lurganculliagh,
the Cuilagh, Slievenakilla and the Mullahuna, the highest
of which is 2185 feet about the level of the sea.
The Shannon, the longest river in Ireland, rises under the
Cuilcagh mountains. The Shannon starts its 250 mile journey
to the Atlantic in a hole called the Lug-na-Sionna or Shannon
Pot, in a boggy field on the west side of the Cuilcagh Mountains.
Rivulets gush from the slopes into the dark circular pool
50 foot wide, overhung by lichen - covered trees.
The Shannon is named after Sionna, the daughter of Lodon
who was the son of Ler, the great sea god. According to
legend Sionna became seized with the desire for knowledge
which at the time was the possession of man alone. She dwelt
in the land under the wave and in that land was Connlas
Well, a mythical place which had nine Saved Streams running
from it and nine Saved Hazels growing around the margin.
These were the hazels of science, poetry and knowledge.
In the well lived the salmon of knowledge, who received
its wisdom by eating the nuts from the saved hazels, so
whoever ate the salmon would become all-knowing. Sionna
went to Connlas well to catch the Salmon of Knowledge.
As Sionna bent down to try and catch the fish, the salmon
leaped and lashed its tail in a rage. The water of the well
overflowed and swept Sionna into the Land of the Mortals
through a hole in the earth which was forever to be associated
with her name and known as Lug-na-Sionna or the Shannon
The Shannon soon becomes a fair-sized stream. Within three
miles of its source it is joined by the Owenmore, which
drains the Cuilcagh Mountains and by the time it reaches
Dowra, above five miles away, a wide stone bridge is needed
to cross it.
Many stories abound about the fairies and their crocks of
gold on the Cuilcagh.
One story is told about a local young man who had a dream
about a crock of gold high up on the mountain. One night
he left his home in search of the crock of goal. He had
brought a spade with him and began to dig when suddenly
he hit the crock of gold. As he did a hen flew out of the
hole, and frightened at this he ran the whole way home.
At home he became very ill and his parents sent for the
priest who came and said prayers over him. The young man
began to improve and in a few days he was fit and well again
but he never found the crock of gold.
There is a place called the gold digging in
a river on the Cuilcagh mountains.
Swann, Linn and Barr
From the 17th to the 19th century, Swanlinbar produced iron
from ore found in the Cuilcagh Mountains, hence the towns
Irish name, which means Iron Mill. But the smelting was
fuelled by charcoal and once the wood from the surrounding
forests was exhausted, the industry collapsed. The Mills
founders, Messrs Swann, Linn and Barr, became immortalised
in the English name of the town. Swanlinbar is situated
at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Cuilcagh Mountains
and in the towns heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries
was a spa resort and attracted many of the gentry from the
surrounding districts who gathered there in the summer to
sample its waters. As sea bathing became more popular during
the middle of the 19th century, inland resorts such as Swanlinbar
The Kingdom of Glan
The Kingdom of Glan, more properly known as Glangevlin or
the forked glen is surrounded by the Cuilcagh
Mountains and bordering the counties of Leitrim and Fermanagh.
It is believed that the earliest inhabitants arrived there
around five thousand years ago when tribes such as the Tuatha
de Danann, the Formorians, the Milesians and the Celts found
their way up the rivers Erne and Shannon. Proof of this
are the dolmens, ringed forts, caiseals, passage graves
and lake dwellings. The numerous caves and underground passages
provided a natural home for these early settlers. The ringed
forts were built as a defence against the wolves and eagles
during the Bronze Age and were used up to the twelfth century
and even later.
Many of the wedge-tombs, court-tombs, passage graves and
dolmens are to be found in the 200 forested acres of Burren,
or stony place at the top of the limestone hill
south of Blacklion, overlooking the marshlands below.
Among them are a rocking stone estimated to weigh six tons
and the Druids altar - a dolmen or portal grave with
a massive capstone. There is also a tomb that is said to
be the grave of a giant who collapsed and died after attempting
two jumps across the nearby Giants Leap.
The forested Burren area can be reached on foot along the
Cavan Way which generally follows the course of the River
Lewis Topographical Dictionary (1837) described Glangevlin
the mountain district between the counties of Fermanagh
and Leitrim is generally known as the kingdom of Glan
but more properly called Glangevlin or the country of the
MacGaurans. To this isolated district there is no public
road, and only one difficult pass; in some places a trackway
is seen by which the cattle are driven out to the fairs
of the adjacent country. It is about 16 miles in length
by 7 miles in breadth and is inhabited by McGaurans and
The Magaurans were an intellectual race and in the 13th
century there were Bardic Schools at the foot of Cuilcagh.
In the 18th century Aodh Mac Gabhrain wrote a famous poem
called Plearacha na Ruaireach which was translated
into English by Dean Swift. This Aodh may be the friend
whom OCarolan (the last of the wandering bards) mentions.
Lewis Topographical Dictionary Types of Soil gave a detailed
account of the minerals that were to be found in the soil
around the Cuilcagh Moutains. The sub-stratum aroundBallyconnell
was described as mostly mountain limestone which dipped
rapidly to the west and appeared to pass under the Slieve
Russell range of mountains, which were composed of the new
red sandstone formation with some curious amalgamations
The description goes on as follows;
To the West of Swanlinbar rises the Bealbally mountains,
through which the Gap of Beal, the only entrance to Glangevlin
and beyond at the furthest extremity of the county, is Lurgancullagh,
forming the boundary between Ulster and Connacht. The base
of this mountain range is clay-slate, the upper part consists
entirely of sandstone, and near the summit is a stratum
of mountain coal, ten feet thick, in the centre of which
is a vein of remarkably good coal, but only about eight
inches in thickness.
The sandstone of these mountains, in many parts, forms perpendicular
cliffs of great height; and the summit of Cuilcagh, which
is entirely composed of it, resembles an immense pavement
traversed in every direction by great fissures. Frequently
at the distance of from 80 to 100 yards from the edge of
the precipice are huge chasms, from twelve to twenty feet
wide, extending from the surface of the mountain to the
bottom of the sandstone. Some of the calcareous hills to
the west of the valley of Swanlinbar rise to a height of
1500 feet and are overspread with large rolled masses of
sandstone, so as to make the entire elevation appear at
first sight as if composed of the same. Iron ore abounds
among the mountains of this part of the county and was formerly
worked. In the district of Glan is found pure native sulphur
in great quantities particular near Legnagrove and Dowra.
Taken from Breffni Blue