• Ali Isaac

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

In the heart of Co. Cavan lies an unusual archaeological feature: a stone row, or alignment, named after one of Ireland's greatest loved mythological heroes, Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

A row of 5 standing stones graduating in size, set in an elevated clearing overlooking rolling countryside.
Fionn's Fingers, Co. Cavan.

The stone row is in alignment with NW – SE, and is located on the North side 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 summit 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.

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'.

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. Its 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. The veil between this world and the magical realm was thin that day
New Year’s Day 2014. The veil between this world and the magical realm was thin that day

#FionnsFingers #cavan #inaugurationstone #standingstones #FionnmacCumhall #CoCavan #theFingerstones #irisharchaeology #TheCastletaraMillenniumTrail #historical #archaeology #Ireland #ShantemonHill #stonerow #IrishMythology

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

  1. Seamus Hennessy Jan 14, 2018 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. Ali Isaac Jan 16, 2018 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. freespiral2016 Jul 11, 2016 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. Ali Isaac Jul 11, 2016 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. Eilish Niamh May 21, 2014 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! Ali Isaac May 21, 2014 Well if you are coming to this part of Ireland we will definitely have to meet and say hi! Eilish Niamh May 22, 2014 Absolutely1 🙂

  4. Karen May 20, 2014 You did it again, Ali: I am longing to get back to my beloved isle. 🙂Not going to happen until November, I’m afraid.

  5. Ali Isaac May 20, 2014 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!

  6. edmooneyphotography May 20, 2014 Great find Ali, an interesting group of stones, I think a road trip to Cavan is in order this summer to check them out myself. A nice piece of history preserved 🙂 Ali Isaac May 20, 2014 Thanks Ed! I take that as a huge compliment coming from you! edmooneyphotography May 21, 2014 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 🙂 Ali Isaac May 21, 2014 My daughter goes to Holy Family school in Cootehill! Its a great place! Cavan certainly hides its light…I'm only just discovering what's out there. Planning another trip to somewhere new so will post about that soon. Thanks for the support!

  7. rachelcarrera May 20, 2014 I would have a FUN time there with my camera! And your son is ADORABLE! 🙂

  8. coldhandboyack May 19, 2014 I love the fact that you can visit these sites. Your posts are always so interesting. Ali Isaac May 19, 2014 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!