The Glen – Sligo, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

The Glen

A tiny microvalley etched into the side of Knocknarea Mountain hides another world. 


There are arboretums, and then there are herb gardens. There are mountains, and then there are hills. And in Ireland, there are glens, and then there is The Glen.

If a glen is a small valley, then The Glen is something else. One might coin the term “microvalley” just to describe this place. Walking through the entrance that leads you out of the wind and into the tranquility of The Glen, with its lush and dewy silence – every experience you’ve ever described as being “as if in a fairy tale” will be replaced by this.

Nestled between sheer rock walls reaching heights of 60 feet, rare visitors to this enchanted glen are overwhelmed by vibrant hues of slate and green, surrounded by hanging vines and ivy-covered stone, ancient trees and mossy rock. And how fitting that this secret gully be etched into the side of Knocknarea Mountain – a place with fairy tales all its own.

Knocknarea is a popular hiking destination filled with Irish lore. It’s topped with a massive pile of stones known as Queen Maeve’s Tomb – supposedly the final resting place of the mythical Queen Maeve. Hikers frequently visit the site to pay homage and take in the countryside. Yet even with that, The Glen is largely unknown and little-visited.

The Glen is a geological oddity lacking a commonplace explanation, but it seems likely that the deep crevasse was carved out by a particularly ill-tempered glacier eons ago. Visitors will have to know where to look along the road to Knocknarea Mountain, where just past an old well and nearly eclipsed by overgrown flora, a simple but intriguing gate marks the entrance to another world – Queen Maeve’s own secret garden.

Know Before You Go

Travel west along Glen Road on the southern slope of Knocknarea Mountain, past the turn-off for the Queen Maeve's Grave parking lot. About a half-mile down, on the north side of the road, you'll see an old well (easily missed) surrounded by a low, circular white/gray wall. Roughly opposite the well is an overgrown and barely visible opening. That is the entrance. Wellies or muck-proof shoes are recommended as the path into and through the valley can be extremely muddy.  

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