History and mystery
The wild remoteness of the mountains isn’t just a boon to walkers. In centuries gone by, these hills harboured all manner of bandits and ne’er-do-wells, who preyed on luckless travellers. The most famous was one Shane Crossagh Ó Maoláin, a raparee (an ex-soldier turned bandit, named after the Irish for the weapon they used, the half-pike), who evaded the law for years but finally met his end on the gallows in 1720. You can still walk to the Robber’s Table, where legend has it that the thieves divided their spoils.
17th century bad guys are only a late chapter in the history of the mountains, for more than 90 sets of stone circles dating back to the Bronze Age have been found here. The most famous are the Beaghmore Stone Circles, which are in the southeast part of the range, along with several Bronze Age megalithic cairns and structures. Their meaning is lost, but they are aligned to the movements of sun, moon and stars. Hiking to them is like walking back in time.