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Cornagrus is an isolated graveyard with a certain amount of mystery attached. It’s located on a hillside west of Wicklow Gap, in Knocknadroose, a little less than a kilometre from the road but with a stiff uphill climb through bog and heather. You’ll find it marked on our Wicklow West map.

When the local men planted this area in the 1970s for the Dept of Forestry, they left an indentation in the edge of the plantation and here you’ll find a roughly circular bank of about 30 metres in diameter. Inside this, there are numerous stones and boulders covered in moss and bracken etc. Liam Price visited here in 1949 and records a description of the site with a sketch of a small stone cross. I looked for this in the jumble of stones without success.

The site was definitely known locally as an old graveyard and both it and the adjacent hill are called Cornagrus or Cornagros. The odd thing is that it lies in an isolated position, relatively high up on a heathery and rocky hillside. Was is it a cillín, a place to bury unbaptised children or strangers or was it as I’ve read somewhere, for deceased miners from nearby Glendasan lead mines? Neither really makes sense, as graveyards even when remote, are normally found near where people once lived. You wouldn’t think that you’d choose to lug a coffin up the side of the King’s River valley to this bank.

Even looking at the amount of stone in it now, you’d find it hard to bury anybody! Are these natural field rocks or burial markers? Price was told that a priest was buried here, but again why? If it wasn’t a graveyard, what was the function of the fairly substantial earth and stone bank all around?

The name itself at first glance seems to represent Cor na gCros, the rock or point of the cross. But given that it lies in the townland of Knocknadroose, a name whose origins are lost, it’s also possible that ‘droose’ and ‘grus’ are from some common origin.

Finally, it can be noted that the site is adjacent in a general sense to an ancient pass through the Wicklow Mountains. St.Kevin’s Road can still be found in parts, but this old road must be only one of several tracks and roads that have traversed the route. Perhaps Cornagrus one lay much closer to such a passage.

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