The Shannon Pot is the recognised source of the River Shannon. Small streams high up in the Cuilcagh Mountains disappear into the limestone bedrock and join-up together in the underground before breaking through to the surface as the spring that forms the source of this important river. From this humble beginning the river grows in size to drain one fifth of the island and becomes one of the longest rivers in Ireland and Britain.
As the source of Ireland’s largest river, the Shannon Pot’s fame can be traced back to the very early times of the legendary Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the great warriors of Irish methodology. Legend has it that Sinnann, the daughter of Lodan, came to the Shannon Pot in search of the Salmon of Wisdom. The great Salmon was angered at the sight of Sinnann and caused the pool to overflow and drown the fleeing maiden. Thus was the Shannon created and which still bears her name today.
The area is rich in pre-historic and ancient monuments which are possibly linked to the ancient religious significance of the Shannon Pot. There are numerous Megalithic tombs and dwelling sites in the western Cuilcagh region. Many of these stone built structures have magnificent views over lakes reflecting the significance of water and landscape in the beliefs of the early inhabitants of the island. Tombs of different construction can be found here which document changes in the ancient burial traditions.
The Shannon Pot is of archaeological importance, as similar springs and pools of water played an important role in the siting of pre-historic settlements and Celtic religious ceremonies. The ancient pool at Navan Fort in County Armagh yielded large numbers of artefacts which are believed to have been ritual offerings to some water god or other gods or goddess. Navan fort has been accurately dated at 1,100 years B.C. and the monuments found around the Shannon Pot probably date also from the Bronze Age.
The significance of the Shannon Pot in pre-historic times is carried down in it’s Gaelic name, ‘Legnashinna’ or ‘Log na Sionna’. The word ‘Log’ (also Lug or Leg) in ancient Irish (Gaeilge) translates as a hollow or pit, but can also express an extended meaning “The Place” indicating a site of great importance. The association of this name with the longest river in Ireland, and the circular nature of the Shannon Pot pool strongly suggests that the site was one of great cultural and possibly religious significance during Celtic times.
The natural history of the area can be found in local place names such as Polnaowen and Pollbay. “Poll” in Irish means hole and these local names refer to swallow holes in the limestone bedrock. Swallow holes form where the limestone bedrock is dissolved along fissures and cracks allowing the surface streams to disappear into the ground to emerge, possibly miles away as springs.