Laying the foundations:

A research workshop to inform the World Heritage nomination process for The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo

 Sligo WHS Workshop Stefan Bergh 2023

The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo was successfully included on Ireland’s World Heritage Tentative List in 2022. Being on the list is the first major step towards full inscription as a World Heritage Property.

To inform the work towards full WHS status for this extraordinary group of some 100 Neolithic passage tombs, a two-day workshop was held at the Sligo Park Hotel on 13th October followed by a field-excursion to the 'landscape of the monuments' on 14th October, 2023. The workshop was organised by the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes group, with support from the Royal Irish Academy and the National Monuments Service DHLGH, Sligo County Council and Sligo Tourism Development Association.

A series of speakers, all with extensive international experience in World Heritage nomination process, where invited to present papers focused on how the current application best could be progressed (outline programme below).

Dr Stefan Bergh, Lecturer in Archaeology, and Dr Robert Hensey, Adjunct lecturer in Archaeology, both founding members of the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes group chaired two of the sessions during the day.  

Sligo WHS Workshop 13-10-2023
Pictured (left to right): Susan Greaney, Siobhan Ryan (SCC), Chris Blandford, Leonardo Garcia Sanjuán, Alison Sheridan, Stefan Wessman, Luisa de Marco, Padraigh Meehan, Stefan Bergh, Patrizia La Piscopia, Michael McDonagh, Robert Hensey, Dorothy Clarke (SCC) (Gabriel Cooney and Jessica Smyth attended via Zoom and are absent from the group photograph).

Laying the Foundations – A research workshop to inform the World Heritage nomination process for The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo

Welcome Address by Cllr. Gerard Mullaney, Cathaoirleach, Sligo County Council.

Opening Remarks by Martin Lydon, Chief Executive, Sligo County Council.

Introduction by Pádraig Meehan, Chairperson, Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group

SESSION 1 - Site specific research trends - definition of the archaeological resources

Chair:  Dr Stefan Bergh, University of Galway


Dr Jessica Smyth, UCD School of Archaeology

‘The role of a WHS research framework: a Brú na Bóinne retrospective’

Dr Gabriel Cooney, UCD School of Archaeology

The Passage Tomb landscapes of Co. Sligo: The Research Landscape’

SESSION 2 - Comparative WHS properties and other relevant sites.

Chair: Dr Robert Hensey, University of Galway


Dr Leonardo García Sanjuán, University of Seville

The Comparative Study of the Sligo WHS Bid. Some Comments Based on the Antequera Experience’

Dr Susan Greaney, University of Exeter

‘Lessons from the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS: good intentions vs challenges and change’

SESSION 3 - Towards a nomination dossier - management, conservation, procedures/practicalities

Chair: Michael MacDonagh, National Monuments Service


Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK

The Passage Tomb Landscapes of County Sligo – Towards a Nomination Dossier’

Dr Luisa de Marco, ICOMOS member

Aspects of archaeological cultural landscapes and serial properties in the World Heritage context’

Stefan Wessman, Finnish Heritage Agency

‘In the spotlight for eternity - some thoughts on nominating in the 2020’s’

Patrizia La Piscopia, World Heritage Unit, National Monuments Service

The Journey to Nomination Guidance Tools and Capacity Building’


Dr Alison Sheridan, National Museum Scotland

 Sligo WHS Workshop field visits Stefan Bergh 14-10-2023
Dr Stefan Bergh, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Galway, describing the landscape setting of the Carrowkeel passage tombs to the WHS Workshop group.

As inscription/full WHS status of ‘The Passage Tomb Landscape of Sligo’ will present significant benefits, opportunities and challenges for the long-term sustainable management of heritage in County Sligo representatives from a variety of sectors in Co. Sligo and beyond were invited to attend the workshop. In attendance were people representing landowners, the farming community, hospitality industry, art and heritage groups, business community etc. In all an audience of c. 70 were present. 

The workshop offered ample opportunities for extensive, and very important discussions on a wide range of topics in relation to the work that lies ahead to complete a nomination dossier for The Passage Tomb Landscapes of Co. Sligo to achieve full WHS status.

The Workshop proved to be a major step forward in relation to the work with the WHS nomination for The Passage Tomb Landscape of Co Sligo. Especially since a series of extremely important topics were highlighted by the invited speakers, which will all positively inform the progression of this important work for the heritage of Sligo and Ireland.

 Sligo WHS Workshop field visits Robert Hensey 14-10-2023
Dr Robert Hensey, Adjunct Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Galway, talking to the WHS Workshop group at Carrowkeel East passage tomb. 

A baseline survey towards UNESCO World Heritage status for Sligo Passage Tomb landscape 

An extensive baseline field-survey of close-to one hundred passage tombs in Co. Sligo has just been published by The Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group.
The survey was completed as part of a bid to place The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo on Ireland’s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 
The aim with the survey is to create a baseline resource regarding the state of conservation of each passage tomb in its context, and to thereby assist in developing management, conservation, and presentation policies for the passage tomb landscape of Sligo.
Through extensive fieldwork, focused on current conservation and management issues related to each individual monument as well as their landscape context, a detailed record has been established for the entire group of monuments.
The publication is the first time that this extraordinary collection of Neolithic monuments, including an extensive photographic record, has been presented in a single volume.
The survey was undertaken by Dr Stefan Bergh (PI, NUI Galway), Dr Fiona Gallagher, Dr Robert Hensey and Padraig Meehan. GIS work was undertaken by Dr Noel McCarty (NUI Galway) and drone imagery was captured by Dr Paul Neassens, Western Aerial Survey.
The survey was primarily funded through The Heritage Council’s Heritage Sector Support Fund 2021, with additional generous support from Sligo County Council and NUI Galway.  

Book cover of 'A baseline survey of the Passage tombs of county Sligo 2021'

 Queen Maeve's Tomb, Knocknarea, Sligo - Photo. Ken Williams

Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage:, press-release

'The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo was recently endorsed by Minister Noonan, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, as a tentative World Heritage Site.'


Sligo Weekender  21 July 2022

“Momentus day” as Sligo’s Passage Tomb Landscape included on World Heritage Tentative list for Ireland


More details can be found on the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes website.