Rathcroghan – Bringing Ireland’s Past and Legends to Life

Rathcroghan (Cruachan Aí), is the oldest and largest unexcavated Royal Site in Europe. It is known as the Sacred Capital of Connacht, and is the location where the festival of Samhain (Halloween) is said to originate. Experience Rathcroghans rich archaeology, mythology and history through our interpretive rooms and expertly guided tours of this majestic landscape. The Rathcroghan Visitor Centre is home to our interpretative rooms and museum, and is located in the medieval village of Tulsk, Co. Roscommon.

The Rathcroghan landscape boasts over 240 identified archaeological sites, contained within an area of 6.5km², which range in date from the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age (c. 3500 BC), through to the late Medieval period, spanning a staggering period of over 5,500 years. It is the location of some 28 identified burial mounds from the Bronze and Iron Age, numerous ringforts (settlement sites) of early Medieval date, standing stones, linear earthworks, stone forts, a great Iron Age ritual sanctuary, and even a Gate to Hell! In truth, an archaeologist’s dream.

Tread across Rathcroghans ancient landscape, in the footsteps of the great warrior Queen Medb, who ruled all of Connacht from her home here at Rathcroghan. Listen to the epic tale of the Táin Bó Cuailnge, featuring a host of legendary heroes including Medb herself, the Battle Goddess Mórrígan, Connacht warrior Fráoch, and the boy hero Cú Chulainn, whose names and deeds are inextricably linked to the landscape that surrounds Rathcroghan.

Experience the legendary Oweynagat (Cave of the Cats), described as Ireland’s “Gate to Hell” and entrance to the Otherworld by fearful Christian scribes. Climb to the top of the majestic and enigmatic Rathcroghan Mound, which in the Iron Age was impressively topped with wooden ramparts and ceremonial henges, and whose secret heart remains an untouched mystery.

Fun Fact - Rathcroghan Visitor Centre

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Visitor Reviews

  •   I visited both the visitor center and the royal site and neither disappointed. Daniel, our guide and the manager of the visitor center, was incredibly knowledgeable and a very engaging and funny story teller. The exhibitions in the visitors center are well-explained and very accessible to visitors of all ages. I dare you not to learn something on your visit! The site itself is beautiful, and gave me a new appreciation for how deeply Irish culture is integrated into the land. Great stop to make if you’re in the middle country.

    744emk
    7/16/2019
  •   The tour at Rathcroghan was an excellent experience! We didn’t know very much about Ireland’s past and the guide helped us understand much more about the how we know (or think we know) about the way of life in the time before and just after the introduction of Christianity to Ireland. Even if you’re not that interested in history, the guide, Daniel, is so passionate and knowledgeable that you’ll want to know more after the 2 hour tour!

    Katrine D
    7/16/2019
  •   Rathcroghan is not your run-of-the-mill tourist experience. The visitor centre is lovely and offers information on the many archeological features of Rathcroghan but the tour is what it's all about. Booking in advance is advised but we rang about two hours before we arrived and managed to get three places (on a Monday). Our tour guide Daniel herded us all on to a minibus and drove to the first site - Rathcroghan mound. Before we approached it, he gave us some archeological background as well as a telling of An Tain mythology. As we walked the site, he linked the mythology to the archeological evidence and what is known of early Irish history, in true Irish oral tradition. He's an engaging and knowledgeable speaker who brought it all to life. But that wasn't the best part. Our next stop was to Oweynagat, a souterrain limestone cave. If you're brave enough, the cave is accessible but it is narrow, muddy and challenging. Not for the fainthearted but definitely worth the effort. The cave has been described as a gateway to the underworld, where spirits emerged from on Samhain. It was also a place where youths proved their mettle by staying overnight until they were 'rebirthed' as men. The cave itself is amazing but emerging from its narrow entrance into the light is a truly unique experience. Both sites are accessible to the general public but it is strongly advised not to... Rathcroghan is not your run-of-the-mill tourist experience. The visitor centre is lovely and offers information on the many archeological features of Rathcroghan but the tour is what it's all about. Booking in advance is advised but we rang about two hours before we arrived and managed to get three places (on a Monday). Our tour guide Daniel herded us all on to a minibus and drove to the first site - Rathcroghan mound. Before we approached it, he gave us some archeological background as well as a telling of An Tain mythology. As we walked the site, he linked the mythology to the archeological evidence and what is known of early Irish history, in true Irish oral tradition. He's an engaging and knowledgeable speaker who brought it all to life. But that wasn't the best part. Our next stop was to Oweynagat, a souterrain limestone cave. If you're brave enough, the cave is accessible but it is narrow, muddy and challenging. Not for the fainthearted but definitely worth the effort. The cave has been described as a gateway to the underworld, where spirits emerged from on Samhain. It was also a place where youths proved their mettle by staying overnight until they were 'rebirthed' as men. The cave itself is amazing but emerging from its narrow entrance into the light is a truly unique experience.

    Both sites are accessible to the general public but it is strongly advised not to enter the cave without a guide due to the risk of slipping. The sites are not very accessible to anyone with mobility issues. The tour does not cover the many other sites in the area, which is bigger than Newgrange and Bru na Boinne, but some can be visited independently (though some are on private land). Definitely the highlight of our trip. More

    Gill R
    7/09/2019
  •   Visited Rathcroghan at the end of June with my 12 year old and were totally captivated by the place. We were so lucky to have Daniel as our tour guide as his knowledge is so engaging it made the visit one of the best we have taken to date. It is such a historic and captivating location. The visitor center is worth a visit and make sure to watch the two short films as they set the scene for the tour. Also the food in the restaurant is so good, it was exactly what we needed. We were so glad too that they have a new bus to bring you to the sites as it added to the experience. More

    RFLighthouse
    7/08/2019
  •   Our guide was not only very informed of all the myths and legends, he was also entertaining and extremely charismatic! The most special part after the main mound, the stories, and the place itself, was the oweynagat cave experience.

    Josephine W
    7/07/2019
  •   Rathcroghan is a very important royal passage tomb burial site in Ireland. The guided tour (free) is fascinating. The exhibits at the Visitor Centre are interesting and informative- as are the video presentations.
    The tour guide told us a lot about Irish legends, including Queen Maeve, the local warrior Queen goddess. The legends are correlated with the archeology.
    What is special here is there are no excavations- the site has been explored by non-destructive means- geophysical methods including LIDAR, ground penetrating radar, geomagnetic surveys- the images are shown and clearly explained in the exhibits.
    This site and visitor centre are worth a detour to visit!!

    SFDANR
    7/05/2019
  •   Center of ancient history, well-explained in both a visitor center with displays and 2 videos. I wouldn't bring young children so much as 9-10 and older. Several monuments on an area a couple of miles away which the new van tour goes to with the guide. Our guide was Daniel and he was a knowledgeable one-man-show, telling the story of the place and showing us how, when you climbed the central monument (easy) where kings were coronated you get to a height that enables you to see 360 degrees to the edge of your entire kingdom. There were various burial monuments. The staff are very welcoming, obviously enthusiastic about the site, and so were we by the end of it. More

    Sue R
    7/02/2019
  •   This is an extraordinary place to visit. First off, the visitor centre is one of the best I’ve been to with excellent explanatory displays. The 2 videos we were shown were wonderful. The first gave a description of the site and its history; the second a wonderfully atmospheric rendition of the myths and legends and stories associated with it. It’s well worth taking the time for these and browsing one of the best archeological bookshops you’ll find in Ireland. Daniel led our visit at the centre and out to some of the sites with wonderful stories and explanations. One of the most impressive aspects of this place (apart from being the largest unexcavated Royal site in Europe) is that it is all locally run by some very enthusiastic and vastly knowledgeable people. They are to be warmly congratulated on their efforts especially being largely unsupported by any official/government funding. More

    SuzanneSavona
    7/01/2019
  •   Our party (Two US, two UK) visited June 19 and thought it was a great place. The exhibit area is small but very well laid out and explained. The highlight though was the tour. It was just the four of us with Mike - he was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable (in archaeology and lore) that I think he would have spent all afternoon and night answering questions and giving deeper explanations.

    The tour was perfectly conceived starting with the history lesson and legends from the mound top (and view point) and then the story of Cave of the Cats and the chance to go in (that was unexpected!). If you're not too tall and can duck walk you can avoid getting too muddy in the cave. I brought out plenty of mud with me but it was worth it. More

    Steve H
    6/30/2019
  •   The staff was super friendly and helpful; they come across as being very fond of their centre in a nice way. We didn't even have the time to do a guided tour of the complete site as we were just passing through, yet Elaine explained...More

    B S
    6/17/2019