The Sacred Capital Of Connacht
Rathcroghan (Ráth Cruachan – The Fort of Cruachan), is a term which is significant on many landscapes. In terms of archaeology, Rathcroghan is a collection of 240 identified archaeological sites, contained within an area of 6.5km², which range in date from the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age, 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.
However, Rathcroghan is also incredibly important from a literary point of view. It is remembered as one of the great locations of ceremonial assembly or óenach in Ireland. These fairs or assemblies took place at important points in the year, usually at the changing of the seasons, and were occasions for judgments to be passed, for kings to be crowned or inaugurated, and for great feasting and entertainments.
Recorded also in the early medieval literature is Rathcroghan’s significance as one of the three chief burial places of Ireland, the other two being at the Fair of Tailtiu and at Brú na Bóinne. Given the great number of burial mounds identified through archaeological investigation, it is no surprise that it is described as such.
In several early tales, Rathcroghan figures as a kingly settlement for the Connachta or Fír Ol nÉcmacht. The Connachta (descendants of Conn) were the ruling dynasty in the territory of Connacht from about the fifth century. This royal settlement also features very heavily in the Ulster Cycle of Tales, particularly as it is the location of the palace of the famous Iron Age Warrior Queen Medb (Maeve) of Connacht.
Because of this, the central tale of the Ulster Cycle, and Ireland’s national epic, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), locates both its beginning and end here at Rathcroghan.
As we progress into the late medieval period, Rathcroghan still retains a symbolic hold over the elite of Ireland, and much evidence exists to show that it continued to be regarded as synonymous with the kingship of Connacht.
As a result, Rathcroghan can truly be described as the sacred capital of Connacht.
- Christa N
Standing on the site of such an important and pivotal place in Ireland's ancient history was a humbling experience. Add to that the incredible care taken by the knowledgeable ... read more
- Ann H
The visitors center here is built with nothing but what tourists can buy. However, the food and gift shop was quite good. It was a good place to relax after... read more
Visited this interpretive centre and site on the way back from Sligo. Very impressed with the centre - it is small but very well designed and has something for... read more
My husband, 3 and 5 year old visited Rathcroghan visitor centre last Saturday. We had a fantastic day there. The centre itself has a nicely sized museum with lots of... read more
Excellent tour with Mike our guide highly recommended went down into the cave of cats the birthplace of Halloween. Superb stories so well told managed to keep my 6 and... read more
Tuesday morning. We had a wonderful Irish breakfast at the lovely cafe in the centre. I booked the guided tour for 12 noon the next day. Arrived at 11.30 am... read more
We spent several hours with our guide, Elaine, who was incredibly knowledgeable about Celtic history and folklore. It was fun to begin our trip to Ireland by learning so much... read more
- Alison R
This Visitors Centre is a real find for anyone interested in the Celts and the Iron Age or generally any aspect of Ireland's rural heritage. I was so impressed with... read more
This site is nominated as a Unesco World Heritage Site for a reason. This is the epicenter of the greatest oral epic in Irish History - Ireland's equivalent of the... read more
Our visit to Rathcroghan combined myth, history and archeology to provide a wonderful appreciation of this exceptional site. Our guide, Mike, gave us a lively account of the Táin and... read more