Slide History Of Rathcroghan HistorRathcroghan Visitor Centre History - Rathcroghan Visitor Centre

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.

History - Rathcroghan Visitor Centre

Courtesy of M. Casey

Fun Fact - Rathcroghan Visitor Centre

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.

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Visitor Reviews

  •   Absolutely brilliant tour! Would definitely recommend if in the area. Excellent prices for the quality of the tour. Our guide Michael had an extensive knowledge of the area and was... read more

    nessaflynn
    8/10/2020
  •   We have previously taken tours at other ancient Royal Irish Sites, but were excited to visit Rathcroghan and were not disappointed. We got there early for a 12pm tour and... read more

    Z7896CFjohnr
    8/10/2020
  •   Interesting and entertaining tour with Elaine. She had us giggling at stories and amazed at her knowledge. We had time to spend before the tour in the visitor centre and... read more

    938shellyb
    8/09/2020
  •   After a lovely breakfast in their cafe we had a fabulous tour with Michael who was so generous, fun, knowledgeable & clearly passionate about the area and all it has... read more

    704trishr
    8/06/2020
  •   Really enjoyed my visit to the royal site at rathcroghan...a part of Ireland I did not know. The tour given by Michael was most informative and he indulged my frequent... read more

    103karinab
    8/01/2020
  •   If you’re anywhere close to being able to visit this site then make sure you do.
    It’s incredibly interesting and very well explained and laid out.
    The staff... read more

    johnire01
    7/30/2020
  •   A great place to find out about the ancient ring forts and mythical stories of the surrounding area. Well worth the stop!

    X5757FDjohnc
    7/30/2020
  •   I would like to thank Elaine for conducting a wonderful tour earlier this month (17 July). Her ease of delivery was very much appreciated and it was far from... read more

    Nathy F
    7/29/2020
  •   our excellent tour guide Mike, from the time you started our tour to the very end,you were a mind of information. it was like being there all those years ago.... read more

    tractor41
    7/23/2020
  •   Excellent tour.at Rathcroghan.
    My wife and I attended the Visitor's centre today (21st July 2020) and did the tour. Our guide Elaine was brilliant, so well informed and so enthusiastic... read more

    Octaviaman
    7/21/2020