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.
We travelled to Rathcroghan in a group of eight from Tour Guiding course in Dublin.
We all knew about the Royal site at Tara and Newgrange but we were... read more
If you are in the West you must visit Rathcroghan and take the tour led by the mighty Mike, who brings this unique place alive with his depth of knowledge.... read more
The tour guide we had was Daniel Curley and he was brilliant. He made sure to answer all of the questions we had and was very helpful to our little... read more
The museum is really excellent, there is a very interesting exhibition on the history of the site and the landscape. There are two films, one explains the archaeology of the... read more
Really interesting tour. Mike the guide was really enthusiastic and knowledgable. Fantastic value for money as tour lasted over 2 hours. Great way to break a drive west or to... read more
The site is incredibly brought to life by Mike's thorough and entertaining knowledge, incredible centre this place is of history and myth. Left with a sense of connection to the... read more
- 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