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.
I don't know why this place is not more famous, this is where the legendary Queen Maeve had her royal seat and where the saga of the Tain Bó Cuailnge... read more
- Janine R
A site not yet overcrowded, full of history and legends. would recommend it to everybody who is interested in all the legends about the queen of connaught. we did the... read more
The most interesting and very entertaining tour of beautiful fields rocks and ruins . Mike the tour guide was so entertaining knowledgeable and passionate about the area. Would highly recommend... read more
The trip was absolutely fantastic. I cannot applaud Mike (tour guide) enough for his energy and information. His presentation was poetic, informative, factbased and also referenced An Táin as well... read more
- Kathy C
We stayed at Anne's B & B in Tulsk after visiting the Irish National Famine Museum in Strokestown. Anne directed us to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre and suggested we... read more
The Rathcroghan Visitor Centre has a wonderful exhibition. It was very helpful and informative for the research I'm doing. They have a case with artifacts from the National Museum of... read more
Guide Mike was an unending source of knowledge and realism. Made history not just interesting but really fascinating. Did the tour, at the end of which a man from RTE... read more
The visitor center has awesome displays and local information, as well as a cute gift shop and a restaurant. Our guided tour was led by Daniel and I'm convinced there's... read more
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... read more
- Katrine D
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... read more