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.
- B S
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
Being from Louth I'm obviously team Cúchulainn 😁, but I have to concede that Rathcroghan is a fascinating place. Mike took me on a tour to the mouth of hell and back. He had a wealth of knowledge about the facts and the fiction of...More
Our tour guide Mike McCarthy took us to Rathcroghan Mound, and to the Oweynagat Cave of the Cats. His knowledge of history and mythology was mesmerizing. His kindness and encouragement was inspiring. Entering into the Cave with Mike was exhilarating! We all felt reborn when...More
- Blythe K
We drove out here from Westport on a rainy day and took the tour with Michael. Michael proved to be a great tour guide and great storyteller and we really enjoyed ourselves. I have read the Tain, but my parents knew nothing of the history...More
We drove for several hours to get to the centre, looking forward to a tour, only be told in an unfriendly manner “we don’t go out in this weather.” It wasn’t even raining - more like a gentle mist. They cited health and safety concerns...More
- Ciara C
Really enjoyed this visit. Information is presented in a variety of videos and wall boards. Great artefacts on display. Nice focus on Queen Meabh and the Táin. Personal touch from the owner who talked us through some of the displays and was there to answer...More
I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours in the visitors centre in Tulsk and the Royal Site a few kilometres up the road at Rathcroghan. The visitors centre is staffed by wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable people, only too happy to talk to you about the site...More
- Steve B
I got up early the morning of May 9th and researched things to do in the area and thought it looked interesting. I love mythology, mixed with a bit of truth. We got in just a few minutes before 2. Mike was kind enough to...More
I was somewhat skeptical about stopping in and taking this tour. I WAS WRONG! Our tour guide, Michael was wonderful. He has so much knowledge of the area and Irish mythology and shares it in a most delightful way. He has a great way of...More