Rathcroghan is a hidden gem, one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Ireland.
An aerial view of the area from a photograph at the visitor centre. It is easy to distinguish and appreciate the individual sites from the air.
This is a landscape full of ancient archaeological features covering 100 square kilometres around the small midlands village of Tulsk.
site is first mentioned in the early Christian Annals of Ulster of the
seventh century which recorded the tale of the Táin, assumed to be a
written record of oral pagan mythological tradition.
Misgaun Medb is the name of this giant rock which used to stand upright in its day and may well have been one of the first monuments here erected during neolithic times.
Rathcroghan is located along the Westport to Dublin road (N5) on the Westport side of the small villae of Tulsk. Public transport is scarce in these parts. You will have to travel by car.
Main entrance of the Owennagat cave. Will you dare to enter? A man made souterrain incorporating two Ogham inscripted stones (believed to have been standing stones originally) leads into a 130m long cave, a lime stone fissure. The cave may have been used for ritual purposes.
Exploration of the monuments is by walking. The most
accessible monuments are located just off the N5 (Dublin to Westport road), on
the Westport side of the small village of Tulsk.
The village is home to a visitor centre ‘Cruachain Ai’ (free
and open all year Mon to Sat) which has big signs outside. You can’t miss it
driving through. Their friendly and helpful staff as well as the lovingly
assembled exhibition and audio visual show will help to pull the exploration
together. They have a nice cafe, too, which helps break the trip, and a small
well priced gift shop. On a small budget, the centre aims to help make the
monuments accessible to the public. They also organise conferences and public
Cillian and Tara at the visitor centre having fun with one of the exhibits, a giant wooden throne, lovingly crafted from bog wood. An artists fantasy of what may have been.
So, DO visit the Cruachain Ai centre and pick up a
leaflet there with a map of the monuments before setting out on your tour.
This will help you find the monuments and to appreciate what you are looking
at. Not a bad idea seeing that all that is left of the ancient culture of the
place are some earthen mounds, large rocks, ring forts, and a rather mysterious
large cave with an Ogham inscription. (BTW, the visitor centre don’t recommend
for people to enter the cave without a guide, but apparently many do. If you
choose to, you will need proper equipment, such as torches and waterproofs.)
Visits to all the monuments are free. Please respect them. Don’t leave any
litter, and if you happen to find anything that might be of archaeological significance,
alert the visitor centre.
Rathcroghan Mound, also called The Great Mound. Two procession routes lead East and West from here marking it as a place of ritual. On good days you can see as far as Croagh Patrick in Westport from the top of the mound.
Read more here
about the history and significance of Rathcroghan as well as about the
Find out about neolithic Ireland part one and part two.
Find out about Newgrange, facts and features.
Find out about Carrowmore.
Find out about the ancient Celts'
living spaces and their cattle herding
The large area covered by these monuments and the fact that most are on
private land and inaccessible to the public, would make me believe that
there should be a small market at least for tours of the area from the
air, but as yet there are none although the Cruachan Ai visitors centre
draws about 10, 000 visitors a year, with many more people just exploring the sites and never visiting the centre.
Alternatively, a guided tour would seem desireable. These have to be arranged and booked in advance by contacting the visitor centre.
Message from the visitor centre here:
"Just note that guided tours in and from Rathcroghan
Visitor Centre, professional and fully insured can be booked at a charge and
all money raised go straight back to support, conserve, and educate about this
wonderful Royal Complex which has been nominated for World Heritage Status in
How to DO Rathcroghan? Break your car journey here some day. Plan a couple of hours for the visit. Start at the visitor centre taking in their exhibition. Set out from there to visit the most accessible individual monuments. Two are located right behind this building and can be accessed by walking, the rest will require a 4km drive.
If you have the whole day to spend in the area, combine your visit of the Royal site with a visit to Strokestown House, a stately home not to be missed!
We hope you enjoyed this page on one of the most underrated tourist attractions in the West of Ireland.
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Thanks a million and warmest regards from Ireland from Susanna and Colm.
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