Emerald Isle


Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Royal Sites in Ireland


The glorious stronghold of Rathcrogan, or Ráth Cruachan, was the Royal Site of the great Kings and Queens of the Western lands for thousands of years. Within its sacred embrace were held the thronging ceremonial assemblies or óenach, and people of every station would gather from all corners of Ireland to reach out and touch, if only for a moment, the liminal otherworld as the seasons turned.

According to a Dindshenchas poem, Cruachan was named after Crochen, the handmaid of Étaín, a sídhe maiden reborn as a mortal.

The area has hundreds of burial mounds, standing stones, ringforts, ritual sanctuaries, caves, cairns and other monuments dating from the Neolithic all the way through to the Iron age. Included among them is Oweynagat, the Battle Cave. This place is associated with Samhain, or Halloween as it is called today, and is described as the "fit abode" of the Morrígan, battle-spirit. It was one of the three great blessed burial places of Ireland, with the other two being at Tailtiú and at Brú na Bóinne... "Listen, ye warriors about Cruachu! With its barrow for every noble couple."

Hidden among the many monuments and ruins on the site is even said to be a gate to hell! More of the dark legends which surround the area can be found in the tale of Nera.

It was a political as well as a spiritual centre, holding sway over all of Connacht, counting among its rulers none other than Queen Medb of the Táin in the first century BC, she who strove in war with Cú Chulainn himself. A description of Rathcroghan from her time is given in the Táin Bó Fraích:

"Of pine the house was made; it is a covering of shingle it had externally. There were sixteen windows in the house, and a frame of brass, to each of them; a tie of brass across the roof-light. Four beams of brass on the apartment of Ailill and Medb, adorned all with bronze, and it in the exact centre of the house. Two rails of silver around it under gilding. In the front a wand of silver that reached the middle rafters of the house. The house was encircled all round from the door to the other."

Royal Sites of Ireland

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