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Winter Solstice Festival 2018 -‘Which Way Did they Go? – the Route of Táin Bó Cúailnge

As part of the Winter Solstice Festival this year, the Ring of Gullion Partnership is very lucky to be welcoming Paul Gosling to Crossmaglen to discuss the route of the Táin Bó Cúailnge.

What is Táin Bó Cúailnge?

Táin Bó Cúailnge is the story of a cattle-raid reputed to have taken place during winter sometime around the time of Christ.

Set in a rural, tribal and pagan Ireland, it is peopled with fearless warriors, haughty queens and kings and prize bulls. It is often ranked alongside Ireland’s greatest literary classics and frequently described as ‘epic literature’.

Táin Bó Cúailnge is not unique but forms part of a small group of tána bó (cattle-raiding stories), themselves part of the Ulster Cycle, one of four great categories of medieval Irish literature. This cycle comprises c. 50 stories, Táin Bó Cúailnge being acknowledged as the central tale.

Táin Bó Cúailnge is preserved in a number of medieval manuscripts, of which the Book of the Dun Cow (Lebor na hUidre,c. 1100) and the Book of Leinster (c. 1200) are the best known. A number of versions or ‘recensions’ of the story exist, that known as Recension I being the richest from a topographical viewpoint.

By the early 1800s Táin Bó Cúailnge had fallen out of popular memory but was revived at the turn of the twentieth century through a series of classic translations and retellings, of which Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) is perhaps the most memorable.

Paul Gosling is a native of Dundalk who lectures full-time in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. He is a professional archaeologist and a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland. His published work includes inventories and papers on the field monuments of Co. Galway and Clare Island, Co. Mayo, as well as the topography of a number of towns including Carlingford and Dundalk.

His currently researching the placename and route aspects of the medieval epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle raid of Cooley). His recent publications include ‘The Route of Táin Bó Cúailnge Revisited’ in the journal EMANIA: Bulletin of the Navan Research Group (2014) and ‘The Route of Táin Bó Cúailnge in counties Roscommon and Longford’ Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide No. 75 (December 2016).


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