Top choice in The Midlands

Anyone with an interest in Celtic mythology will be enthralled by this area around the village of Tulsk. Containing 60 ancient national monuments, including standing stones, barrows, huge cairns and monumental fortresses, it is Europe's most important Celtic royal site, and the landscape and sacred structures have lain largely undisturbed for the past 3000 years. Site tours lasting 45 minutes take place twice daily from June to August.

Tulsk is 11km west of Strokestown. Bus Éireann's Dublin-to-Westport service stops outside.

It's hard to grasp just how significant Rathcroghan is, as archaeological digs are continuing, but it has already been established that the site is bigger and older than Tara in County Meath and was at one time a major seat of Irish power.

The excellent visitor centre is the place to start. It has diagrams, photographs, informative panels and maps that explain the significance of the sites, and it can let you know when access to the monuments is possible (some are privately owned). Most are along a 6km stretch of the N5 to the west. Rathmore and Rathcroghan Mound both have public access and parking.

A 15-minute video includes an introduction to the sites and legends, plus an animated story about the legend of the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), which should appeal to all ages. Also interesting is the timeline with replica artefacts.

According to the legend, Queen Maeve (Medbh) – whose burial cairn is at the summit of Knocknarea in County Sligo – had her palace at Cruachan Aí. The Oweynagat Cave (Cave of the Cats), believed to be the entrance to the Celtic otherworld, is also nearby. As it's located on private land, a guide has to accompany anyone who enters the cave. This can be arranged at the visitor centre (€20 per person).

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