An Tain Bó Cuailgne – The Cattle Raid of Cooley

The Tain Trail Route

An Epic tale of Woe
An Tain Bó Cuailgne, the Cattle Raid of Cooley, is one of the great epics of Irish Literature, the moral of which is the futility of war and the worthlessness of material possessions. Perhaps as much as two thousand years old, it is also one of the most ancient sagas in northern Europe.

The Tain  – An Táin
Queen Maeve of Connaught and her husband Ailill decided one night to compare their possessions. After much discussion, it became evident that Ailill owned a great white bull, Finnbennach, which Meave had no equal for. There was only one bull in Ireland the equal of Finnebennach, and that was the great Brown Bull of Cooley. Meave decided that she must have the Brown Bull and so began the story of the Tain Bó Cuailgne.

The saga continues with the journey of Queen Maeve and her rampaging army as they set forth from the Royal Palace at Rathcrogan in County Roscommon, to the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth in order to steal the Brown Bull of Cooley. They crossed into Longford at the Shannon Fords at Tarmonbarry. Between here and Longford Town was Trego, the Plain of the Spears, where the armies were attacked by the Celtic war-spirit, Nemain. After an overnight halt at Granard they advanced towards Crossakeel in County Meath, the scene of Cuchulainn`s first threat to the armies.

The battle for the Bull of Cooley continued for many months with fierce fighting been waged between Cuchulainn and Maeves army until finally Cuchulainn fights and kills his own foster brother Ferdia. It finally ends near Mullingar where Cuchulain and the Ulster armies sent Queen Meave`s armies back across the Shannon at Athlone, into their own province. The two bulls eventually met and  began their own battle at the Hill of Emmoo, north- east of Roscommon Town. They fought, circling the whole of Ireland, with the Brown Bull emerging victorious, but mortally wounded. He made his final journey back across Ireland to his home in Cooley, with the remains of the white bull hanging from his horns, and there he too died. So ended this epic tale.

The Route
Measuring some 315 miles (504 km), the Tάin Trail Driving and Cycling route brings you to the legendary places of the Tάin – but also embraces sites, some famous and some little known for their history or beauty or both. Following the Tάin Trail reveals many treasures of the hidden Ireland, a more peaceful land than in the times of the battles of old, but every bit as exciting.

The trail takes in many famous monuments and attractions of Irelands East Coast and Midlands region, from the fantastic world heritage sites of Newgrange and Knowth, exquisite sculptured Celtic crosses of the early Christian church, medieval castles, monasteries and the great houses of the 18th century. En route the traveller of the trail can also sample the comforts of a vibrant and modern Ireland, excellent accommodation, pubs, restaurants and plenty of ‘craic agus ceoil’ in wonderfully colourful and historic towns.

What makes the Tain Trail most special is that it brings its followers to the heart of authentic Ireland, over mountains, by the seaside, to lakes and noble rivers, where life moves at a leisurely pace and the past is ever present.

For more information on The Táin and its associated festival which takes place annually in County Louth, please visit .

Further information on the Myths and Legends of County Longford can be found on the ‘Explore Longford’ App available to download for both Android and Apple Devices:
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County Longford Tourism Office Market Square, Longford, Ireland    Phone: +353 (0)43 33 42577 +353 (0)85 8888876    Email: