The Carnfree complex lies 6km south-south-east of ancient landscape of Rathcroghan and comprises of 56 monuments just in Carns townland itself.
History of Carnfree
The site was used by the O’Conor kings as an inauguration site. The O‘Conors were the high kings of Connacht, one of the four kingdoms of Ireland at the time) and also gave Ireland two of its final high kings Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Turlough O’Conor) Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O’Conor). The Annals of Connacht detail the role the site played in kingship ceremonies and inaugurations for the family. One 8th century text even claims St Patrick baptised princes on this spot.
The current O’Conor line lies with the descendants of Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair, Rory’s youngest brother and King of Connacht who lived in the Rathcroghan Area. The ‘Conchubhair Donn’, the senior member of the entire Síol Muireadaigh dynasty, likewise descends from Cathal Crobhdearg.
Rory O’Conor was the last ‘High King of Ireland’ and the only ‘King of Ireland’ to hold this title which was created during his reign before the Norman invasion. It was Rory’s invasion of Leinster which resulted in the exile of its king, Dermot MacMurrough, who invited the Normans to Ireland.
The site is also closely associated with early mythology, and particularly the Connacht champion Fráech who is said to live in the mound.
Access to the site is limited as it’s on private land. Visits and guided tours can be arranged via the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre in Tulsk, but please don’t turn up to Carnfree unannounced as it’s a pain for the local residents and some consider it to be trespassing. As a result, don’t expect any amenities on site!
Predominantly you’ll be looking at mounds and barrows, likely used during inaugration ceremonies, which are certainly interesting to enthusiasts but not necessarily to everyone else…
Getting to Carnfree
Carnfree is located on a high ridge over the village of Tulsk. It’s about halfway between Castlerea and Strokestown, mostly easily accessed either via the N61 or the N5. Bus number 22 runs from Strokestown to Charlestown via Tulsk if you don’t have a car.