Overview

The Táin Way or ‘Slí Na Tana’, is a popular long distance hiking route, situated in the north-east of Ireland in County Louth, within Ireland’s Ancient East region. The walk completes a circuit of the Cooley Peninsula, starting and finishing in the picturesque town of Carlingford. The trail is 40km’s long and takes an average of 2 days to walk the full trail.

Hiking Walking Ireland - The Táin Way Hiking

The Táin Way route is steeped in Irish mythology and folklore. The hiking trail is named after one of Ireland’s most famous sagas, “Táin Bó Cúailgne” (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), which involved the exploits of Cuchulain, the Ulster Warrior hero known as “The Hound of Ulster” and Queen Meave. The Táin Way follows a section of the entire march made by Queen Meave in the legendary Cattle Raid of Cooley.

The route takes in the majority of the Cooley peninsula offering a great mix of coastal, woodland and upland walking with stunning scenery across the beautiful Carlingford Lough.

Hiking Walking Ireland - Tain Way Overview Map

History

The Táin Way trail is a section of the legendary “Táin Bó Cúailgne” or “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” as it is more commonly known. The legendary saga has also been referred to as “The Brown Bull of Cooley” while locals to the area refer to it as “The Táin”. The Táin is the most famous ancient Irish saga and is Europe’s oldest recorded vernacular tale which is said to date back to the 7th Century.

In this ancient saga, the story is told that one night Queen Maeve (‘Queen Medb’) of Connaught and her husband Ailill sat down and decided to compare possessions. After much discussion and debate, it became clear that the great white bull ‘Finnbeannach’ which was owned by Ailill could not be equaled by Queen Maeve. This made Queen Maeve very jealous as at that time the head of the household was the person owning most wealth.

In order for Queen Maeve to equal her husbands possessions, she needed to find a bull to match Ailill’s great white bull. However, there was only one bull in Ireland which could equal Finnbeannach – the great Brown Bull of Cooley, ‘Donn Cuailnge’. When Maeve caught wind of this bull, she had to have him.

HikingWalkingIreland - The Táin Way Brown Bull

As a result, Queen Maeve and her armies set off from Rathcroghan in County Roscommon in order to take the Brown Bull of Cooley back to Connaught. So began the Cattle raid of Cooley between Queen Maeve’s army and King Conor’s Ulstermen, and thus giving rise to the The Táin Way.

The Cattle raid came at a bad time for King Conor as his Ulster warriors were afflicted with the curse of Macha. Macha was a woman who placed a curse on all Ulstermen in retaliation for the men’s lack of help to her when she gave birth to her dead twins. The curse meant that the Ulstermen’s strength would become useless to them, when they would need their strength the most it would desert them, and for nine days and nine nights, they would endure the pains of a woman in childbirth.

As a result of the curse, King Conor’s men were prevented from fighting against Queen Maeve’s army. However, a 17 year old named Cúchulainn, the greatest of all celtic heroes, and unaffected by Macha’s curse, defended ‘Donn Cuailnge’, the Brown Bull and Ulster. So ensued many battles between Cúchulainn and Queen Maeve’s Army. In order to overcome Cúchulainn, Queen Maeve sent the foster-brother of Cúchulainn, Ferdia, to fight him in Ardee. However after a 3-day epic Ferdia was killed by Cúchulainn.

After much struggle, Maeve eventually captured the Brown Bull and set off for Connaught. King Ailill’s white bull, Finnbeannach, was no match for Donn Cuailnge, the Brown Bull, who gored the white bull to pieces. After the battle between the two bulls, the brown bull headed back to Cooley but died of his exertions at Druim Tarb (The ridge of the bull). This ended the Táin saga after which peace was made.

Check out the animated videos below which tell the history of the Táin.

Trail Description

Day 1 – Arrival TO carlingford

From your point of Arrival to Ireland, you can get public transport or rent a car in order to make the journey to Carlingford, the start point of the Táin Way. Carlingford is a picturesque village which was developed as a trading-cum-fishing port and dates back to c.12th century. Historic attractions in the village include; a Dominican Friary which dates back to 1305, King John’s Castle which was commissioned by Hugh de Lacy in 1190 and St. Judes Shrine which was developed from a site in Lille in France in 1903.

Day 2 – CARLINGFORD – CARLINGFORD

40km. 11-13 Hours *Important: Due to covering such a long distance in one day, this walk should only be undertaken by experienced walkers. It is advised to start your hike early in the day. In addition, it is strongly advised to only undertake this distance in one day during summer months in Ireland in order to ensure enough daylight hours.

On today’s hike you will follow the R173 road out of Carlingford and begin a climb which provides stunning views of Carlingford Lough at your back. You will follow a forest track through the Slieve Foye forest and later cross the River Colptha. Near Ravensdale forest, you will witness the historic Clermont Carn which is a neolithic burial cairn. Ravensdale forest once belonged to the Earl of Clermont whose house was burned down during the emergence of the Irish Free State in the early 1920’s.

After passing through Ravensdale forest, you will cross the Flurry River and be greeted with views over Dundalk bay. Passed Ravensdale village, and just off the trail, lies Trumpet Hill which was the site on which Cuchalainn encountered Queen Maeve’s army. You will then follow the trail through Rockmarshall forest and cross the River Cronn. In the Tain, the river Cronn rose up against the armies of Connacht hindering their progress.

You will then start to hike through the Golyin Pass, on the southern side of Slieve Foye, which served as a trader’s route in the past. The Golyin Pass offers you spectacular views of Carlingford and across the lough to the Mourne mountains. You will then start your decent into Carlingford where you will finish your hike of the Táin Way.

Day 3 – DEPARTURE FROM CARLINGFORD

After a good nights rest at your accommodation, you will once again use public transport or your car rental to depart Carlingford, leaving the Táin Way and the Irish folklore behind you.

Day 1 – Arrival to carlingford

From your point of Arrival to Ireland, you can get public transport or rent a car in order to make the journey to Carlingford, the start point of the Táin Way. Carlingford is a picturesque village which was developed as a trading-cum-fishing port and dates back to c.12th century. Historic attractions in the village include; a Dominican Friary which dates back to 1305, King John’s Castle which was commissioned by Hugh de Lacy in 1190 and St. Judes Shrine which was developed from a site in Lille in France in 1903.

Day 2 – CARLINGFORD – RAVENSDALE

20km. 5-6 Hours

On today’s hike you will follow the R173 road out of Carlingford and begin a climb which provides stunning views of Carlingford Lough at your back. You will follow a forest track through the Slieve Foye forest and later cross the River Colptha. Near Ravensdale forest, you will witness the historic Clermont Carn which is a neolithic burial cairn. Ravensdale forest once belonged to the Earl of Clermont whose house was burned down during the emergence of the Irish Free State in the early 1920’s. After passing through Ravensdale forest, you will cross the Flurry River and be greeted with views over Dundalk bay before finishing your hike in Ravensdale village. Ravensdale is a small village attached to the Ravensdale Estate.

Day 2 – RAVENSDALE – CARLINGFORD

20km. 5-6 Hours

After a nights rest, you will recommence your walk from Ravensdale village. Not far from the village and just off the trail, lies Trumpet Hill which was the site on which Cuchalainn encountered Queen Maeve’s army. You will then follow the trail through Rockmarshall forest and cross the River Cronn. In the Tain, the river Cronn rose up against the armies of Connacht hindering their progress. You will then start to hike through the Golyin Pass, on the southern side of Slieve Foye, which served as a trader’s route in the past. The Golyin Pass offers you spectacular views of Carlingford and across the lough to the Mourne mountains. You will then start your decent into Carlingford where you will finish your hike of the Táin Way.

Day 3 – DEPARTURE FROM CARLINGFORD

After a good nights rest at your accommodation, you will once again use public transport or your car rental to depart Carlingford, leaving the Táin Way and the Irish folklore behind you.

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An Táin Way
Average rating:  
 1 reviews
by Richard on An Táin Way
Lovely Trail

We had a beautiful 2-day walk on the Táin Way giving us spectacular views of the Cooley Peninsula. It's a trail that's steeped in history and Celtic mythology. Would highly recommend this trail.

HIKING Trail Details

Hiking Trail: An Táin Way
Grade: Moderate
Format: Circular
Length (Kms): 40.00
Climb (m): 1025
Estimated time: 2 days
Start/End Point: Carlingford
Dogs Allowed: No
 Terrain: 52% Asphalt

48% Off Road

HIKING MAPS

gETTING THERE

Route Options:

1. Dublin Connolly Station/Belfast Central Station – Dundalk

2. Dublin Connolly Station/Belfast Central Station – Newry

Irish Rail

Translink NI Railways

Route Options:

Dublin/Belfast – Dundalk

Dublin/Belfast – Newry

Bus Eireann

Translink Ulster Bus

Matthews Bus

Route Options:

Dundalk/Newry – Carlingford

Bus Eireann

TÁIN WAY GALLERY