Queen Maeve’s Tomb

Queen Maeve’s Tomb

The way from Ennis to Donegal is long, and on small roads. We took an impulsive break in Galway for some shopping and busking, eliciting squeals of delight.

Then, on to our real adventure of the day. Queen Maeve (who reputably inspired the character of Shakespeare’s Queen Mab “o then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you!”)

This warrior queen of Connacht was ruler of all Ireland, and if someone wanted to be High King, they had to marry her. Over her sixty year rule, she had six husbands. To be King, a man had to challenge the present king to a duel. It is said she encouraged this practice.

But finally she met a husband who balanced her in power. One night, over pillow talk, they compared their assets, land, castles, all the way down to the sheep and cattle. As it turned out, he had one bull more than her. Without that bull they would have been completely equal in possessions. And there was only one bull in the entire country that was great enough to match this one.

It belonged to one of the Queen’s ex husbands, Nessa, king of Ulster.

But she went and requested it. She nearly got it as a gift, but her soldiers, bragging over their drink, let it be known that they would take it by force if it was not given freely. This annoyed the king, so a war was fought, and won, and the Queen went back with the bull.

Who promptly challenged the husband’s bull to a duel, and won.

So Queen Maeve returned the bull to Ulster, since she and her husband were at last balanced with property.

She is buried in full armor, facing her enemies in Ulster.

We climbed to the top of this tomb, a 45 minute hike up, and placed a stone on her ancient cairn.