This is the trail followed by Queen Maeve of Connacht as she set about her great cattle raid to Cooley in north Louth. Her intention was to bring home the Donn Cuailgne the Brown Bull of Cooley. Queen Maeve is a mythical figure, a warrior queen who according to her name intoxicates those whom she meets with. Maeve and her warriors have many encounters along the route none more exciting than the great contest between Cuchulain of Ulster and Ferdia, Maeve’s Champion….. Thus the town named Ardee. There is a lot more to the story and for some years now a group of walkers have been walking the route over a number of days, usually in the month of May. The route has been pieced together by scholars using the place name evidence found in the ancient Irish manuscripts of the Ulster Cycle. Local stories and folklore have helped also.
Whether this all ever happened or not is in a way immaterial. Myths and legends are part of our past, as Pauline McDermott wrote in her research of the Queen Maeve Highway [Maeve’s return journey from Cooley via Athlone and the Shannon crossing]: “History and archaeology may tell us one story but mythology is powerful in igniting the imagination and enriching the landscape. Immerse yourself in the wonderful world of the imagination.”
The journey is over 221 kilometres and I and whoever joins me intend to complete it in three days. That will allow time for stops at historic sites along the way.
I have completed a .gpx file for the route and those who have the facility to use it on their bikes will get a copy from me, otherwise each day they will need to stay with someone who has the route on a device. There are a myriad of minor roads to be navigated. Luckily no part of the route uses N roads except for small short sections here and there. Bord Fáilte did waymark a route some years ago but today many of those finger posts are facing the wrong way or are missing or were never in place, we will ignore them in favour of the current scholarship.
It goes without saying that these are public roads and everybody is responsible for their own safety.
At this time, the week beginning 21st August, or 11th September look the most likely dates for the cycle.