Take a journey back in time and follow in the footsteps of the kings and queens that shaped Ireland for centuries. We have recently launched a website that tells the stories of eleven historic Irish Kings and Queens, from the great Brian Boru to Mael Muire, the first non-Celtic Queen of Ireland. Below we look at five Kings and Queens whose journey is well worth replicating.
Journey With These Five Irish Kings and Queens
1 Brian Boru
Arguably the greatest-ever Irish King, the tales of Brian Boru is known to many across Ireland. As King of Munster, Brian became the King of Ireland in 1002 before going on to do battle at the famous Battle of Clontarf. Indeed, battles were a big part of Brian’s reign both in Munster and Ireland. Some of his crucial battles included Scattery Island where he defeated the Viking King Ivar of Dublin, and Glenmama, where he defeated another Viking King in Sitric Silkbeard of Dublin.
Brian’s journey takes him across many parts of Ireland, so follow in his footsteps today with our 3-day travel itinerary of Clare and Tipperary, where you can visit Killaloe and Cashel, two towns with big connections to the famous king.
2 Grace O’Malley
Perhaps better known as the Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley is said to have protected Mayo and the West of Ireland from English invasion during the 16th Century. Married on several occasions, Grace was a fierce warrior whose stronghold included Clare Island and Clew Bay, two stunning areas worth exploring when visiting Mayo. Grace not only left a lasting impression on the West of Ireland, but she also impressed Queen Elizabeth I when she became the first female sovereign of Ireland to meet with the British monarch.
Today, you can explore some of the lands that Grace battled to protect by embarking on our 2-day Mayo itinerary, visiting the towns of Westport and Newport, and the many islands of Clew Bay.
3 Rory O’Connor
The last King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor was one of over twenty sons of the King of Connacht, Turlough O’Connor. Rory was never seen as a heir to Turlough, but over time, and through many battles, he displayed the character and determination that was needed to eventually succeed Turlough. Rory did this in 1156 when he became the King of Connacht, while ten years later he would become the King of Ireland. With the British starting to have more control over Ireland under King Henry II, Rory signed the Treaty of Windsor in 1175, a declaration that was ultimately the beginning of the end for Irish kingship.
Rory’s reign as Ireland’s last king ended in the 1190s, with Rory eventually dying in 1198. Today, the remains of Ireland’s last king can be found at Clonmacnoise in Offaly, alongside his father Turlough, and numerous other Irish High Kings. Discover more about Rory’s reign and the lands he occupied by following our 2-day Galway and Offaly itinerary.
4 Queen Gormlaith
Perhaps best known for her brief marriage to Brian Boru when he was King of Ireland, Gormlaith ingen Murchada was also the mother of one of Dublin’s most famous kings, the Viking King Sitric. It is in these two characters that Gormlaith’s greatest contribution to Irish history takes place, as she is believed to have played a big role in encouraging her son Sitric to attack Brian Boru. This lead to the Battle of Clontarf taking place, and while Sitric would be defeated, he maintained his position as the King of Dublin, while Brian was unfortunately killed at the end of the battle.
A Kildare native, Gormlaith is thought to have been born in Naas before going on to spend time in Dublin following her first marriage to the Norse King Óláfr Sigtryggsson. Explore the lands that Gormlaith would have roamed many centuries ago with our 2-day Dublin and Kildare travel itinerary.
5 Dermot MacMurrough
The former King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough is perhaps best known for his role in bringing British Rule to Ireland, as he battled to try and regain control of his beloved Leinster. MacMurrough was involved in many battles with King Rory O’Connor, and his desire to defeat Rory and become the King of Leinster and Ireland resulted in King Henry II calling on Richard de Clare to help Dermot in battle. De Clare is best known as Strongbow, and his reward for helping MacMurrough defeat Rory O’Connor was the hand in marriage of his daughter Aoife.
Aoife and Strongbow would become one of the most famous couples in Irish history, while MacMurrough ended his days commissioning abbeys in Leinster. One such abbey – Ferns Abbey – is where MacMurrough spent his final years. Follow in MacMurrough’s footsteps with this 2-day itinerary for Waterford and Wexford.
Discover More Tales From Ireland’s Kings and Queens Today
Find out more about the history of some of Ireland’s most famous Kings and Queens, including Queen Maeve and King Niall of the Nine Hostages on our new Irish Kings and Queens website.