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Conchobar mac Nessa

Discover the story of Ulster's most famous king.

Conchobar mac Nessa


Conchobar is a king who features highly in the Ulster Cycle, a series of legends and stories centred on the Ulaid, a Celtic expression of the northeasterly parts of Ireland.  In the Ulster Cycle, he is described as a resourceful and brave king.


AD Born in County Armagh

Many stories of Conchobar place his birth in Ulster, and more specifically in County Armagh. Several stories, some far-fetched, detail Conchobar’s life. This includes stories about his birth, one of which says that his mother, Neas, conceived him by a drink of the water from a stream named Conchubhar (supposedly located close to Lough Ross in County Armagh). A more reliable account of his birth is that he is the result of a union between his mother and Fachtna Fathach, a high-king of Ireland. It is this sonship that then positioned him as King of Ulster.

AD Conchobar Marries Queen Maeve

When Conchobar became king he married Maeve, the daughter of Eochaidh Feidhleach, King of Tara. However, as we know from Maeve’s story, this marriage didn’t end well and Maeve eventually returned to Tara. Despite his failed marriage, Conchobar went on to be known as a wise and consistently good king and reportedly ended up marrying three of Maeve’s sisters – Clothre, Eithne and Mughain - at different stages of his life.

AD The Battle of Ros na Ríg

In the Ulster Cycle tale, Ros na Ríg is the site of a battle between Conchobar mac Nessa, king of the Ulaid, and his son-in-law Cairpre Nia Fer, king of Tara. During the battle, Ulaid hero, Cú Chulainn, is said to have killed Cairpre with a spear thrown from a distance.

AD Táin Bó Cúalinge (Cattle Raid of Cooley)

Táin Bó Cuilnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) is a legendary tale that features Conchobar and his ex-wife, Queen Maeve of Connacht. Maeve is keen to own the great bull of Cooley and pulls together an army to gain possession of it. Conchobar summons Cú Chulainn, a great Ulster warrior, who is able to single-handily defend Ulster from Maeve's attack. He defeats Maeve but the bull is still captured and brought to Connacht.

AD Death of Conchobar

Conchobar is injured in battle and is told by doctors not to over-exert himself or he will die. Some years later, he is said to have heard of the death of Christ and is so overwhelmed by this news that his brain bursts and he dies. A far-fetched tale some might say!