A SMALLER SOCIAL HISTORY OF ANCIENT IRELAND
From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland by P. W. Joyce
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LOCOMOTION AND COMMERCE
SECTION 1. Roads, Bridges and Causeways.
The five main roads leading from Tara are mentioned in our oldest
authorities, as, for instance, in the story of Bruden Da Derga in the
Book of the Dun Cow. They were all called slige.
1. Slige Asail [slee-assil] ran from Tara due west towards Lough Owel in Westmeath, and thence probably in a north-westerly direction.
2. Slige Midluachra
[meelooghra] extended northwards towards Slane on the Boyne, through
the Moyry Pass north of Dundalk, and round the base of Slieve Fuaid,
near the present Newtown-Hamilton in Armagh, to the palace of Emain,
and on to Dunseverick on the north coast of Antrim: portions of the
present northern highway run along its site .
8. Slige Cualann ran south-east through Dublin, across the Liffey by the hurdle-bridge that gave the city the ancient name of Baile-atha-cliath
(the town of the hurdle-ford: now pron. Blaa-clee): crossed the Dodder
near Donnybrook: then southwards still through the old district of
Cualann, which it first entered a little north of Dublin, and from
which it took its name (the slige or road of Cualann), and on by Bray, keeping generally near the coast. Fifty years ago a part of this road was plainly traceable between Dublin and Bray.
4. Slige Dala,
the south-western road, running from Tara towards and through Ossory in
the present Co. Kilkenny. This old name is still applied to the road
from Kells to Carrick-on-Suir by Windgap.
5. Slige Mór ('great highway') led south-west from Tara till it joined the Esker-Riada*
near Clonard, along which it mostly continued till it reached Galway.
Portions of this road along the old Esker which raised it high and dry
over the bogs are still in use, being traversed by the present main
Besides these five great highways, which are con-constantly referred
to, the Annals and other old documents notice numerous individual
roads. In the Four Masters we find thirty-seven ancient roads mentioned
with the general name bealach [ballagh], nearly all with descriptive epithets, like Ballaghmoon near Carlow.
In old times the roads seem to have been very well looked after: and
the regulations for making and cleaning them, and keeping them in
repair, are set forth with much detail in the Brehon Laws.