Ireland's Ancient East - Hill of Tara, County Meath
Posted by Neil Hand on the 22nd of May 2015 at 15:53:47
Read all about another fascinating stop on Ireland's Ancient East trail:
Ireland is without doubt a very spiritual and mystical island with a long history and a tradition of storytelling. One of the most mythical places and central to many great Irish legends is the Hill of Tara located in the Boyne Valley, around 40 minutes north of Dublin.
The Hill of Tara, also known as Temair in Gaelic, and was once the seat of power in Ireland. In ancient Irish religion and mythology, the Hill of Tara was the sacred home of the gods and the entrance to the otherworld. Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful and sacred site.
The View! Apparently, on a clear day, one can be see half of Ireland’s counties at top of the hill. That’s 16 counties - I don’t know if that’s true – but on a clear day the view seems to stretch for miles and miles! Whatever the case however, it is clear that the site was chosen strategically for the view and the ability to see enemies coming from afar.
A bit of Archaeology! There are a large number of monuments and earthen structures on the Hill of Tara. The earliest settlement at the site is the Mound of the Hostages which dates to around 2500BC. There are over thirty monuments which are visible today, however there are dozens which more which have no visible remains on the surface but which have been detected using special non-intrusive archaeological techniques and aerial photography. A huge temple measuring 170 metres and made of over 300 wooden posts, were discovered in recent years at Tara. Only two monuments at Tara have been excavated – The Mound of the Hostages in the 1950s, and the Rath of the Synods at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
So, what can you see?
The Stone of Destiny: The Stone of Destiny is one of Ireland’s most famous monuments. It sits on top of the King’s Seat. It is Ireland’s ancient coronation stone and was brought to the Hill of Tara by the “Godlike People” (Tuatha Dé Danann”) as one of their sacred objects. When the stone was touched by the rightful king of Tara, it apparently roared to let everyone know that the king had been chosen!
The Mound of the Hostages: The Mound of the Hostages dates to 2,500BC and is the oldest monument on the Hill of Tara. It is actually a megalithic passage tomb similar to Newgrange which is also located in the vicinity. The name “Mound of the Hostages” derives from the custom of Irish kings taking important people hostage for political gain and loyalty. Niall of the Nine Hostages is one of the most revered of Irish Kings and was so named as he held hostages from all the provinces of Ireland and also some from Britain as well – which illustrates both his political and military strength.
Standing Stones: In the churchyard at Tara there are 2 standing stones which are believed to be ancient (either Neolithic period or Bronze Age). The taller stone shows a figure of the Celtic fertility god. The Standing Stones of Tara also recall the legend that candidates for the High Kingship of Tara had to drive their chariots toward two sacred stones standing closely together. They remained closed for the non-accepted candidate and opened a path only for the rightful king.
The Hill of Tara is one of Ireland’s most important sites and should be included on any tour of Ireland! Add it to your Custom Tour and embrace your Celtic spirit as you walk in the footsteps of kings!