Arriving at the Hill of Tara, you might easily find yourself drawn deep into conversation with author-historian Michael Slavin ensconced in his bookshop here. Like many a local he knows a thing or two about Ireland’s heroes and kings, and by the time you step out onto the hill you’re filled with a passion for them too.
Tara’s potent mix of archaeology, history and myth touches at the very soul of Ireland.
A major ritual site since the Stone Age, it became the seat of Irish High Kings in the early centuries after Christ and its complex of circular mounds, barrows, ditches and banks breathe an unmistakable aura – an evocative rallying point down the ages. A film in the visitor centre showing stunning aerial views is ideal for getting your bearings.
Illustration of Daniel O'Connell addressing a crowd at the Hill of Tara
Illustration of Daniel O'Connell addressing a crowd at the Hill of Tara
On a day when skies glower, the long grassy hill becomes even more dramatic as, with or without guide, you explore just why the ancients believed this to be a dwelling place of gods and entrance to the Otherworld of eternal joy.
The Mound of the Hostages, an ancient passage tomb
The Mound of the Hostages, an ancient passage tomb
Around you the landscape spills secrets thick and fast.
There’s the megalithic passage tomb later called the Mound of the Hostages in reference to hostage-taking customs; the mound of Cormac’s House, named after Tara’s famous King Cormac Mac Airt; the King’s Seat with the Lia Fáil or Stone of Destiny: said to roar when touched by the rightful King of Tara.
Views of the lowlands of the Boyne and Blackwater Valleys run away into the distance, as did Cormac’s daughter Gráinne when she eloped (recounted in the epic "The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne"). And in the gathering shadows you might imagine St. Patrick coming here to challenge the old religion with the new.
Illustration of the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne, one of Ireland's greatest love stories
Illustration of the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne, one of Ireland's greatest love stories
Any crack of thunder as you’re leaving and it’s quite easy to believe the Lia Fáil has roared.
Map illustration of key landmarks at the Hill of Tara
Illustration of the Hill of Tara (Image via Uto Hogerzeil)
Left: Map illustration of key landmarks at the Hill of Tara Right: Illustration of the Hill of Tara (Image via Uto Hogerzeil)
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