The giant fissured limestone boulder before you on the Hill of Uisneach is certainly a striking gateway.
Called Aill na Míreann – the Stone of Divisions – it’s said to mark the centre of Ireland and the coming together of the provinces. The goddess Ériu, after whom Ireland is named, lies buried underneath.
Now you’re fully attuned to all sorts of possibilities evoked by the mysterious monuments scattered around the hill: barrows, cairns, ring forts, a holy well, remains of circular enclosures and ancient roads, one linking to the nearby Hill of Tara.
On you wander, pausing by the hilltop lake where the Sun god Lugh met his mortal end; chatting about St Patrick’s visit – there are superb views from his place of worship, St. Patrick’s Bed, over the sweeping central plain; imagining Ireland’s first great Bealtaine fire at Uisneach to celebrate the coming of summer.
The May tradition has been rekindled in Uisneach’s Fire Festival, a whirl of feasting, music, dance and a fire parade that sees golden flames crisping the dusk sky. It’s then that you might look up and ponder the legend that says Lugh, with his “long arm trailing behind him”, was actually a comet. Who’s to say where natural and supernatural begin or end?