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Hill of Tara – ancient seat of Irish kings

The Hill of Tara is the traditional seat of Irish kings and contains monuments from ancient times when it was the political and spiritual capital of Ireland.

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It is located in County Meath near the River Boyne. Some of the monuments date back 5,000 years to the Neolithic period. Many are hidden underground and have never been excavated.

Hill of Tara Mound of hostages Photo Poleary91 CC4

The fact that a lot of the area remains undiscovered adds to the intrigue and speculation as to what the monuments were used for and what more treasures are yet to be found.

The monuments we can see are fascinating and have inspired many legends and theories of their own.

The Hill of Tara is also known as the seat of Kings. It is thought that at least 142 kings had their coronation there in ancient times.

Visitors can go on a guided tour of the site. The tours last for about 40 minutes and there are a maximum of 50 people allowed on any one tour.

The shape of the landmarks

The hill stands at over 1,000 feet tall and from the top you can see for miles around. The sights from the top of the hill include a stunning view of the white quartz front of another famous Irish landmark, Newgrange.

The top of the hill is enclosed by a ditch and an external bank which is known as the fort of kings. The mounds and enclosures form a shape similar to a figure eight.

There is a bivallete ring fort and bivallete ring barrow within the enclosure. These are known as Cormac’s house and the Forradh, which translates to Royal seat.

The Stone of Destiny

Tara Stone also known as the Stone of Destiny Copyright Verdasuno and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0

The stone of destiny is in the middle of the Royal seat. The stone was moved here in 1798 after 400 Irish rebels died fighting the Battle of Tara in the Irish Rebellion. It had previously been located close to the mound of hostages.

According to Irish mythology, kings would be crowned at the stone of destiny. The stone would start to roar if it was touched by a future king who had completed a number of challenges and proved themselves to be the rightful monarch.

One of the challenges was that a candidate would have to drive a chariot through two sacred stones on the Hill of Tara. The stones would stay shut for candidates who were not worthy but would move to clear a path for the chosen one.

When the chosen one touched the stone, the roar would be so loud that everybody in Ireland would be able to hear it.

It has been claimed that the story of the Stone of Destiny did not begin in Ireland but made its first appearance in the Old Testament as the Pillow of Jacob.

The Mound of Hostages

Away from the ring forts is a passageway leading to a Neolithic tomb called Dumha na nGiall which translates to ‘Mound of the Hostages’.

Irish Kings used to kidnap important people from all over country and from Britain. King Niall in particular was famous for taking hostages. They would be kept here.

This tomb was built some time between 2,500 BC -3,400 BC.

The Passageway to the tomb is aligned with the sunset on Nov 8 and Feb 4 which were the dates for ancient Celtic festivals Samhain and Imbolc.

Hill of Tara
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