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Ireland Hill of Tara

Hill of Tara - Things to do in Meath


he Hill of Tara is documented in the 11th century manuscript The book of invasions as the seat of the high-kings of Ireland from the times of the mythological Fir Bolg and Tuatha De Danaan to the manuscript's composition.

The Hill of Tara has been in use by people from the Neolithic, although it is not known if Tara was continuously used as a sacred/political centre from the Neolithic to the 12th century.

Newgrange day tour from Dublin visiting Hill of Tara

Previous scholarly disputes over Tara's initial importance advanced as archaeologists identified pre-iron age monuments and buildings dating back to the Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago. One of these structures, the Mound of the hosteges has a short passage which is aligned with sunrise on the solar midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes. By the calendar, these dates usually fall around November 8 and February 4, the ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc. The central part of the site could not have housed a large permanent  settlement.  There were no large defensive works. Certainly the earliest records attest that high kings were inaugurated there, and the "Seanchas Mor" legal text (written down after 600AD) specified that they had to drink ale and symbolically marry the goddess Maeve to acquire the high-kingship.

The mound's passage is shorter than the long entryways of monuments like Newgrange, which makes it less precise in providing alignments with the Sun.

A theory that may predate the Hill of Tara's splendor before Celtic times is the legendary story naming the Hill of Tara as the capital of the Tuatha Dé Danann, pre-Celtic dwellers of Ireland. When the Celts established a seat in the hill, the hill became the place from which the kings ruled Ireland. There is much debate among historians as to how far the King's influence spread; it may have been as little as the middle of Ireland, or may have been all the northern half.

Atop the hill stands a stone pillar that was the Irish Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on which the High Kings of Ireland were crowned; legends suggest that the stone was required to roar three times if the chosen one was a true king. Both the Hill of Tara as a hill and as a capital seems to have political and religious influence, which diminished since Saint Patrick's time.

During the rebellion of 1798 the United Irishmen formed a camp on the hill but were defeated by British troops on 26 May 1798.

The Lia Fáil was moved to mark the graves of the 400 rebels who died on the hill that day. In 1843, the Irish member of parliament Daniel O Connell hosted a peaceful political demonstration on the Hill of Tara in favour of the repeal of the Act of Union which drew over 750,000 people, which indicates the enduring importance of the Hill of Tara.

During the turn of the 20th century the Hill of Tara was excavated by British Israelites who thought that the Irish were part of the lost tribes of Israel and that the hill contained the Ark of the Covenant. 

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