Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara (National Monument) has a whole series of grass covered earthworks. Nothing remains of the timber or wattle-and-daub buildings of the Celtic period, the finest of which were said to have doors set with precious stones and furnishings of gold and bronze. To be able, however, to begin to appreciate the importance of Tara, visitors are recommended to see the recently made video film shown in St Patrick's Church.The central area of the complex, the Rath of the Kings, is surrounded by a great rampart, the Royal Enclosure. In the middle of this enclosure are two small circular earthworks, Cormac's House and the Royal Seat. Near Cormac's House the coronation stone (Lia Fail) is supposed to have stood, of which legend has it that it used to sound when the right king ascended it. Nearby is a memorial stone commemorating Irish rebels killed in the 1798 Rising (erroneously known as the coronation stone), as well as a modern statue of St Patrick, who is said to have converted High King Laoghaire. To the north, still within the enclosure, is the "Mound of the Hostages," a passage grave dating from 1800 B.C. in which were found the remains of 40 cremated corpses. On their accession the kings of Tara were accustomed to take hostages from the noble families of their kingdom, in order to ensure their loyalty. After their death, certainly not always natural, they were buried in the Mound of the Hostages.South of the Rath of the Kings we come to another earthwork, the Rath of King Laoghaire, and abutting it on the north is the Rath of the Synods (second-fourth century), a living area, once surrounded by a ring-wall, which was badly mutilated at the beginning of this century by British Israelites seeking the Ark of the Covenant.Farther north two parallel earthworks 600ft/180m long and 100ft/30m apart have a depression between them, traditionally identified as the Banqueting Hall. An old print shows a banquet in progress, with the high king's guests seated in order of rank and dignity. Archaeologists believe, however, that this feature may have been the ceremonial approach to a cult site. To the west of the Banqueting Hall lie other earthworks known as the Rath of Gráinne and the Sloping Trenches, probably cult sites.
Opening hours: May 1 to Oct 31: 10am-6pm
Entrance fee in EUR: Family €5.50, Adult €2.00, Senior €1.25, Group discounts €1.25, Child €1.00
Useful tips: Last admission 45 minutes before closing.
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
On a hill 0.5mi/800m south of the Hill of Tara is the fort known as Rath Maeve (National Monument), 240yd/220m in diameter, surrounded by a rampart and a ditch.