1 Best Sight in Hill of Tara, Dublin Environs

Hill of Tara

Fodor's choice

One of the most sacred places in pre-Christian Ireland, and the seat of power for ancient High Kings, the Hill of Tara is at the nexus of Celtic myth and history. You are free to roam across the site, but it might require a little research and imagination to bring it all to life. From the top of the Hill—it rises more than 300 feet above sea level—you can see across the flat central plain of Ireland, with the mountains of East Galway visible from a distance of nearly 160 km (100 miles). At the summit you will also find an oval Iron Age hilltop enclosure, a massive "hill fort," which became known as the Fort of the Kings (Ráith na Ríogh). Within the fort are further earthworks, a ring fort and a ring barrow---Cormac's House (Teach Chormaic) and the Royal Seat (Forradh). In the middle of the Forradh you'll notice a solitary standing stone. This is believed to be the Stone of Destiny (Lia Fáil), the ancient crowning place of the High Kings. Wander farther to find other earthworks, a massive ring fort known as Rath Maeve, and a Holy Well. The legend of St. Patrick claims he came to the Hill of Tara to confront the ancient pagan religion at its most important site. In the mid-19th century, the nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell staged a mass rally here that supposedly drew more than a million people.

Before you wander, stop at the Interpretative Center, housed in an old church on the hillside, where you can learn the story of Tara and its legends and watch a short movie showing stunning aerial views. Without this background it will be difficult to get your bearings or to identify many of the earthworks outside.

After systematic excavations in the 20th century, archaeologists have concluded that the Iron Age fort was ruined in the 19th century by religious zealots searching for the Ark of the Covenant. The Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage grave, most likely gave the place its sacred air.

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