When we were in Dublin, we made a quick day trip to the Hill of Tara (also known as the Seat of the Kings), just about 30 minutes outside of the city. From the air, the Hill of Tara looks like this:
This ancient site is very important to Irish history (and folklore).
The site itself dates back to neolithic times, and has a few remaining ancient artifacts. One is a passenger tomb (a lot like the one we visited at Loughcrew) where human remains were placed. The tomb at Tara is known as the “mound of the hostages.”
The site is large and open- it appears that in the neolithic period it was used as some sort of a meeting place. There is a large, flat pathway that served as a sort of a “highway” to direct people to Tara.
In the center of the compound is the most important part of the site:
This is the “Stone of Destiny.” Legend says that all the High Kings of Ireland would come to Tara to be crowned. They would be given a series of challenges, and once they completed them, they would touch the stone. Then, if they were the “true king” and were destined to rule, it would let out a loud roar which could be heard all over Ireland. (It didn’t roar for us- I must not have been meant to rule!)
The fairy tree at Tara is a Hawthorne that grew well outside the hedgerow on the compound. People still come to leave little goodies for the fairies that live there. Tara is still regarded as an important, magical place to many of the people of Ireland- and the folklore is alive and well.
Our tour guide told told us a story of a time that he accidentally wandered into a fairy ring at Tara (a place where the grass grows a different shade of green than the rest of the land) and was “lost for days” in it. He was serious as the Plague! …. but I don’t know if I believed him!
This site is also important because it is here at the Seat of the Kings (according to legend) that Saint Patrick explained the trinity to the High King Laogharie in 433, using a Shamrock as an example. This large statue of Saint Patrick stands near the church right outside the compound as a tribute to that history changing event.
I just loved visiting The Hill of Tara. At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be much more than a bumpy field and some rocks, but being shown the ancient monuments by our Irish guide was amazing. He clearly had a huge amount of respect for the site. He told us stories of the kings coming, and Saint Patrick trying to convert the Pagans at their most holy site, and how this place really explains Ireland and how Celtic folklore and Christianity is so deeply intertwined in the culture.