Hill of Tara
“Great, noble and beautiful truly was our Tara of the Kings.”
Tara, which attained the pinnacle of its fame under the High King Cormac Mac Art, is said to have been founded by the ancient Irish race the Firbolgs, and was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland until the 6th Century when it was cursed by St. Ruadhan.
In its heyday Tara must have been impressive. The great, beautiful hill was dotted with seven duns, and in every dun were many buildings – all of them constructed of wood. The greatest structure was the Mi Cuarta, the great banqueting hall, which was on the Ard Righ’s (High King’s) own dun. Each of the provincial kings had, on Tara, a house that was set aside for him when he came up to attend the great Parliament.
As Tara was the epicentre of the Irish Kingdom, five great arteries or roads radiated from Tara to the various parts of the country There was the Slighe Cualann, which ran toward the present County Wicklow, the Slighe Mor, the great Western road, which ran via Dublin to Galway, the Slighe Asail which ran near the present Mullingar, the Slighe Dala which ran southwest, and the Slighe Midluachra, the Northern road.
Newgrange was built some 5,300 years ago; this holy place is one of the oldest built structures in the world, pre-dating the Pyramids by 500 years and Stonehenge by 1,500 years.
Known in Gaelic as Uaimh na Gréine, ‘the cave of the sun’, Newgrange is a megalithic pagan monument, with a vaulted roof and a cruciform design.
Twelve Standing Stones of what was once a Great Circle of around 35 Standing Stones surround the Passage Tomb. The outer mound of the tomb itself covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 Kerbstones, many of which are decorated. Inside the tomb itself, there is a 19 metre long inner passage which leads to the cruciform burial chamber.
The Winter Solstice sun illuminates this internal passage and chamber. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber. This dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December.
In 1172, Hugh de Lacy was granted the Kingdom of Meath by King Henry II of England. He chose Trim as his capital and set about building the largest Norman castle in Ireland at a commanding location by the banks of the nearby Boyne river.
The castle was protected by a ditch, long curtain walls and a moat. Inside a three storey building were housed living quarters, the Great Hall and a small chapel. A second chapel and a Royal Mint were also to be found in the castleyard.
Two gates in the curtain wall permitted access to the castle. One of these gates, the Dublingate, is the only complete tower and barbican in Ireland. The castle has welcomed many famous visitors throughout the ages. King John, Richard II and Prince Hal have all spent time here though unfortunately for Prince Hal, it was as prisoner rather than guest. More recently, the castle welcomed the crew of the film ‘Braveheart’.