(Located in County Meath off the N3 approximately 15 minute drive south of Navan)
This is the ancient Capital of Ireland, also know as Teamhair na Rí, where the High King ruled. On Samhain, all the Kings would congregate at Tara for a big festival and celebration, which would last the whole month of November. Ireland was broken into 4 provinces: Ulster (Northern), Cannaught (Western), Leinster (Eastern) and Munster (Southern). Each province had their own ruling King with Tara having the High King. In its hay day, it was a very powerful Pagan site. Learning facilities were based here, Warriors were trained here, Druids resided here; there was much activity. The Druids had 3 divisions within their order: Bards (Poets), Ovates (Philosophers), and Druid Priests. It is believed by some that the Dé Danann Kings reigned at Tara some 1,900 BC. They were succeeded by the Milesians who came from Spain (although this is debatable). There were 136 Pagan and 6 Christian Kings said to have ruled at Tara uninterruptedly. Diarmaid was the last of them, his successors moved elsewhere.
Special note: The huge complex that surrounds the Hill of Tara and the Skryne Valley has had a new motorway, the M3, built, which cut through the valley, separating the two hills. During road construction over 40 Archeological sites had been found in the area. Here is a website that offers more information regarding the plight that took place to save the region and its Archeological finds.
And of course Tara is also famous for having St. Patrick visit. St. Patrick came to Ireland in 432 AD and reached Tara in 433. He’s been credited for having introduced Christianity to Ireland. However, missionaries were already in Ireland converting people, but he did convert the royalty. King Laoghaire (pronounced Leary) was the High King of Tara from 428-458 AD. St. Patrick had angered the High King because he lit the Pascal Fire on the Hill of Slane, which is quite visible from Tara. The King had declared that no other fires were to be lit until the Druids had lit the sacred flame. The legend says that he fought off the Druids by using magic, and eventually befriended the King who agreed to be baptized, and the rest is history. The King had died in battle and was brought back to Tara and buried standing up facing his enemies, the Leinstermen.
Rath of the Synods
Rath in Irish means fort. This was believed to be the site where great festivals were held at Tara in Pre-Christian times. In 1899, large parts were destroyed by the Israelites because they were convinced that the Arc of the Covenant was here. They dug up the mound but found nothing, only some Roman coins that the locals had put there to appease them. Their disturbance of the mound is still visible today. The Celts built large circular buildings from wood, wattle and thatch until about 700 AD. Many circles and holes that were for posts were found here indicating that large buildings once stood here.
Mound of the Hostages
In Irish, it’s called Dumha na nGiall and this is a Passage tomb built between 2,500 and 3,000 BC. It got its name because one of the Kings at Tara, Niall (pronounced Enail), kept hostages in here from various places they conquered. After excavation, it contained more than 200 cremated or inhumed remains. This tomb is aligned with Samhain and Imbolc.
The Lia Fail
The Coronation Stone or the Stone of Destiny. This is one of the 4 sacred items that was believed to have been brought by the Tuatha dé Danann. It was said to roar when the rightful King of Tara touched it. It was originally in another location at Tara but was moved to its present spot to mark the grave of 400 Irish Rebels who died during the United Irishmen Revolution in 1798. The Kings of the other provinces were crowned here. Now there’s some controversy over whether or not the Royal Capital was really Tara or if it was in fact at Tlachtga, which is about 12 miles from Tara. They believe that the power shifted from Tlachtga to Tara sometime around 500 BC. Tlachtga is the highest point in County Meath and is visible from Tara and was built around the same time as Tara. Tlachtga was a religious center where the great Festival of Samhain was inaugurated and the Winter Fires were lit. After lighting the fires, there would have been a ceremonial procession to Tara down one of the great roads.
It’s also important to mention that this stone may not be the real Lia Fail after all. This may have simply been a hitching post for horses and that the real Lia Fail resides in a Museum in Scotland.