November 30, 2008

County Wicklow: Hill of Tara

A short drive away from the Hill of Slane and the site of Saint Patrick's famous paschal fire is the Hill of Tara. Most of the monuments and ruins at Tara are so worn down that one can only "see" them if at the site themselves or if in the air.

Rocket Man and I have yet to grow wings, so we had to wait until we arrived via tour bus to see anything. While we had been unable to see any of Tara from Slane, we were able to see Saint Patrick's tower, church and monastery from Tara:

There are many ruins, mostly very worn down, at Tara. One of them is a hill fort, which looks like a circular shaped moat around a raised bit of land. Inside of one of these large circles are smaller ones, known as ring forts.

The most popular and widely photographed ring forts are the two which are connected. One is the King's Seat and one is known as Cormac's House. Cormac is perhaps the most well known high king, which is why the ring fort is known as his.

I think that the two ring forts connected like that look very much like the drawings we saw in Fourknocks passage tomb. We were told that they represented the sun and earth and their relationship to one another, but they sure do look a lot like the two forts at Tara.

Granted, the passage tomb is way older than the ring forts, so perhaps they modeled the forts after the carving in the tombs.

Located in the center of the King's Seat fort is the Lia Fáil, also knows as the Stone of Destiny.

Dah dah daaahhh...

The legend goes that when the next high king of all kings touched the stone, it would let out a roar of approval so great that it shook the ground. Thus all would know a new king had been found and so named.

We tested it is obviously showing its age because we got nada.

Also on the premises is a passage tomb known as the Mound of Hostages. This tomb is closed to the public. It is the oldest ruin on the hill. It gets its name from the fact that many of the high kings would take hostages while ruler of the lands. One took a hostage from each of the provinces of Ireland. I suppose this was to aid everyone in their allegiance to the king.

The old church on the Hill serves as a visitor center where those who wish to may watch a short video. The graveyard there has a few stones from long ago that many believe to be statues of important gods. Another legend has it that somewhere on Tara are two stones that stand close together. Those who wished to be the new high king had to drive their chariot towards the stones; he who was accepted as king would find that the stones would part in order for him to pass through. Those who were not "chosen" met with a much less appealing fate.

Thus concludes our time in Ireland. We had a very good experience overall. We would both like to visit the country again in order to see some of the other areas; all we've ever heard is that the country is so beautiful. We agree based on what we have seen and we'd love to explore some more.

Hope you've enjoyed the tour!

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