The Royall Seat

The Royal Seat

The Royal Seat

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara was the Coronation place of Irelands pre-Christian kings, and is one of Irelands more famous sites. This was not an hereditary Kingship, the kings either won it in battle or were chosen for it. Although no buildings survive there are a number of large earthworks still remaining on the hill, some are inside an even larger iron age Hill Fort, known as Ráith na Riogh (The fort of the Kings) or the Royal Enclosure. In the middle of this enclosure are two linked ring shaped earthworks, to the east is Teach Chormaic (Cormac's House) and to the west is the Forradh (The Royal Seat) a large Barrow with smaller barrows in the surrounding banks.

Cormac's House

Cormac Mac Airt the famous legendary King of Tara, who may be authentic, is credited with constructing many of the monuments at Tara. Cormac's House bears his name and Grainne's Enclosure is believed to be named after his daughter Grainne.

The Lia Fail

The 1.5 metre high phallic pillar stone standing on the top of The Royal Seat (Forradh) is believed by many to be the Lia Fáil or Stone of Destiny. If indeed it was the Lia Fáil it would have been used as an inauguration stone for the Kings of Ireland. Legend says it is one of the four treasures brought here by the Tuatha Da Danann and if the true King stands on it, the stone will let out a roar. We do know that the stone was moved here in the early 19th century from it's previous position at the entrance to the Mound of the Hostages. It is believed there were originally four standing stones at Tara situated at the four cardinal points, two of which may now be standing in the graveyard (See below).

Mound of the Hostages

Entrance to the Mound

Mound of the Hostages

The small passage tomb known as the Mound of the hostages or Duma na NGiall dates to around 2500BC. The tomb gets its name from the custom of Irish kings taking important people hostage, one of these kings was known as Niall of the Nine Hostages who had taken hostages from all of the provinces of Ireland and from other countries. The passage tomb is one of only two monuments at Tara that have been excavated.

The passage of the tomb is quite short measuring just over three metres long. One of the features of the tomb is that one of the orthostats bears neolithic rock art. This stone pictured right is the first stone on the left of the passage. On my latest visit to Tara a small wooden fence had been erected around this monument.

Mound of the Hostages Rock art shown right.

Rock Art

Rath of the Synods

North of the iron age enclosure is a 2,000 year old earthwork, The Rath of the Synods, which is built around an earlier burial mound known as the King's Chair. This earthwork can be seen in the picture above. Further north is a long rectangular area with banks on either side, known as the Banqueting Hall, this was probably a cursus or entrance to Tara.

About 80 metres to the north-west are two more earthworks named the Sloping trenches and another earthwork named Grainnes enclosure, to the South of the main site lies a ring fort known as King Laoghaire's Fort.Tara is also associated with the prehistoric goddess Medb or Maeve and on another hill about half a mile south of Tara is a Hill fort known as Rath Maeve. .

There are other megalithic remains at Tara, such as the Standing stones (pictured below right) in the graveyard of the church that is now used as the visitor centre.

The Sloping Trenches

The Sloping Trenches

Grainne's Enclosure

Grainnes enclosure

Standing Stones

Information Centre

Situated: From Dublin take the N3 North, about six kilometres after Dunshaughlin take a sign-posted left turn, at the end is a T-Junction, take a right turn here Tara is about half a mile down this road on your left. The site has a car park and visitor centre.

Google Map.

Discovery Map 42: N 920 595. Last visit July 2008.

 

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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