Tara’s story is Ireland’s story. Tara’s symbols are Ireland’s symbols - the harp, the shamrock, the ancient gold. Prominent in our oldest myths and legends, the hill has been at the centre of things Irish since the earliest times. In some mysterious way, Tara touches the very soul of Ireland. While its regal and heroic identity hark back to a legendary time long gone by, as a symbol Tara has survived right up to the present. Thus down the centuries great lovers of this land -like the United Irishmen of 1798, or Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator - have used Tara's grassy banks as a backdrop for their dreams and their messages.
Tara’s fame extends far beyond our island shores. Every year thousands of infants around the world are given its distinctively female name. And at the same time, ranches, farms, ships and firms are called after it. One of the most famous mansions in cinematic history is Tara in Gone with the Wind.
Thanks to the Office of Public Works’ Discovery Programme, initiated in the early 1990s, Tara has been subject to closer scientific scrutiny than ever before. Along with recent historical studies, this research clearly highlights the imaginative rather than factual content of the legends surrounding Tara. Many of the stories which have proliferated around this sacred hill are not historically verifiable. Yet at the same time, Tara’s deeply ingrained popular and literary tradition is too colourful, entertaining and culturally important to be disregarded. In my telling of Tara’s story I have attempted to trace that tradition through the invasions legends, the romantic and heroic sagas associated with the hill, and what there is of written history.
Despite my enthusiastic love for this wonderful place, I have tried to be objective, taking recent academic discoveries into account. In some instances where the evidence is clear, I've had to let the critical historians hold sway. But where there is still overwhelming doubt about what did or did not happen here, I felt Tara and its legends deserved the benefit of that doubt.
Above all else, I have tried to portray Tara as a spiritual place. For in the long run it is not exclusively the domain of historians, archaeologists or scientists. It is also a place for dreamers, storytellers and mystics. I invite you to join me there.
The Hill of Tara