As you walk this historic hill called Tara, it is well to keep in mind that it is:
A Royal Place
In pre- history and in historic times 142 Kings are said to have reigned in the Name of Tara. The coronation stone called The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny has Rested here down the ages. And it was here that the most powerful of Irish Kings held their great inaugural feasts and were approved by Earth Mother Goddess Maeve.
A Sacred Place
In ancient Irish religion and mythology Tara was revered as a dwelling of the gods and an entrance place to the Otherworld of eternal joy and plenty where no mortal ever grew old. In the legends of St. Carved Stone Inside Mound of the Hostages Patrick's mission to Ireland he is said to have first come to Tara in order to confront the ancient religion in its most powerful site.
A Celtic Place
Tara is one of the largest complexes of Celtic monuments in all of Europe. In reading its landscape we are transported back in time to when the first settlers came here 6,000 years ago. They and the Celts who followed them choose Tara as a very special site. Join me as we walk the hill and talk of its landscape, its history, and its legends.
On the Hill of Tara
Another swinging gate at the south west corner of the church yard leads to the open spaces of the Hill. Here you can take your bearing to the main monuments.
To your immediate right as you go out the gate is the Rath of the Synods; in front of you is the Mound of the Hostages; further to the south and to your left are the two royal mounds - the Kings Seat (on which stands the coronation stone of Tara) and King Cormac's House.
Surrounding the Mound of the Hostages, the Kings Seat and Cormac’s House is the outer bank and ditch that encloses the 16 acres that make up The Rath of the Kings - Rath na Riogh.
Part of this outer ditch was recently excavated and it proved to be a huge earthworks - seven feet wide at the top and gauged 11 deep into solid black rock. The ditch had a bank on the outside rising to six feet and it had a large wooden palisade on the inside. This circular bank and ditch dates from before the time of Christ. It was sacred rather than defensive in nature and intended to keep the good spirits in Tara and the bad spirits away from Tara.
The Golden Torques of Tara
In 1810, near where the church wall now bisects the Mound of the Synods, the magnificent Golden Torques of Tara were found. Initially it is thought there were three of them but now two remain and are preserved at the National Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin.
The Rath of the Synods
The now rather scattered mounds to the right of the swinging gate as you enter on to the hill were once symmetrical concentric circles. These were the remains of a section of Tara that from about 200 B.C. up until 700 A.D. had a number of round wooden buildings on it. Perhaps it could well have been the site of some of the great triennial festivals held at Tara in pre-Christian times. For festivals like these, the Celts were known to have built large circular buildings from wood, wattle and thatch. They were sometimes burned down at the conclusion of festivities.
Very early in the 20th century a group of devout Israelites came to Tara with the conviction that the Ark of the Covenant was buried in this very spot. For several days they dug up the Mound of the Synods in search of the Ark but found only some Roman coins. However, their disturbance of the mounds is still very evident. In the 1950's there was an official excavation conducted here. Many circles of post holes were found, indicating that substantial buildings were constructed here. Evidence of smelting, Roman artefacts and other materials pointing to contact between Tara and the Continent were also found.
The mound gets its name from three church meetings of abbots and bishops that are said to have taken place here at Tara after the time of St. Patrick. The last was called by Adamnan in 697 A.D.
From The Tara Walk by Michael Slavin, edited for emphasis