(c. 600 BC c. 450 AD)
For general information, an essay on the Iron Age hillforts in England, their role in society, storage and withstanding attack, is available here.
SETTLEMENT, RITUAL AND BURIAL
The Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. Seat of the High Kings of Ireland in the first half of the first millenium AD. Pre-Christian kings combined secular and sacred leadership, mediating on behalf of their people with others and the natural forces that surrounded them. The Hill of Tara has many monuments from the Neolithic to Early Modern periods but the dominant remains are primarily from the Iron Age. Overall, the site comprises a large circular enclosure - a hill fort - known as the "Royal Enclosure" containing a passage tomb, smaller hill forts, ringforts, burials, standing stones, barrows and other earthworks. The views are spectacular and the setting, particularly in early morning or late evening, is especially evocative.
The "Rath of the Synod" was in use between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD and comprised four concentric banks and ditches encircling wooden hall (conjectured) structures.
The "Royal Seat" is a ringfort and nearby is Cormac's House, a barrow mound inside a circular bank. The stone inside Cormac's Houseis said to be the "Stone of Destiny" with which kings of Tara were purportedly inaugurated. In passing, it can be noted that the Dalriada, immediately to the north in Ulster and, later, in Scotland, probably used stones in which a foot had been carved in coronation ceremonies to signify the king's possession of the land.
The site is under the care of the Heritage Service and the Office of Public Works. The Hill of Tara is an open site with easy access from the road throughout the year. A 19th century Anglican church nearby is used as a visitor's centre from May to October and provides a video show together with information leaflets and booklets. Phone (May-October) +353 41 982 4488.