Legends and folklore place this hill at the center of early Irish history. Ancient tombs have been discovered that date back to the Stone Age; pagans believed that the goddess Queen Maeve reigned from here. By the 3rd century, a ceremonial residence had been built here for the most powerful men in Ireland—the high kings, who ruled as much by myth as by military strength. Every 3 years they would hold a weeklong feis (a kind of giant party-cum-government session), at which more than 1,000 princes, poets, athletes, priests, druids, musicians, and jesters celebrated. Laws were passed, disputes settled, and matters of defense decided. But the last feis was held in a.d. 560, and thereafter Tara went into a decline as the power shifted. Today, little is left of the hill’s great heritage, save for grassy mounds and some ancient pillar stones. All that survives of the Iron Age forts are depressions in the soil. That said, it’s still a great spot with views that extend for miles. You can learn the hill’s history at a visitor center in the old church beside the entrance. Guided tours are available for those who want to know what lies beneath the smooth, green surface.
- Jack Jewers