The Bottom Line
Tara in County Meath is regarded as the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland and thus one of the most important sites on the Emerald Isle. Visitors will not, however, find huge structures or monuments here, instead a landscaped area of enormous proportions awaits them - on a par with most "royal sites" in Ireland. Which might come as a let-down to some tourists, depending on how their expectations were built up. The excellent audio-visual representation in the Visitor Centre, a disused church, will help to come to grasp with the history and mythology of Tara.
But ultimately your imagination will have to work overtime to fully enjoy this major Irish attraction. Because at first glance Tara looks more like a rather unkempt and neglected golf course than an ancient monument proper.
- Huge ancient site with historical and mythical connections.
- Visitor center explains importance of site in audio-visual show.
- Access to site is free.
- Stunning views in good weather.
- Tara ultimately is a landscape, not a classical monument.
- Access for mobility-impaired visitors difficult.
- Ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, overlooking a quarter of the country.
- Large landscaped area comprising passage tombs, ceremonial enclosures and other relics.
- Within easy reach of Dublin via the N3.
Guide Review - The Hill of Tara (County Meath)
Most visitors will have seen aerial views of Tara before visiting this ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland - and a view from above is actually the best chance to take in the landscape. Because at the end of the day that is what Tara is about, landscape. Do not expect monuments towering above you, do not expect regal halls. And do not expect to get a better impression than from aerial photos. That said, Tara is still one of top ten Irish sights and should be on any "must-see-list". A visit to the old, disused church will make the reasons clear. The audio-visual presentation there sets Tara in context and fills in the background. It is best to see this before visiting the site itself.
The Hill of Tara is reputed to allow a glimpse of no less than 25% of the Irish mainland. On a clear day you will believe this. That is, if you can brave the ups and downs of the quite rough landscape. There are no proper paths and visitors will sometimes have to scramble through the ditches at the mercy of slippery grass and sheep droppings. Access for mobility-impaired people is difficult and in places impossible. And even fleet-footed travellers should wear their trekking boots. The reward of your troubles will be a close encounter with ceremonial enclosures, passage tombs and landscaped areas with no apparent (or at least obvious) reason for their existence.
Indeed the whole area is so steeped in mystery that it was partly destroyed around a hundred years ago ...by the "British Israelites" searching for the Ark of the Covenant.
Tara is best enjoyed outside peak times - tramping up the hill before sunrise on a crisp November morning is an unforgettable experience. You will have to don sturdy footwear and be prepared to clean sheep droppings of it, though.
And drop in at the shop and tea-room next to the car park, the food is really recommended and surprisingly affordable. You will also find plenty of literature on Tara and Irish mythology here.