Hi Everyone. So here we are at our penultimate stop on our Virtual Tour of Ireland. This week we arrive into the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East to visit some of the many gems of County Meath. Ireland’s former fifth province boasts a wealth of ancient monuments and historical sites. Let’s begin at one of its best known landmarks and the ancient seat of Ireland’s High Kings.
County Meath Highlights
1. Hill of Tara
The summit of the hill is marked by the royal enclosure known as the Fort of The Kings. The two circular earth mounds known as Cormac’s House and the Royal Seat are linked by a central standing stone known as Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny). Legend has it that when a true king held the stone, a piercing shriek could be heard in the four corners of Ireland. This is a truly special place to visit with stunning views over the surrounding rolling countryside.
2. Trim Castle
County Meath has its fair share of classic castles but Trim Castle has to be my personal favorite. The heritage town of Trim boasts a host of medieval buildings with the castle as the stunning jewel in its crown. Trim castle dates back to the 12th century. It is Ireland’s largest Norman castle taking some 30 years to build.
3. Loughcrew Cairns
So next up we’re heading north west of the county to an amazing collection of Neolithic passage tombs near the town of Oldcastle. Loughcrew Cairns date back to around 3000 BC. Loughcrew is one of two main passage tomb sites of significance in County Meath, the other being Brú na Bóinne. The tombs are situated across 4 hilltops, known collectively as Sliabh na Caillí. Caillí refers to Cailleach, an ancient hag of Irish mythology. Legend has it that this giant hag created the monuments as she crossed the hilltops dropping stones from her apron!
4. Hill of Slane
Time for another County Meath hilltop steeped in yet more ancient history and folklore. The Hill of Slane stand at 158 meters and there you will find the ruins of a Franciscan monastery from the 16th century. However, the historical significance of this site goes back much further. In Irish mythology, the warrior King Slaine of Fir Bolg is said to have met his death here and is buried beneath the hill. The Hill of Slane is also steeped in folklore concerning St. Patrick. The story goes that it was on the Hill of Slane that he taught the Holy Trinity using the shamrock and that he lit the first paschal fire on the hill against the wishes of the pagan High King Lóegaire who lived at the Hill of Tara.
Well we cannot leave County Meath without a visit to one of the county’s and indeed Ireland’s most famous ancient monuments. The awesome passage tomb at Newgrange dates back to the Stone Age. It predates the Pyramids and Stonehenge by some 500 years! It measures 85 meters in diameter and 13.5 meters high and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones. They each bear stunning examples of megalithic art. The passage and chamber are aligned with the rising sun at the Winter Solstice on 21 December. A truly magical, mystical place.
Once again, thanks so much for your company on the virtual road. Don’t miss our final stop next week-Dublin city-my hometown and home of The Irish Store!
See you all then,
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!