Travel the mystical lands of Ireland’s Ancient East, which bear witness to the might and majesty of its legendary high kings and heroes.
There is something special about a place that has drawn people since prehistoric times, and across Ireland’s Ancient East age-old monuments mark the places where kings were crowned, battles fought and legends born.
These places offer a unique opportunity to imagine Celtic warriors thundering into battle, uncover thousands of years of history and delve into Ireland’s rich and inspiring mythology.
Among the most important landmarks in Ireland is the archaeologically significant Hill of Tara in County Meath, a sacred place in Irish mythology and an ancient seat of royal power. Atop one of its circular earthworks sits the Lia Fail, or ‘Stone of Destiny’.
Legend has it that the high kings were chosen by the Lia Fail, which was said to let out a great roar when touched by the rightful king. Today it still stands, inviting would-be kings to try their luck for a royal roar.
In County Tipperary, the mighty Rock of Cashel was the seat of the kings of Munster for over a thousand years. Here, St Patrick converted King Aenghus to Christianity and the mighty Brian Boru, the last and most famous high king of Ireland, was crowned.
Nowadays, the Rock is an imposing collection of castle ruins and monastic monuments and its story is told through on-site audio-visual shows and exhibitions.
Hurling: The Sport of Cú Culainn
Another ancient site that is the stuff of history and legend is the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath. At its summit a huge boulder known as Aill na Míreann (the Stone of Divisions) is said to mark the grave of the goddess Ériu, Ireland’s namesake.
This sacred site was the meeting point of the ancient provinces, where the first fires of Bealtaine (summer) were lit. The tradition is recalled annually in May with the Uisneach Bealtaine Fire Festival.
Ireland's greatest mythological hero is Cú Chulainn (meaning the ‘hound of Culann’). Originally called Setanta, his legendary warrior name was given to him when he killed Culann’s hound and then offered to take the hound’s place.
Wander through Ireland’s Ancient East today and you can still see the game of hurling, played by Cú Chulainn as a boy, a major sporting spectacle in the country today.
You can still climb the symbolic hills to enjoy the stories, mythology and scenery, mark the changing of the seasons, see in the New Year or celebrate Halloween.
And you can still hear tales from all those modern O’Briens, O’Donnells and O’Neills whose ancestors once fought to be among Ireland’s high kings and heroes.
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