Kilkenny Castle: A Regal Encounter with History
- Ireland's Ancient East, Kilkenny, Things to do
- 22 March 2023
Step into Ireland's mythical past and visit the Hill of Uisneach, an ancient ceremonial site in County Westmeath known as the mythological and sacred center of Ireland. Standing at 596ft above sea level, the summit of Uisneach commands extensive views with no less than 20 counties visible on the horizon. The Hill of Uisneach has a rich history dating back over five millennia, spanning from the Neolithic and early Bronze Age to the medieval period.
One of six Irish royal sites, the Hill of Uisneach is currently on the list for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It is accessible throughout the year by guided public and bespoke private tours delivered by trained guides on the hill's rich history. The site is home to a series of monuments and relics, including the sacred limestone erratic known as Aill na Mireann, which is said to be the resting place of the sovereignty goddess Ériu.
In addition to guided tours, the Hill of Uisneach hosts events celebrating the Irish Celtic calendar, such as Imbolc (February), Lughnasadh (August), and Samhain (November). Every year in May, the Bealtaine Fire Festival is held on the Hill of Uisneach. This sustainable, organic, planet-friendly, renewable gathering welcomes people from all over the world to celebrate Irish heritage through dance, music, art, mindfulness, games, and trade. The festival culminates at sundown with the lighting of the ancient Bealtaine fire, which was once the catalyst for the annual gathering and fair at Uisneach.
The Hill of Uisneach is steeped in mythology and was seen as a gateway to the mythical fifth province, Mide. In Irish mythology, Uisneach is the resting place of the sovereignty goddess Ériu and the god Lugh. Uisneach became the seat of the High Kings in later years, and ancient texts state it became customary for the claimant to the high throne of Ireland to 'marry' Ireland's goddess Ériu at a ceremony on Uisneach. When another royal site, the Hill of Tara, later became the seat of the High Kings, Uisneach was still where laws were struck and divisions agreed. It was linked to the Hill of Tara by a ceremonial road, a section of which remains today.
The Hill of Uisneach has a fascinating history, and its enduring legends make it a must-visit destination for those interested in Irish mythology and history. From its links to the Otherworld and its role in the Bealtaine Festival to its connections to Irish politics and famous visitors like James Joyce, the Hill of Uisneach is a site of endless fascination. Visit their website for further information on tour schedules and events, and discover the magic of the hill for yourself.