The Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara, is an extensive archaeological site, located close to the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland. It's many monuments and ancient sites, run between Navan and Dunshaughlin, many of which have been dated as almost 5,000 years old. From Seats of Kings, to extensive tombs, to simple bonfire sites, there has been a large number of exciting and varied discoveries, that had revealed a great deal about the history of Ireland. Much has been found, but there may be many more treasures, yet to be revealed. For this reason, and because of it's significance to the people of Ireland, there are many who are passionate about preserving this wonderful place.

About TaraWatch

TaraWatch is an activists group that is passionate about protecting and preserving the Hill of Tara. As a place of historical, cultural and spiritual significance, the members of TaraWatch believe strongly that there should be no modern developments at the site, which may cause disruption to the monuments and ancient sites that lay within the extensive archaeological site. The Hill of Tara made the 2008 Watch List of the World Monuments Fund's 100 most endangered site in the world. And in 2009 it was one of the 15 must see cultural treasures in the world, as named by the Smithsonian Institution. Surely a site that is so revered by these respected institutions, deserved to be respected and preserved. That is the opinion of those involved with TaraWatch.

TaraWatch came into fruition, as a response to the plans to replace and bypass the old N3 motorway, with construction of the new M3 stretch of motorway. The plans, which were approved by Ireland's planning appeals board, meant that the new M3 motorway would be built to the Hill of Tara, with it running through the archaeological rich and significant, Tara-Skyrne Valley. The proposal of the new road, would almost mimic the ancient road that led to the Seat of Kings, in Tara, that would have once been paved with wooden logs. It seems a little ironic that the construction of a new road, could put a key road that leads to the past, in jeopardy.

To members of TaraWatch, it was hard to contemplate that the Irish government were so willing to jeopardise Tara, but they still approved the four-lane motorway, as part of a massive development project of Ireland's roads. The new motorway route was planned to be within 1.5 miles of the Hill of Tara. This causes great concern as the Meath Archaeological and Historical society argues that it will affect at least 28 archaeological sites. Furthermore, the M3 will result inn a significant increase in the light and noise pollution at Tara, much like the pollution that is seen now at Stonehenge after new road developments.

Aims and Actions of TaraWatch

The primary aim of TaraWatch was to prevent the development and building of the M3 in the location that was so close to the archaeological site. The main activities they used to raise awareness to their cause was through protests, demonstrations and a letter writing campaign.

Their highest profile activities came in 2007. In early July, activists from TaraWatch held protests outside the Irish Embassy in London and outside Linster House in Dublin. Further protests were held in Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, showing that there was support for TaraWatch all over the world. There was also a 'Love Tara' march on the 21st of July in Dublin, staring at the Garden of Remembrance, and finishing at Custom House, which is the headquarters of the Department of the Environment.

Another high profile protest took place on the 23rd of September, where 1,500 supports of TaraWatch, gathered at the Hill of Tara to create a human sculpture of a harp, as well as, spelling out the words: 'Save Tara Valley'. It was a very creative way to spread the message of the campaign, and was even attended by celebrity guests, the very talented actors, Stuart Townsend and Johnathan Rhys Myers.

There was a suggested alternative route for the M3 that would have run 3.7miles away from Tara, that would greatly reduce the risk to any damage to the ancient site. Furthermore it would have been a more cost effective build, and a straighter road. Unfortunately, the demonstrations, protests and letter-writing campaigns were unsuccessful, and the building of the M3 motorway went ahead as initially planned.

Importance of the Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara has serious historical significance. Over the past 30 years, there have been numerous discoveries at the archaeological site, adding greatly to the knowledge of Irish history. As the home of Kings, a dwelling for the Gods, and the entrance to the underworld itself, there should be no surprise that there has been many significant discoveries at the Hill of Tara . Some of the noted monuments include:

- The Stone of Destiny: The most famous monument at Tara, is the stone of Destiny. It sits atop the King's Seat, and was said to roar when the rightful King of Tara, laid his hands upon it.

- Temple – One of the most recent discoveries at Tara, is a huge temple, that seems to have been surrounded by 300 giant wooden posts, made from an entire oak forest. It is located below the surface of Tara, and therefore it may have many more secrets, yet to reveal.

- Mound of Hostages: One of the oldest monuments of the Hill of Tara, dating back to approximately 2,500BC, the Mound of Hostages is a passage tomb, made up of a number of prehistoric megaliths (large stones). It is believed to have been used as a holding cell, to drive those from surrounding kingdoms into submission.

When you consider the extensive discoveries that have been made at the Hill of Tara, you will realise, why activists have been working so hard to protect it from developments of the motorway. Over 100 monuments and archaeological finds have been discovered on the Hill of Tara, without the use of any invasive methods that would disrupt or destroy the area. Archaeological teams have discovered that it was not only once the home of Irish Kings, it was also an area that was likely inhabited by a wider population. As well as the recognisable stone monuments, evidence has been found of bonfires and burial sites.

Every new discovery at Tara, each new monument, each new burial site, or fire pit, adds to the understanding of the complex as a whole – it's value as a historical site, is unquantifiable. Recent topography studies have shown that, each generation of residents at Tara, incorporated the monuments of the previous generation, into their new landscape. They did not destroy them; they instead respected them and preserved them. We should take a lesson from our ancestors, and continue this preservation of the monuments, for future generations.

It is astonishing to think that the oldest monuments at Tara, date back to around 4000BC, it is no wonder the activists of TaraWatch are trying to prevent the destruction of something that has survived for over 6,000 years. Petitions and demonstrations by activists to prevent the building of the M3 motorway, so close to the Hill of Tara, may have been successful (the road opened in June 2010), the passion of TaraWatch is something that should be admired. Only time will tell, if the M3 motorway, has had a significant effect on the historical site that may jeopardise the current monuments, or ones yet to be discovered.

Supporting TaraWatch

We must mention that this is not the official website for the activists behind TaraWatch or the campaign to stop modern developments on the site. However, we do support the campaign, as we have a real belief in the need to protect historical sites. Therefore, we have provided as much information as possible on TaraWatch, and on why the Hill of Tara should be preserved and protected. There is plenty more information available online about how you can support the continued research and preservation of the important archaeological site.

The Hill of Tara should be preserved as best as possible, not just for the change of finding new important discoveries, but also so that future generations may too learn more about the history of Ireland. It is a definite must see for anyone visiting Ireland, and you can find the opening hours, events and any other visitor information, with Heritage Ireland online. Only time will tell, if the potential risk of damaging the fragile past of Ireland was worth the cost of the two-toll M3 motorway. We hope that the fascinating history of Tara, will survive for many generations to come.