Sunday, July 26, 2009

Newgrange and the Hill of Tara

I'm so bad at this blogging business. All it takes is a few minutes to scribble something down but sometimes the minutes just won't give themselves up to a bit of freestyling. I've spent this week trying to work on a story that keeps flexing new, and previously unguessed at, muscles. Then, the other day (one is much the same as the next to me, except Sundays, which always feel different) I received a rewrite request from an anthology that I had submitted to and then forgotten about.

And in between all that, I managed to squeeze in a long-promised pilgrimage to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. All I can say is, astonishing. Being at Newgrange is like looking up at the stars on a clear winter's night. Built 5000+ years ago, predating Stonehenge by five hundred years and the Pyramids of Giza by a thousand, it is an astonishing feat of engineering. But even more than that, you actually get a sense of the people who lived there. It is an undeniably spiritual place.

Tara is everything that Newgrange is, and yet the two are completely different. Where the hand of jackpot tourism (albeit gently) pats Newgrange and its stunning surround, with guided tourbuses and a state-of-the-art museum/visitors centre, the Hill of Tara has been left to the ravages of wind and time. The ancient mounds are signposted, and a little bit of pre-visit reading will stand you in good stead, a little investigation into the wonderfully mottled history of the place, but walking there gives you a sense of nature as well as history. The grass is long, the view on a (rare as hen's teeth) clear day supposedly spans thirteen different counties, and there are sheep everywhere, grazing or tending to other business. At the bottom of the hill, there are a few shops, gimmicky places that push the usual sort of wares to new age hippies and wandering wiccans. Yet it seemed obvious to me that the Irish government doesn't really want to know. The place is poorly signposted, facilities are meagre, and there is an almost intentional playing down of the fact that this was once, and for thousands of years, the most important piece of ground in Ireland, the seat of the High Kings, a truly ancient wonder. Now, though, the new motorway is being pushed through the valley, and the powers-that-be, the powers that we made, have decided it is easier to do the dirty work of progress when the eyes of the country and the world are averted.

Go to Tara, read about the history of the place and go, stand on the Mound of the Hostages or rest your hand on the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny. Listen to the whispering of the wind and open yourself to the spirits of the past, taste the ancient breath of the place on your tongue. It really is something worth doing, a true joy to behold. Go, and go today or tomorrow, because the way that we have been allowing our government to ride roughshod over everything that ever mattered and all in the threatening name of progress, rest assured that the day is coming soon when there will be nothing left to see.

1 comment:

  1. I agree completely. My most spiritual moment was standing on the Hill of Tara. It was only my second day in Ireland, and my first vacation on my own anywhere. I arrived early, before the tourists descended, and stood atop the hill. It felt like I could see the whole of Ireland on that rare sunny day. I could almost feel the power of the land rushing through me like a powerful fountain, and gently falling on the quilted landscape of farms and sheep.

    It is simply amazing, in the truest sense of the word.