The Hill of Uisneach
The Hill of Uisneach, situated between the villages of Ballymore and Loughanavally, was the ancient seat of the Kings of Meath. Its roots stretch back into ancient mythology with its history rooted in a La Tene period of the Iron Age and it has been placed in the same league as the Hill of Tara in neighbouring County Meath.
Uisneach has also been famous as a meeting place in pre history as a place of cattle rituals and other ‘May Day’ assemblies, and in more recent times as the meeting place for an important twelfth century synod. St. Patrick and St. Brigid have important connections with the Hill, it being claimed that it was here St. Brigid received the veil from St. Patrick.
The importance of Uisneach in early times is reflected in the large number of monuments – almost twenty – mostly ring forts and tumuli which are scattered around and upon it. it was said to be linked to Tara by a chariot road and many of the town-lands which impinge on the hill re named for the remaining features such as Meawira meaning “the bald fort” or more likely “the dismantled fort”, Rathnew or “the new fort” and Togherstown meaning “the town of the causeway”. The most famous feature on Uisneach is the CAT STONE, named so because it resembles a cat watching a mouse. It is a huge limestone boulder almost six metres high which is estimated to weigh over 30 ton and is said to mark the centre of Ireland or the coming together of the provinces.
The Hill of Uisneach is located in the heart of Ireland in County Westmeath and is unique in that one can view more counties from this hill than any other – 21 in total. Situated on the exact centre point of the island, it was the ancient home of the Goddess Ériu and the true residence of the High Kings of Ireland. Over the centuries Uisneach was a busy, bustling place where all clans, tribes, chiefs and faiths came together at Ériu’s burial place – Aill na Mireann, or the ‘Catstone’ - to pass laws, trade and renew allegiance to each other. Each May they gathered to praise Ériu and celebrate the arrival of summer with the Bealtaine festival. Traders from around the world came and practically every mythology features some mention of this festival. Artefacts from the Middle East and Afghanistan have been found in archaeological digs, and the Hill was mentioned in many pre-Christian texts. Even Caesar spoke of the festival.
In more recent times, Uisneach was an important meeting and rallying place. An important 12th Century Christian Synod took place here, whilst the likes of St. Patrick and St. Brigid, Brian Boru, Fionn MacChumaill and the notorious O’Neill clan all have connections to the hill. Eamon De Valera, Padraic Pearse and Daniel O’Connell all addressed rallies there, and James Joyce, pop star Michael Jackson and the leader of the Sioux Nation have all visited.
Some forty monuments are scattered upon the Hill, each with a unique story to tell. We hope to tell these stories, and make a bit of new history on this most historic and important site.