Newgrange vs. Tara

Newgrange Before getting back into the world of ice cream, I just want to add something more about my trip. When coming back from Belfast, we decided to stop at two of Ireland’s most important historical sites – Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. I especially wanted to see the latter before the proposed motorway becomes a reality. So I entered “Newgrange” into the GPS, and we wound our way through the suburban sprawl that is the new Ireland.

It’s been many years since I’ve been to Newgrange, and when we arrived, I found out the disappointing news that the only access is through the visitor centre, 10 minutes away by car. You have to drive there, join a tour, and they bus you back and escort you through. This didn’t appeal to me much, as I am allergic to bus tours, and I grumbled and suggested they signpost this fact on the access road. The woman on guard said rather curtly that if I had come through Slane, it would have been well-signposted, and that I couldn’t expect to waltz in on a World Heritage Site. I pointed out that Slane is not on the way from Belfast, and that I had just done a bit of waltzing on the Giant’s Causeway! I understand the need to preserve Newgrange, but does the visitor centre really need to be so far away, and in the depth of January when there is hardly anyone there, does every visitor really need a bus tour?

Hill of Tara

So we headed on for Tara, and it is quite a contrast. There, you can wander around as you like, and little effort has been made to protect or explain it (the church/visitor centre was closed this time of year). Certainly this amazing site should be protected as well, and it should be free from motorways. Is it really possible that we value suburban sprawl so highly and give so little value to our heritage and our history? Of course one might argue that if Tara were made into a heritage site, you’d be back to heritage centres and the bus for access. Then again, the new motorway would probably get you there and back faster!

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3 thoughts on “Newgrange vs. Tara

  1. I have that same allergy to organized tours, but was much too eager to visit Newgrange so I got on the bus. I must say, it wasn’t too bad. This was in March, and so not very crowded, but they did do a nice job of balancing time given for guided tour and time allowed for visitors to just walk the site. I can’t imagine that it is a very satisfactory experience in the height of the tourist season, however.

    Eire’s intended treatment of the Tara complex is utterly baffling and utterly sad. I keep hoping some deus ex machina will enter, stage right, and derail the motorway . . .

  2. Here is a press release on behalf of the new umbrella group Campaign to Save Tara. It is accompanied by links to various recent photographs and articles at the end. Please use the photographs. If higher resolutions are required please to not hesitate to mail me. We have higher resolutions available.
    For background, I am a senior lecturer in the School of Celtic Studies, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. I teach early Irish literature and history. Tara is at the very heart of this subject matter.
    I can be contacted at or
    Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin 087-9249510

    PRESS RELEASE for immediate release


    ST. PATRICK AND TARA – No Place for Heritage and Tradition in the New

    Legend records that St. Patrick lit his Pascal Fire on the Hill of Slane, just as the pagan fire was to be lit on Tara. The druids at Tara warn the king, Loegaire son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, that unless they put out the fire it will outlive their pagan fire forever. Loegaire is feasting in the banqueting hall when Patrick enters and confronts the ‘great, fierce, pagan emperor of the barbarians reigning in Tara, which was the capital of the Irish’. In one version of the story Loegaire refuses baptism and insists on being buried in pagan fashion – that is upright and fully armed in the ramparts of Tara facing his hereditary enemy, the king of Leinster. This is the landscape targeted by the proposed M3 motorway.
    Irish Ministers will travel the world this weekend, presenting shamrocks to Mr Bush and marketing the bright, shiny new Emerald Isle in cities far and wide; from New York to Toronto, Savannah to Rome, London to Japan. A new found concern for the environment, and the traditional focus on a green and unspoilt landscape, is central to the marketing effort.
    Meanwhile back at home … the contracts for the M3 motorway have been signed. The present route for this motorway is destined to destroy Tara’s landscape; the Gabhra Valley, between the Hills of Tara and Skryne. The proposed road itself is a four lane, tolled motorway that cuts a swathe through the richest archaeological landscape in Europe. A huge interchange is planned within 1500m of the top of the Hill, and cultural and environmental activists predict the motorway will inevitably be followed by all kinds of commercial and ancillary development. The Green and Emerald Isle is quickly becoming the Concrete Isle.
    During the preparatory archaeological excavations 38 sites have been uncovered in the Valley. The archaeological richness of the Valley has proved to be such that the sites have been expanded and now back onto one another, forming one large archaeological dig-site in this section of the proposed route. At least 13 contained burials and dozens of ancient corpses are being dug from their resting places and placed in warehouses for future examination. Such is the fate of the ancestors in the new Ireland.
    Future tourists are sure to be confused by what they encounter in Co. Meath and indeed throughout the country, particularly the most scenic areas. Rampant development, much of it facilitated by corrupt officials has been a by-product of Ireland’s breakneck economic expansion over the last decade.
    Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, Campaign to Save Tara, said today: “The Irish diaspora abroad have an opportunity over the next week to impress upon the Irish Government that this decision affects all of us; that Tara belongs to Irish people all over the world, it is part of our cultural and national identity.�
    She added: “We call on everyone who cares about the heritage of Ireland to take this chance to express their personal abhorrence in whatever way they can on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you happen to meet one of our smiling politicians at your St Patrick’s Day celebrations tell them exactly what you think of their plans to destroy Tara. Our campaign is calling on the Government to abandon this cultural vandalism, and instead seek UNESCO World Heritage Status for the Tara Complex. It is only by doing this that Tara can be preserved for this and future generations.�
    M. Ni Bhrolcháin, The Campaign to Save Tara
    Links to photographs:
    and the sites and the finds:

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