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HomeDestinationsWestmeathBallymoreThe Hill of Uisneach
The Hill of Uisneach
Ballymore, Co. Westmeath
Hidden gem
Free car parking
Pre-booking essential
Cloudy days
The Hill of Uisneach is an ancient ceremonial site containing a series of monuments nestled into the townland of Rathconrath in County Westmeath. It is known as the mythological and sacred centre of Ireland and the site of the great Bealtaine fire. One of six Irish royal sites, the Hill of Uisneach is currently on the list for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The Hill of Uisneach is accessible throughout the year by guided public and bespoke private tours delivered by trained guides on the Hill of Uisneach’s rich history. Events are also held here celebrating the Irish Celtic calendar such as Imbolc (February), Lughnasadh (August) and Samhain (November).

Every year, in the month of May, the Bealtaine Fire Festival is held on the Hill of Uisneach. It is a sustainable, organic, planet friendly, renewable gathering of people from the four corners of the world. They welcome different indigenous groups to share in this ancient festival celebrating the great Irish heritage through dance, music, art, mindfulness, games and trade, as they may have done thousands of years ago. This culminates at sundown with the amazing spectacle of the lighting of the ancient Bealtaine fire.

Standing at 596ft above sea level, the summit of Uisneach commands extensive views with no less than 20 counties visible on the horizon. The roots of Uisneach lie beyond recorded history but its surviving monuments and relics range in date from the Neolithic and early Bronze Age to the medieval period, indicating human activity spanning some five millennia.

One of the most enduring legends of Uisneach is that it was the location for the first great fire to be lit in Ireland. Hearths were extinguished in every Irish fireplace in the country, in anticipation of a new flame from Uisneach’s Bealtaine fire. Using the flame from Uisneach, fires were then ignited on the other sacred hills of Ireland. As the centuries progressed, the great fire became the catalyst for the Bealtaine Festival, an annual gathering and fair at Uisneach that continued on into early modern times.

In Irish mythology, Uisneach is the resting place of the sovereignty goddess Ériu and the god Lugh and was seen as a gateway to the mythical fifth province, Mide. For centuries, the fifth province was accessed at ‘Aill na Mireann’ (the Stone of Divisions) a sacred, limestone erratic on the south west flank of the hill. It is here that Ériu is said to rest.

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.

In more recent years it became a site of political rallies with Daniel O’Connell, Eamon De Valera and Padraig Pearse addressing the masses from ‘Aill na Mireann’. James Joyce was a regular visitor, enthralled by Uisneach’s many stories and links to the ‘Otherworld’. In 2001, Uisneach hosted a summit where Native American chiefs intermingled with Irish natives and shared respective histories and traditions. In 2017, Uisneach had the honour of welcoming Irish President Michael D Higgins, the first Head of State to light the Bealtaine fire in over a thousand years.

You can visit their website for further information on tour schedules and events.

Contact details
Rathnew, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
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