The Fort of the Kings or the Royal Enclosure as it is also known was my next stopping point at Tara. To give it its correct title, Ráith Na Ríogh is nothing spectacular on its own. After all to the untrained eye it could be easily mistaken for just an ordinary ditch. And you might very well be right, except that this is no ordinary ditch. This oval shaped enclosure which occupies the summit at Tara is home to the actual site of the numerous high kings of Ireland. As I circled the ditch a number of times, I thought about the reality and implications of where I was standing. This was where Ancient Irelands rulers settled going right back to the Fir Bolg and Tuatha Dé Danann. It was actually a little overwhelming and I had to sit down, smoke a cigarette and clear my head. Just imagine, if the ancient stories were recorded accurately, one of my ancestors, the first Milesian High King Érimón once walked these very same grounds.
Just to give you a quick idea, the enclosure itself measures approx. 1’043 feet from north to south and about 866 feet east to west and was enclosed by an internal ditch with an external bank. This ditch would most likely have had a wall of wooden stakes surrounding either side of it. There are no visible signs of any further structure apart from the three mounds contained within, but I will talk about these treasures in separate posts. According to the Book of invasions Tara was home to 142 kings whom reigned supreme from the age of myth right up into the medieval period although it is claimed that Tara was abandoned in the 6th century by Diarmuid Mac Cerbhaill as a result of St. Ruadán’s curse.
It has been claimed that Diarmuid had violated the sanctity of the church by taking a hostage from its protection. As the story goes, Ruadán foretold that Diarmuid would be killed by the roof-beam of his hall at Tara. Diarmuid had the beam cast into the sea. Diarmuid then asked his druids to establish how he would die, and they foresaw that he would die of slaughter, drowning and burning. On a tour of Ireland, Diarmuid arrived at the hall of Banbán at Ráith Bec, and it was here that his fate would catch up with him. The roof beam of Tara has been recovered from the sea by Banbán and set in his hall. Diarmait goes to leave Banbán’s hall, but Áed Dub, waiting at the door, strikes him down and sets fire to the hall. Diarmuid crawls into an ale vat to escape the flames and is duly killed by the falling roof beam. And so all the prophecies where fulfilled.
Next up will be Dumha Na nGiall, a 5000 year old passage tomb, known as the Mound of the Hostages.