Hill of Tara
Some attractions just have really good PR. Take the Hill of Tara – or the Hill of Shattered Dreams and Broken Promises as it is known in some circles. Reading the cookie-cutter tourist descriptions of this attraction evokes visions of towering palaces, warring gods and perhaps the odd lightning bolt. Take this titbit as an example:
There’s the megalithic passage tomb later called the Mound of the Hostages in reference to hostage-taking customs; the mound of Cormac’s House, named after Tara’s famous King Cormac Mac Airt; the King’s Seat with the Lia Fáil or Stone of Destiny: said to roar when touched by the rightful King of Tara.
Oh my god – start the car, we’re going to Tara!
Alas, the the Hill of Tara has a riveting backstory but the modern day visit is too dislocated from this excitement and it takes hell of a lot of imagination to get anywhere close. The actual attraction is a series of grassy mounds covering all the interesting archaeological remains but with only one percent of them punctuating the surface. There is a small visitor centre showing a bog-standard video explainer but, again, they’re merely stories that whet the appetite.
The Hill of Tara isn’t a terrible place, but the mass-produced miss-selling wonder-prose ultimately tricks people into potentially long journeys and uses up precious Ireland-time that could better be used elsewhere. This trend of talking up anywhere with a visitor centre in order to increase tourism revenues threatens to take away the honesty in tourism.
However, the saving grace of this disappointing attraction is the presence of The Old Book Store adjacent to the site. This small space is stuffed to the rafters with books ranging from airport bestsellers to ancient tomes and musical manuscripts that feel like they’ll turn to dust in your hands. If you like stories, go here instead.