In the past, Ireland was not a united country but a patchwork of petty kingdoms. The royal sites of Ireland served as the seats of these ancient Gaelic kings long before recorded history. Ireland has its own very ancient history that is frequently overlooked.

While these are old, there are still other sites much older in the British Isles. Some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic ruins in the British Isles are all the way north on the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland at the Skara Brae Prehistoric Village.

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What To Know About The Six Royal Sites of Ireland

In Ireland today, a number of ancient monuments are still visible and are relics of a very different time. These include Neolithic burial mounds, standing stones, and cairns (man-made piles of stones) that date back thousands of years. It is believed that these sites were used continuously or recurringly for millennia.

The concept of these sites as being "royal sites" stems from medieval texts that describe the places as the seats of Irish kings and where assemblies, athletic games, and inaugurations were held.

While each of the Irish kingdoms is thought to have had a royal site of its own, there are six sites considered to be particularly important. Four of these royal sites were the seats of what are today four major provinces of Ireland and most of them are listed as potential UNESCO World Heritage sites. Six sites are:

  • Cashel: Royal Site For Munster
  • Navan Fort: Royal Site For Ulster
  • Dun Ailinne: Royal Site For Leinster
  • Rathcroghan: Royal Sites For Connacht
  • Hill of Tara: Royal Site For The Kings of Meath
  • Uisneach: The Union of Provinces And May Have Been The Meeting Place For The Kings

Other important royal sites in Ireland include:

  • Clogher Castle Hill: The Capital of Airgialla and LaterCenél Fearadhaigh
  • Grianan of Aileach: Seat For The Northern Uí Néill of Cenél nEógain
  • Knowth: Used by The Kings of Brega From The 9th Century
  • Brug Ríg: An Ancient Alternative Captial Of Munster
  • Temair Luachra: The Lost pre-Cashel capital of Munster
  • Medón Mairtíne: An Ancient Capital of Central Munster

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The Case Of Rathcroghan

Singling out Rathcroghan out of the list of Royal Sites, it is believed that Rathcroghan was one of the largest settlements in Ireland during the Bronze Age and remained occupied until Medieval Times. It was a place of trade, assemblies, and tributes to the kings. The people would have been Celts and came into existence from around 1,000 BC onwards.

  • Date: From Around 1,000 BC Onwards

Today it is known that there were more than 240 buildings in the complex (including temples, homes, tombs, and astronomical sites). Mount Rathcroghan was an astronomical site that had been built with several layers of gravel and earth, 6m high and 89m in diameter.

  • King Dathí: Probably Buried In The Ridge In A Tomb In 445

Ireland is not without its legends, in the north, there are legends about the Giant's Causeway having once been a causeway built by the giants to connect Ireland to Scotland. And a legend about King Dathí is that he was the High King of Ireland and was killed by lightning in the head during an expedition to the Alps. His tomb here became a pilgrimage site throughout Ireland's history.

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Visiting The Royal Sites of Ireland

It is very easy to hire a car and tour the Roya Sites of Ireland by oneself. But if one would like a private tour, then DMC Tours Ireland offers its Royal Sites of Celtic Ireland Private Tour.

This tour takes one from the Irish capital of Dublin into the center of Ireland. The first destination of the tour is Uisneach. Uisneach is actually owned by a local farmer who has allowed the site to be returned to its past and embrace the heritage it embodies. It is central to the Beltaine Festival every year and hosts a Fire Festival welcoming the Sun God Lugh and the beginning of the bright half of the Celtic calendar.

  • Cost: 595.00 ($650)
  • Royal Sites Visited: Uisneach and the Hill of Tara
  • Slí na Cailleach/Loughcrew: The Oldest Known Burial Site In Europe

Here at Uisneach, one can stand on St. Patrick's Hill and gaze out at 23 of the 32 counties of Ireland. Few places in Ireland have such a commanding view.

After leaving Uisneach, one will travel on the tour to a small rural hamlet to enjoy what is regarded as one of the best pub lunches in Ireland. After a hearty meal the tour heads to Slí na Cailleach/Loughcrew - this is known as the oldest burial site in Europe and there are 19 burial chambers.

The tour's last destination is the Hill of Tara. This is the most important of the Royal sites as it was home to the High Kings of Ireland.

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