More than 2,000 people were in attendance as Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D Higgins, ignited the fire on the famed Hill of Uisneach to mark Ireland’s oldest recorded Bealtaine festival, last Saturday, May 6.
Located between Athlone and Mullingar, the Hill of Uisneach has been occupied for more than 5,000 years by a national monument, the Catstone, where the five provinces are said to meet in Mide - the fifth ‘province’ of the spirit and imagination.
Fáilte Ireland recently provided funding for the event as part of its 2017 Regional Festivals and Participative Events Programme. In addition, €65k was granted for funding of a new visitor centre to improve visitor information at the Hill of Uisneach under Fáilte Ireland’s ‘New ideas in Ancient Spaces’ small capital grants scheme.
The Hill of Uisneach is a mythological and sacred landmark of ancient Ireland, owned by David and Angela Clarke, and one of five Irish Royal sites on the Government’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. Myth and folktales reflect the site as the centre of the country and, as the legend goes, through the goddess Eriu it gave us the nation’s official name, Éire.
David Clarke, owner of the Hill at Uisneach, said: “Uisneach is a unique space with a global resonance; it is markedly different to anything else I see around me in Ireland. In partnership with the likes of Fáilte Ireland we want to create something special, something that creates jobs and enhances our community and something we can be proud of.
“Through the support of Fáilte Ireland and its Ireland’s Ancient East brand, Uisneach can now boast a sensitively designed and locally built visitor centre at the foot of the hill. The centre now allows us to welcome visitors from all over the world before and after their 90-minute guided tour of the hill.”