New technology brings Ireland’s ancient capital to life
From horse sacrifices to kingship rituals, from burials to battles . . . visitors to Tara can now explore over 4,000 years of history and archaeology, and all the monuments on the hill, with a new audio guided tour.
The commentary is accompanied by music, sound effects — among them an imagined cry from the Stone of Destiny! — and extracts from ancient manuscripts and even an historic Daniel O’Connell speech. The tour is available both on a souvenir player at Tara, and to download to your own MP3 player or phone.
The great pagan Celtic festival of Samhain, that has transformed into Halloween, was traditionally celebrated on Tara, and the new guide was launched to coincide with the Spirits of Halloween festival in Co Meath.
Mary Mulvihill, an award-winning heritage writer who developed the tour, hopes the new guide will encourage more people to explore Tara as well as neighbouring places like Rath Maeve and Skreen (Skryne) village.
The 80-minute commentary covers all the monuments on Tara, including the less well-known “sloping trenches”, while several tracks provide background information, such as the meaning of Tara as a placename. “It’s possibly the most comprehensive tour you can get of Tara, a history lesson and a day-trip all in one!”
Audio guided tours are increasingly popular, and for good reason. You get a personal tour, with an expert guide at your shoulder. They are really convenient. You can take the tour whenever you want, at your own pace, and even stop for coffee or replay a section. Plus it’s excellent value, and much cheaper than a conventional tour.
“You can even take the Tara tour from the comfort of your own armchair”, Mary Mulvihill added, “so it could be useful for people in a wheelchair, say, who wouldn’t be able to explore Tara otherwise.”
Mary Mulvihill developed the Tara tour for her new company, Ingenious Ireland, which specialises in audio guides and ‘guided tours for curious people’.
“Audio technology is perfect for Tara, because it allows us to give visitors a wealth of information without intruding on this important historical and archaeological site. We don’t need information boards or signposts, just words and sounds.” The new guide should be especially useful because the small OPW centre at Tara is open only for a short time each summer.
Visitors to Tara need a guide, Mulvihill said. “The hill is wonderful, and it looks lovely in the aerial photographs, but on the ground it is little more than a few grassy mounds, so visitors are often disappointed when they get there. . . but not any more!”
The tour was developed with a grant from the Heritage Council, and with help from experts in the archaeology and history of Tara, in particular Dr Conor Newman of NUI Galway, and Dr Edel Bhreathnach of University College Dublin, both of whom spent years working on Tara for the Discovery Programme. Ingenious Ireland plans to distribute a copy of the tour to secondary schools in Co Meath.
People can hear an extract from the new audio tour at www.ingeniousireland.ie.
The souvenir version comes in a gift box with a dedicated player, headphones, batteries and two-page illustrated guide, for just €12.95. It is available from Maguire’s gift shop in Tara, and selected outlets.
The download version is like a podcast, and also comes with the illustrated guide, plus two Tara activity sheets for 7-11 and 12-15 year-olds. The download pack costs €9.95.