Enfield is centrally located between the Royal County of Meath, seat of High Kings, and County Kildare, the home of the Irish Kings of Leinster. As such there are a wealth of stories and legends on our doorstep from where Ireland's rich cultural past can be explored. The Celtic Irish are among the world's oldest nationality groups. A small sample of some of the more familiar legends and important heritage sites to visit within a 30-mile radius of Enfield are described below.
Salmon of Knowledge
Legend tells the story of how the young Fionn Mac Cumhaill caught a Salmon on the nearby River Boyne with the power to give knowledge and wisdom to whoever first tasted it. While cooking it for his master Finnegas, he accidentally burnt his thumb on it and put it in his mouth, unwittingly taking the prize.
The Lughnasadh Festival and the Tailteann Games
Initiation of Competitive Sport
Legend tells that the ascendancy of Lugh began when he went to Tara to assist King Nuadha who had lost an arm in a battle with the Fir Bolg champion Sreng when the Dé Danann first laid claim to Ireland. Due to his formidable skills, strength and displays of talent he was admitted to Tara and King Nuadha eventually yielded his throne to Lugh, due to his physical perfection, in keeping with Tuatha Dé traditions. Lugh, bearing the irresistible magic sword called Freagarthach (the "Answerer"), and an invincible spear, successfully lead the Tuatha Dé Danann against the Fomorians (mythological enemies of the people of Ireland, perhaps pirates) at the Second Battle of Mag Tuiredh and killed their tyrannical one-eyed leader Balor (said to have had a fort on Tory Island and coincidentally Lugh's maternal grandfather), thus fullfilling a prophecy. Lugh is alleged to have cast a sling stone at him driving his evil poisonous eye into his head so that it saw its host and killed him. On the battlefield he is said to have spared the life of Bres, the half-Fomorian contender for the throne, on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé how and when to plough, sow and reap. The 30-day Lughnasadh festival is said to have been instituted by Lugh in 1829BC, (pre-dating the Olympic Games which began in Olympia in 776BC) as a funeral feast and ancient sporting event commemorating his foster-mother, Queen Tailtiu, who allegedly died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The first location of the Áenach Tailteann gathering was at Teltown (about 25 miles north of Enfield) and the Tailteann Games ran annually until the time of the Norman Invasions when they died out. The Gaelic Athletic Association Stadium in Navan is called Pairc Tailteann. After the purchase of Croke Park in 1913, the Tailteann games were revived by the GAA in 1920s and 1930s before World War II. The feast of Lughnasadh, a harvest festival, is celebrated in Lugh's name on 1st August.
Trinity Well, Carbury
In 520AD, St. Finian established a monastic school at Clonard on the banks of the Boyne, about 8 miles west of Enfield, which became a distinguished seat of learning. The monastry existed up to the 12th Century. It is one of the earliest Christian sites in Ireland. At one time it is said to have had 3,000 students coming from all over Ireland and Europe. Twelve Irish Holy men studied there known as the twelve apostles of Ireland including St. Columcille (founder of Kells Abbey 554AD) and St. Ciarán (founder of Clonmacnoise Abbey 545AD). St. Finian died around 549AD from the yellow plague. Around 1177, Clonard became a Norman garrison town under the military occupation of Meath directed by Hugh de Lacy (who built Trim Castle) due to its strategic location on a principal road and bridge over the Boyne. A 12th century fortified motte-and-bailey constructed at the time is a well known landmark of the area.
Hill of Uisneach
This was a ceremonial site which lies between Athlone and Mullingar, about 33 miles west of Enfield. It is believed to have been the site of an ancient palace, the home of the High King Tuathal Teachtmar in the First Century AD. Tuathal Teachtmar made a new division of Ireland at the start of the second century AD into the five Provinces of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connaught and having taken a portion from each formed the fifth Province or Kingdom of Meath. Today a great six foot high stone known as the "Aill na Mireann" (the Stone of Divisions) rests upon the hill signifying the meeting point of the provincial borders of the five kingdoms of Ireland and the gateway to the mystical Kingdom of Meath which held the other Provinces together.
Hill of Tara
Tara (about 18 miles north east of Enfield) was the ancient ceremonial seat of High Kings of Ireland. In the centre of the Royal Seat or "Forradh" stands a pillar stone called the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) said to have been brought to Ireland by the mythical race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann and is one of the four legendary treasures of Ireland. (The Tuatha Dé are alleged to have originated from four mythical cities, Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias and they are said to have brought one magical treasure from each city when they came to Ireland.) The Lia Fáil stone was said to roar with joy when, having completed his challenges, the rightful High King of Ireland touched it. The site had a massive Banqueting Hall/Area and may have catered for upwards of 1,000 guests. One of Tara's monuments is the "Mound of Hostages", a megalithic passage tomb whose construction and original use has been radiocarbon dated in 2001 to 3,350-3100BC. St. Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront paganism when he began converting the Celts to Christianity around 432AD. Patrick famously lit his Paschal fire on the hill of Slane before the fire of the High King Laoghaire, thus breaking tradition, and so Patrick was challenged to a contest with the Magician Lucamael. When Patrick won the contest, King Laoghaire (said to be the last pagan king of Ireland), allowed him to bring Christianity to Ireland unopposed. King Laoghaire is said to have been buried at Tara standing up in his grave fully armed and facing South towards his enemies.
The Quest for the Ark of the Covenant
Brú na Bóinne
(Palace of the Boyne), Newgrange, Knowth & Dowth
Brú na Bóinne is the site of an Ancient Temple and passage tombs dating back to the New Stone Age, constructed around 5,200 years ago. The Brú na Bóinne visitor Centre is about 31 miles north east of Enfield. On the Winter Solstice (21st or 22nd December), the light of the sun enters the roofbox at Newgrange and shines onto the floor of the inner burial chamber for 17 minutes. Mythology claims the Tuatha Dé Danann may have erected Newgrange as a burial place for their chief Dagda Mór. Legend claims it is also the place where Cúchulainn was conceived. There are also some stunning examples of megalithic art carved on the surrounding stones. Brú na Bóinne may also mean "Womb of the Moon". The layout of the entrance, passage and chamber of Newgrange may have a resemblance to the female reproductive organs.