Just 15 km north of the Hill of Tara, 21 km from Brú Na Boinne visitors Centre, and in the vicinity of Newgrange, is the Hill of Slane [pronounced ‘Slain’]. This is the setting, 158 metres higher than its surroundings, of the famous stories about St. Patrick’s first confrontation with the native Irish Pagans and the religious Druid leaders. This lead to his subsequent conversion of the Irish to Christianity. It is said, that during the spring equinox, when the High King Laoghaire was about to light the first and sacred ceremonial fire of spring, which would then be visible from the nearest sacred sites, when they would light their fire and so on. Therefore in a short time, sacred fires would be lit all over Ireland, Scotland and probably much further into northern Europe and beyond.
In 433 AD, breaking all the rules, the newcomer St. Patrick, beat the High King Laoghaire to it, by lighting a fire on the Hill of Slane which was visible from Tara (some historians claim that it was in fact at Knowth or Newgrange that this fire was lit – but who knows?). The story goes that the High King Laoghaire after his fury and capture of St. Patrick, was so impressed with the magic and power of this man, that he agreed to allow Christianity to coexist alongside the native pagan religious traditions. St. Patrick is also said by locals in the Rathfeigh area (not far from Tara) to have thrown a large stone from the Hill of Slane (to prove his magical abilities) which landed in Rathfeigh and near where Rathfeigh church was built. This stone was later used for Hedge schools and Hedge masses, when education and Catholicism was banned by the British.
In Bardic verse and folklore it is said that the ancient Fir Bolg, the forth group to come to Ireland, came in on the Slaney River. The first High King was Sláine mac Dela, who cleared the forests around Newgrange. The Hill of Slane became an important place of learning for a long time after St. Patrick and had both a friary church and college on the hill. Slane Friary was restored in 1512 but was abandoned in 1723. The remains of both the college and church with a 19 meter gothic tower still remain.
Another beautiful landmark of this elevated site, is the Araucaria araucana or Chilean Pine, more commonly known here as the monkey puzzle tree, now endangered through over deforestation. Even at a great distance this distinctive and large tree stands sentinel beside the church tower. This site has a fantastic elevation and views. Take a hill of Slane walk, over the lovely green sloping field leading up to the ruins. A great place for a picnic on a sunny day. Access is free and always open.