I had very few expectations of The Hill of Uisneach (Cnoc Uisneach in Irish) when I went there for the first time, but as with Shee Mor, it turned out to be one of those ancient places of Ireland which just blew me away.
It’s hard to get an exact meaning for the name Uisneach. It derives from the Irish word for water, uisce (pronounced ish-ka) and a god of the Tuatha de Denann named Nechtan. Not a great deal is known about Nechtan; the name is possibly a variant of Nuada Argetlam, or some say another name for the Dagda. The Hill of Uisneach is said to be located near Nechtan’s well, which also happens to be the source of the River Boyne.
The interesting thing about Nechtan’s Well, is that it might also be the same pool where Fintan, the Salmon of Knowledge (more about him later) ate the nuts which fell from the nine enchanted hazel trees into the water, and thus acquired his knowledge. I would so love this to be true!
The Hill of Uisneach stands 183 metres tall, and is located between the villages of Ballymore and Loughanavally in County Westmeath, not far from Mullingar. Twenty counties can be seen from the summit on a clear day. Historically and mythologically, it was regarded as the centre point, or ‘naval’ of Ireland, symbolised by the presence of a great stone called the Ail na Mirean, or Stone of Divisions.
This stone is a limestone boulder standing six metres tall and estimated at weighing thirty tons. It sits on the south west side of the Hill in a circular enclosure. It is said to be situated where the borders of Ireland’s five provinces, Leinster, Munster, Connacht, Ulster and Mide met. Nowadays, there are only four provinces, ancient Mide becoming the Counties Meath and Westmeath. Some say the Otherworld can be accessed from it.
Other monuments consist of the remains of circular enclosures, barrows, cairns, a holy well, and two walkways, or ancient roads, all spread over a two km area, but they are not quite so easy to identify as the Stone of Divisions.
When you arrive, there is a tall fence barring access, with a small sign giving a phone number to call if you wish to visit the site. On the day we visited, as I dialled the number, the landowner pulled up behind us in a big black Landrover. How did he know we were there? He was a tall fair haired man with twinkling blue eyes that pierced right through us; Conor and I were convinced that he was the Hill’s Sidhe guardian!
Uisneach was considered a site of great significance in antiquity. The sister site to the Hill of Tara, remains of an ancient road have been discovered which actually connect the two locations. Whilst Tara was associated with Kingship rituals, Uisneach is believed to have been a place of Druid worship and ceremony. Evidence of huge fires have been uncovered here, said to have been lit in celebration of the festival of Beltaine.
Read more at: https://aliisaacstoryteller.com/2014/09/04/uisneach/