(Located on the R390 west of Mullingar in County Westmeath)
Uisneach (pronounced ishnick) was the site where the Festival of Bealtaine (pronounced Bee-all-tana, meaning May), was inaugurated on the first of May. This is where the Summer fires were kindled. This celebration site was particularly important not only because it marked the end of Winter and the beginning of Summer, but because it was a celebration of life. Winters were very rough and many died. Those who survived winter’s grip celebrated the powers of growth and light because the powers of darkness and death had successfully been defeated. Tradition records how two fires were lit on the hill and cattle were driven through the flames to ward off evil influences for the coming year and ensure prosperity.
Uisneach is also known as the fifth province. Ireland was broken into 4 provinces, the names of which are still used today; to the North is Ulster, East is Leinster, South is Munster and West is Connaught. Uisneach was considered to be the center of Ireland where the other 4 provinces meet. A large stone known as the “catstone” is said to mark the exact spot. Nothing much remains of this site other than several earth works on the hill, which includes burial monuments and a fort.
There is a myth about this site that says that this is the place where the very first fires were lit in Ireland. A Druid named Midhe is accredited for introducing fire to Ireland. He lit the first fire here and the fires burned for seven years and during this time, every other fire in the country had to be lit from it.