A tour on the Hill of Uisneach.

Hill of Uisneach among community initiatives to benefit from National Lottery funding

Thousands of individuals, clubs and organisations from Westmeath have benefited from some of the €5 billion raised by the National Lottery for Good Causes in the last 30 years.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, announced the landmark €5 Billion Good Cause figure at a special Lotto draw to mark the National Lottery’s 30th birthday in RTÉ last week. 

He said the Good Cause fund has made a crucial contribution to life in communities all across Ireland over the last three decades.

The Westmeath Good Cause beneficiaries include the Hill of Uisneach, where a study was conducted on the hill’s landscape, as well as Meals on Wheels in Athlone.

It is described as the umbilical centre of Ireland and a meeting point of the ancient provinces – the Hill of Uisneach ranks as one of the preeminent sacred landscapes and royal sites in early Irish tradition.

More than 35 archaeological monuments have so far been recorded, some dating back to 3,000 BC. But there is much more to be discovered, according to Dr Roseanne Schot (The Discovery Programme), who has been researching the archaeology, mythology and early history of Uisneach since 2001.

Assisted by a €5,000 grant from the National Lottery via the Heritage Council, she conducted a recent study to characterise the unique landscape of the site and to capture the diverse values and meanings attributed to the place by a wide range of stakeholders.

“Recent surveys have demonstrated that the upstanding enclosures, burial sites and earthworks represent but a fraction of the monuments and structures that once existed on the hill,” she says.

Work is now under way on the second phase of the conservation plan which will set out specific goals and policies for the conservation of the site.

David and Angela Clarke who own three quarters of the hill, and have been conducting weekly guided tours, are seeing a steady rise in visitor numbers.

“At the moment we are seeing up to 7,000 visitors a year but that has the potential to increase to 20,000 or 25,000,” explains David.

Peak visiting time is the May festival of Bealtaine, which this year saw President Michael D Higgins light fire on the hilltop. As one of the Royal Sites of Ireland, Uisneach is currently part of a proposed serial nomination for Unesco World Heritage status.

After 5,000 years, its time may have finally come.