The Hill of Slane overlooks a key fording point of the River Boyne, with clear views of the Hill of Tara and Skryne to the south. Little is known of the hill's prehistory, although geological work suggests that some stone for the Bru na Boinne tombs came from here.
A large enclosed mound hidden in the wood on the hill's western edge is classified as an Anglo-Norman motte. The nature of its enclosure and its association with a possible ring-barrow suggest that it originated as a prehistoric monument. Herity has compared it to other large mounds, such as that at Rathcroghan, and has stressed its possible ritual significance.
The hill was first associated with a life of St Patrick written by the seventh-century hagiographer Muirchu, who described the saint's journey from the mouth of the River Boyne and the lighting of the paschal fire at Fertae Fer Feic ('grave-mound of the men of Feic'). A central figure in the story is Erc, first bishop of Slane, who was linked with an area containing Fertae Fer Feic and Slane.
Cathy Swift has shown that the antiquarian James Ware linked Fertae Fer Feic with the hilltop, although souces suggest that this place may have been elsewhere along the Boyne Valley. Swift stresses, however, that early medieval mounds, churches and forts were often connected with legal centres. The Hill of Slane contains both an enclosed mound and an important church site documented as an important legal centre from the eighth century AD, with links to French monastic sites. Therefore, while Slane is unlikely to have been the site of the legendary paschal fire, it has important links to the Patrician story.
From Matthew Seaver and Conor Brady's "Heritage Guide No. 55: Hill of Slane" (Archaeology Ireland, December 2011).