Grianan of Aileach

This remarkable circular fortress lies about 14km south of Buncrana, perched on a hilltop and reached by a small winding lane. Aerial photographs of itshow the stone ring-fort in an emerald pool of grassland amid scrubby trufts of brownish heather and gorse. The name means ‘stone palace of the sun’. Similar cashelforts can be seen elsewhere in Ireland, such as Staigue Fort in County Kerry. The precise age of this fort is disputed, some authorities dating it well before the Christian era (to about 1700BC), others rather later. Its presence was recorded by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, and it was used as a stronghold by the O’Neill kings for several centuries before its gradual destruction.

Its suspiciously neat apperance is due to enthusiastic restoration during the 1870s by Dr Walter Bernard, an amateur istorian from Derry. The round enclosure measures about 23m across, with walls over 5m high and 4m thick. A single gate allows access to the interior, which contains four tiers of steps and various passages or storage places.

If you are lucky enough to visit it on a fine day, the view from this hilltop are amazing, stretching for huge distances over Derry, the Fanad and Inishowen peninsulas, and the Swilly estuary.Grainan_of_aileach