Grianan of Aileach, a 1700BC ancient stone fort, is probably the best known monument in Inishowen.
Situated on a hill top 800 feet above sea level the stone fort was probably built on an earthen rath.
The view from Aileach is breathtaking. The glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly are clear as is the form of the entire peninsula. A windy and exposed place, Grianan has been a silent witness to the history of Ireland.
Noted in the mythologies of Ireland, it seems the fort was first constructed around 1700 BC (probably with earthen walls), by the Tuatha de Danann. It has been ascertained that it was the Palace of the Northern Princes, from a period long before Christianity (AD 400) up until the 14th century. The Princes of Aileach play an important role in Irish history often becoming Ard Righ (or High King).
It was Aileach that Prince Eoghan (Owen) was converted by St. Patrick to Christianity. Patrick consecrated a coronation stone as a mark of goodwill and a testament to Eoghan’s virility.
Many struggles for power have taken place at Aileach. In 1101, O’Brian marched and attacked Aileach. He demolished the forst and his men carried off stones as proof of their success.
Again, however, itw as rebuilt as it always seems to be the case. After lying in ruins it was restored between 1874 – 1879 by Dr. Bernard of Derry. Legend states that the giants of Inishowen (Princes of Aileach) are lying sleeping but when the sacred sword is removed they will spring to life reclaiming their ancient lands.
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