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Grianán of Aileach

A Little History  

As he took in the views across Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, and out onto the stunning landscape of the peninsula that separates both, Saint Patrick reflected on his return to Ireland; the land of his slavery. For as far as the eye could see the tribal clans made their way towards this historic royal site. The pilgrimage to the Royal Seat of the Ui Neill, the northern clan of the dynasty of Niall of the Nine Hostages, his former kidnapper; was an event that would change the lives of these people forever.

On this day, Saint Patrick, now a missionary bishop would baptise the local chieftain leader, Eoghan, who would give his name to this spectacular peninsula. Tonight, there would be much feasting as he had told Eoghan that upon baptism his people would be elevated to being “people of the Lord, and sons of God”. The hill fort and its ramparts is the centre of the political world of the region; a place of inauguration of kings, and ceremonial splendour that has been used for hundreds of years and will continue to be of historical importance for centuries to come.
This fifth century event is just one of many historical events that have taken place at the site of this designated national monument. Grianán of Aileach has been the royal seat of the high kings of the Ui Neill and the clans of Ulster for centuries and sits just fifteen minutes east of Letterkenny on the main Derry road. It has been built up and demolished on several occasions through plunder and pillage by Vikings and Normans; and also from acts of war by the rival Gaelic chieftains of Munster

Nevertheless, this stunning monument of the history and culture of the people of Donegal, still sits proudly on top of the hill. Its name is said to mean “the Stone Palace of the Sunny View” and on a clear day there is probably not a better panoramic view in Ireland, as counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone can be seen. This magnificent ancient site, which costs nothing to visit, also has on its site just to the south of the fort, a well dedicated to our Patron Saint, known as Saint Patrick’s Well.

This site should be visited by every native and visitor to Donegal. Why not let yourself stand on these historical ramparts and take in the views that were marvelled at by your ancestors and let your mind drift back to times past.

Let 2015 become the year where you and your family truly connect with Donegal. Over the coming weeks and months we hope to showcase the various regions of Donegal; not only for the visitor, but also for our inhabitants. This summer, let’s get outdoors and enjoy what we’ve got in this spectacular county, and make your visit to Grianán of Aileach the first of many adventures that will invigorate your mind, body and soul.

For more information about what Donegal has to offer check out: www.govisitdonegal.com