Did you ever stand somewhere and just take in the scenery around you and wonder what it would have been like for our ancestors who would have stood in the exact same spot hundreds of years ago. Grianán of Aileach is a stone hillfort situated at the gateway to the Inishowen Penninsula in Co Donegal. Its location a top a hill, affords it amazing views of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. To the west, the amazing landscape of Lough Swilly and Inch Island, and to the East, Lough Foyle and the city of Derry. The fort was the seat of the Kingdom of Ailech and one of the royal sites of Gaelic Ireland. It was said to be built in the 6th or 7th century and there would have been dwellings inside and outside the fort. By the 12th century the Normans had bullied their way into the Kingdom of Ailech, reducing their lands considerably. It was King of Munster however- Muirchertach Ua Briain- who destroyed the ring fort in 1101. I reckon he fancied the view from up here! St Patrick is said to have visited the site (that guy got around!) in the 7th century when he baptised the local cheiftain- Eoghan. This is apparently where Inis Eoghan gets its name from. The fort was restored to its present glory in 1870 by Walter Bernard of Derry.
To reach the fort we followed the A5 from Omagh into Strabane and then accross the border to Lifford in Co Donegal. We followed the N14 until Manorcunningham and then the N13 as far as Burt. In Burt you will see the An Grianán Hotel on the right hand side. There is a right hand turn just after that with signage to the fort. Beware that the road does get quite steep in places and I kept getting distracted with the views to my right down to Lough Swilly! The best thing about this attraction is that the car park is right up at the top- so no tough walk to get to the top. Its a perfect place to visit for all ages. When you reach the site there is a clear path to the fort and a little tunnel in the wall on the North side. The first thing you want to do when you enter the fort is scale the two inner walls to get to the top. From here you can walk the whole circumference of the fort to appreciate the stunning views. On the day we visited there was even a little cafe truck there serving tea and coffee and cake! I was in my element! Unfortunately it was one of the coldest days of the year when we visited so we hopped back in the car to make our way further into the Inishowen Penninsula. Our destination for the evening was Buncrana, but along the way, just outside the small town of Fahan, we came accross Lisfannon beach. We stopped here and had our tea and sandwiches and took a fabulous walk along the beach. The beach curves all the way back into Fahan and you can see all the way over to Buncrana. So our introduction to the Inishowen Penninsula was pretty amazing. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of a beautiful trip to Donegal.
I have left a few links to help you plan your trip. We stayed in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel which was great value. Tune in next week for more of our trip to Donegal. As Always- Happy Galavanting! xxx