Grainan of Aileach sits on a hilltop 800 feet above sea level and is one of Ireland’s most stunning locations
. Its name is believed to translate to ‘the stone palace with the sunny view’ and its original earthen banks date back to c.1700 b.c. In Irish mythology this site was chosen as the seat of Daghdha, the father of the Tuatha De Danann and over the thousands of years it has been used for tribal gatherings, inaugurations, defense, and also, as it’s name implies, for sun worship. The first stone structure here probably dates to around c.500 a.d and was built by the ruling ancestors of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Niall (whose ancestors became the powerful Ui Neill clan) was reputedly baptized here in the nearby well by St Patrick and this event started the conversion of the pagans in the north of Ireland to Christianity. Grainan then became the symbol of royal power for the McLoughlin branch of the Ui Neill dynasty for nearly 600 years as they were the only sept to hold the title ‘Aileach’. It has been attacked many times over these years by both Gaelic and Norsemen. The last great attack occurred in 1101 when Muirchertach O Brien (the King of Munster) attacked Domnall Ua Lochlainn (the last O’Neill high king) and demolished the fort by ordering each of his men to carry away a stone. It fell into a sad state for many years until it was completely restored by Derry amateur archaeologist Dr Walter Bernard in 1878. This is one has the WOW factor but wrap up! (R)

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