Grainan of Aileach, Burt. County Donegal      fort – c. 700 a. d.   site – c. 1700 b. c.

Grainan of Aileach sits on a hilltop 800 feet above sea level and the original construction for this ring fort dates to around the 7th century a. d. The actual site however dates back to about 1700 b. c. Its name is believed to translate to ‘the stone palace with the sunny view’ and in Irish mythology this site was chosen as the seat of Daghdha, the father of the Tuatha de Danann. Over the years it has been used for tribal gatherings, inaugurations, defence and as its name implies ‘sun worship’. This could be due to the fact that at this vantage point the sun sets beautifully looking west towards the Atlantic. The fort is believed to have been built by the ancestors of Niall of the Nine Hostages whose ‘O’Neill’ descendants alongside their McLaughlin cousins became the most powerful Irish family for the next 600 years. St Patrick reputedly baptised Niall here in the nearby well which started the conversion of the pagans in the north of Ireland to Christianity. The fort has been attacked and destroyed many times by the Gaelic, Norsemen and the English. In 1101 when the O’Brien King of Munster attacked the last O’Neill High King he ordered that each of his soldiers carry one stone each from the fort. It was completely restored to its truest form possible in 1878 by an amateur archaeologist from Derry named Dr Walter Bernard and is now under the protection of the OPW.