Grianán of Aileach, Burt, Donegal
An Grianán, Ireland
Grianán of Aileach, Burt, Donegal An Grianán Reviews
Feb 20, 2008
The Grianán of Aileach guards the entrance of Inishowen on an 800-ft. high hilltop that offers a magnificent panorama of the “Island of Owen” as well as the twin Loughs of Foyle and Swilly. The original structure dates to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age (2000 B.C.) and consisted of central ‘cashel’ or circular fortification with a series of outer earthen ramparts.
Grianán has a long history associated with the northern Uí Néill clan who ruled the Gaelic Kingdom of Aileach, which reached from Tyrone to Donegal and beyond from the 6th to the 12th century. The name ‘Inishowen’ means literally ‘Island of Owen’ and refers to Eoghan one of the sons of ‘Niall of the Nine Hostages’, High King of Ireland.
Legend has it that St. Patrick came to Grianán in the 5th century and baptized Eoghan in the ‘holy well’ that lies to the rear of the fort and thus in one fell swoop brought the Christian message to the whole of Inishowen.
In the 12th century Grianán was largely destroyed by the invading army of Murtagh O’ Brian, King of Munster who ordered each of his soldiers to take a stone from the fort in their sacks so that the Grianán would be reduced to a ruin.
By the 19th century the proud Grianán of Aileach was indeed in need of serious repair and the central stone fort was restored to its present state by a local historian Dr. Walter Bernard between 1874-1878.
Today below the site of Grianán at Burt sits the church of St. Aengus, which was voted Ireland’s ‘building of the century’ in a recent poll. The church of St. Aengus is a unique circular design mirroring the image of the Grianán of Aileach itself on the hill above and was designed by the Irish Architect Liam McCormick in 1967. Also on the main Burt to Letterkenny road to Grianán of Aileach Visitor Centre housed in the old Church of Ireland which tells the history of Grianán from the dawn of history to the present.
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