Back to List


Share This:

Grianan of Aileach, County Donegal 

Grianán of Aileach is probably the best-known monument in Inishowen. Situated on a hilltop 800 feet above sea level the stone fort was probably built on an earthen rath. The origins of the Grianán of Aileach fort are dated back to 1700 B.C. It is linked to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the Celts and built stone forts on top of strategic hills. 


The Grianán is located on the western edge of a small group of hills that lie between the upper reaches of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. Although the hill is comparatively not that high, the summit dominates the neighbouring counties of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. Located at the edge of the Inishowen peninsula, it is 10 kilometres northwest of the Historic Walled City of Derry. 

The town of Burt (and its famous chapel St. Aengus’ Church) is the nearest community and the fortress stands mainly intact insofar as its main walls and features are concerned. Portions of the fortress were destroyed over time but much was rebuilt in the nineteenth century with a view towards retaining the historic nature and aesthetics of the fortress. 

There are excellent views from the fort across Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula. It is claimed that on a clear day, five of the nine counties of Ulster can be seen from this viewpoint. 

Place of Folktales and Legends 

Grianán of Aileach, as with any ancient place in Ireland, has many folktales and legends associated with it. One legend tells of how the cashel was actually a place of sun-worship, the palace of hibernation of Graine, the Celtic Sun-Goddess. Another tells of how the fort was built by Dagda, the God- King of the Tuatha de Dannan to protect the grave of his son Aedh and that Nuada of the Silver Hand also has a royal burial place there. Finally, the sleeping warriors of the Ui Neill are said lie beneath the cashel, awaiting only for the call to arms to awake and spring into battle. 

  • The Grianán was a historical centre of culture and politics during the rule of early Irish chieftains 

  • it is one of only five Irish locations marked on Ptolemy of Alexandria’s 2nd century map of the world 

  • Mr. Walter Bernard of Derry restored the stone fort in the 1870’s 

  • The remains of the three earthen banks, which surround the cashel, are still visible in places 

How to get to Grianán of Aileach 

From the main N13 Letterkenny-Derry Road, look out for Burt Castle, the unusual contemporary church spire, and for local signage for An Grianán of Aileach. Follow local roads to the hillside site. 



LOCATION MAPS: An Grianan Of Aileach - Google Maps 


VIDEO & FILM: Grianan of Aileach - YouTube and Grianan of Aileach - Vimeo  


IMAGES & PICTURES: Grianan of Aileach - Images 


INSTAGRAM PAGE: Grianan of Aileach - Instagram Images 


FACEBOOK PAGESAn Grianan of Aileach - Facebook Search 


TWITTER PAGESGrianan of Aileach -Twitter Search 



Grianan of Aileach - 

Guarding Grianan of Aileach - 

Grianan of Aileach - 

Grianan of Aileach Fort and Burt Castle Hotel - 



Beautiful Photo of Grianán of Aileach, courtesy of Tom Archer Photography / 

Shared on IrelandXO by: S.Callaghan (Kerrykeel) 

Civil Parishes throughout County Donegal (IrelandXO Links)  CLICK HERE 

Category (ies)