Probably the best known castle in the north-west
because of it prominent position on a hilltop clearly visible from the Derry-Letterkenny road. There is no path or road to the site of the castle and it is on private land. It is possible to get close to it by taking one of the roads leading off of the main Derry-Letterkenny road.
It was built in the sixteenth century
during the reign of Henry the VIII
. A medallion found near the castle was dated 1525 and a coin of 1547 was found nearby. In 1587 two brothers, Richard and Henry Hovenden were in command here and they were ordered to resist the Spanish Armada
When the O'Dohertys lost Elagh Castle
, they took refuge here. Sir Cahair O'Doherty was in charge in 1601 and it was later garrisoned by Hugh Boy O'Doherty. When Sir Cahair began his rebellion against the crown the English attacked it but were beaten back. After the defeat of Sir Cahair it fell into the hands of the Chichester family. It is recorded that it was in ruin in 1833 and has suffered further damage since.
The walls are built of rough rubble and the keep is three stories
. There are two circular watch towers which offer superb views of the surrounding countryside. Both have openings for muskets. A stair within one of the towers is in good condition and can be used to the top story, where there is a small vaulted chamber
Grianán of Áilígh
Has been the focal point for human activity for thousands of years
. The spectacular view from the summit made it an ideal spot from which to overlook the lands and waters below.
The great stone cashel which gave Grianan Ailigh
its name is said to have been built by the Tuatha De Danann God, and king of Ireland "The Dagda (or good god) to mark or protect the grave of his son Aedh. Nuada of the silver Hand who fought Balor of the Evil Eye was brought here for a royal burial so legend says. Here also lie the sleeping Warriors waiting for the call to arms of the Ui Neill. There are many more stories, myths and legends once only known to a few which are now revealed to all that visit.
Thanks to Inishowen Tourism for the Video
Grianan Ailigh is a multi-period site
. It is believed that the tumulus or ancient burial site could well have been dated to the Neolithic Period. (1700 BC) The cashel dates from an early historic period (600 A.D). St Patrick was said to visit the site in the 5th.Century. There is a well, known as 'St. Patrick's Well'
on the site. Local Legends would call this a holy well from the old faith and would attribute healing properties to the water... Another old story gives the advice not to whisper a secret within the walls of the fort, as everyone will know. This could is attributed to the acoustics of the fort. The lay out has been compared to that of a Greek amphitheatre
Grianan Ailigh emerged from the mists of mythology and legend to assume no less an important place in the history of Ireland. The story of how the great stone cashel became the most significant political centre in all of Ulster began in the 5th Century.
Niall of the Nine Hostages
was a leader of the Connachta an important Sept who obtained power and predominance in Ireland.
The descendants of Niall, known as the Ui Neill, were the most powerful family in the country for almost 600 years after Nialls death. Giving many high kings to Ireland.
The Ui Neill
who established kingdoms in the north were Conal and Eoghan. Conal established Tir Chonaill to the west of the county and Eoghan gave his name to Inishowen and Tyrone. So devoted were the brothers that Eoghan was said to have died of a broken heart
one year after Conal's death. He is buried at Iskaheen 'Uisce Caoin' or Gentle Waters. The northern branch of the Ui Neill family ruled from Grianan Ailigh and Established Tir Ailigh (kingdom of Ailigh) which stretched from Northern Sligo to the Shores of Lough Neagh
The above are but two fantastic locations to explore further in beautiful Inishowen
. Plan yourself two full days to gain all that the famous peninsula has to offer!
9am - 7.30pm to Mid June
9am - 9pm Mid June to September
Gate not locked (Fri, Sat & Sun)
Coaches: Coaches are able to go up to An Grianan however it is usually up to the discretion of the bus driver (and their driving capability).