donegal

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Grianan of Aileach, Ireland

The Grianan of Aileach is an Iron Age stone fortress in Inishowen in County Donegal. It was occupied from about 800 BC until about 1200 AD. According to legend, it was built by the renowned Kind Daghda of the Tuatha de Danann. Supposedly, the king’s son Aeah was buried in the center of the fortress.

The fort was the seat of the Kingdom of Aileach, who ruled much of Ulster at the time. It was razed once by Vikings, and Murtaigh O’Brien, Kind of Munster finished the job in 1191. It was restored to its current state in the 19th century.

The actual purpose of the place is somewhat of a mystery.  Ring forts and hill forts were often used to contain cattle, and served as a defense when under attack. But the size and grandeur of the place leads most to believe it also had a special governmental purpose. In addition, there are theories that the word Gianana means sunny place, and that it also served as a sun temple.

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Donegal Castle, Ireland

Donegal Castle is situated in the center of Donegal town, County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins but the castle was almost fully restored in the late 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O'Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.