inishowen

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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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Ailech, or the Grianán of Aileach, (sun palace) was the caput, or principal royal seat of the early medieval Northern Úi Neill kings of Cenel nEogain, until they moved their headquarters to Tulach Oc in the kingdom of Airgialla at the beginning of the eleventh century. The place-name Ailech was also used as the distinguishing sobriquet of the Northern Úi Neill dynasty. Ailech is popularly identified as a large multi-period fortification situated on Greenan Mountain at the southern end of the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal.