'Grianan an Ailleach' : Stone Fort

TownlandGrianan of Ailech
Grid RefC 367 198
GPSC 36672 19752 (6m)
Longitude7° 25' 35.57" W
Latitude55° 1' 25.77" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownBurnfoot (4 Km)
OS Sheet7
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 5th June 2005

This good looking cashel was renovated (some say over restored) in the late 1800s and is, once again, receiving some attention. The vast 5m high walls are being pointed and made stable once more.

There is an amazing amount to be said for this site. Firstly the very steep drive up to the car park is an adventure in itself! The views are simply mind-blowing! The cashel is great too ...

Once inside there are tunnels within the walls to investigate (although these had a lot of empty bottles and beer cans thrown inside when I visited) and three tiers of ramparts with dinky little steps between them to climb. From the top layer it is possible to see for miles. To the north Inch Island sits beautifully in the bay and to the east the city of Derry can be seen. Rolling hills surround the site, but do not obscure much at all and make the view all the more spectacular.

The cashel is surrounded by three concentric banks, which are low and very hard to see now. There is also a flattened burial mound on the hilltop, giving a continuity of use spanning several thousand years.

This was the royal seat of the Ui Neill family for 700 years between 500 and 1200 CE. I don't think you could choose a more amazing spot to place a 'palace' - it can be seen for miles and makes a very clear statement.

The hill that the fort stands on is Greenan Hill, obviously a perversion of Grianan. The name suggests to me a firm link with the Irish sun goddess Grainne. It is possible that the hill was a sacred mount for many thousands of years dedicated to the worship of Grainne, but that is purely my speculation.

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Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Stone Forts

About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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