Northern Ireland

Authorities bow to public pressure on Grianan Fort access hours

Thousands of tourists visit Grianan every year.
Thousands of tourists visit Grianan every year.

Authorities in the Republic have bowed to public pressure and agreed to open Co Donegal’s Grianan Fort during daylight hours so that visitors can observe the spectacular sunrises which can be viewed from the monument.

Situated on the Donegal-Derry border, overlooking Lough Swilly, the ring fort is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. The fort is believed to have been built in the sixth or seventh century by the ruling Northern Uí Néill dynasty. However, there is evidence that the site is much older and may have been the seat of one of Ireland’s royal sites, the “Kingdom of Aileach.

In recent years, Grianan has become popular with people wishing to witness the rise of the sun. There has been a particular interest on the spring equinox when the rising sun shines directly through the gate in a solar alignment, splitting the fort in two.

However, while there was once open access to the fort, over the winter a gate was closed nightly and often during the day. The restricted opening hours led to Buncrana woman, Bettina Linke launching a petition – signed by almost 2,000 people - demanding that open access be re-introduced.

The sun splits the fort in two at dawn on the spring equinox each year. Picture: Bettina Linke
The sun splits the fort in two at dawn on the spring equinox each year. Picture: Bettina Linke (Gregory Clarke)

In reply to a request from Ms Linke the Republic’s Office of Public Works (OPW), which manages the site, has now agreed to re-instate morning opening. Ms Linke had asked that the site be opened early between March 15 and 22 for the spring equinox.

In an email to the Buncrana woman on Friday, the OPW confirmed that Grianan would be opened during daylight hours every day and not just on those sought by Ms Linke.

The OPW said: “This means that you won’t have any problems accessing the monument for sunrise 15th to 22nd March, or on any other day.”

The Office also agreed to contact Ms Linke next week over her request for overnight access for particular lunar events over the next year.

Ms Linke said she greatly appreciated the OPW decision.

“We nearly have fully our Grianan back,” the Donegal woman said.