Northern Ireland

Campaign launched to demand open access to ancient Grianan Fort

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

A petition has been launched to demand that open access to an historic hill fort on the Derry-Donegal border be re-established.

While there was once open access to Grianan of Aileach, over the winter, a gate on the monument has been closed nightly and on occasions during the day, denying tourists the opportunity to witness spectacular sunsets and dawns from monument.

On a hill in Inishowen over-looking Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and counties Derry and Donegal, the ring fort is believed to have been built in the sixth or seventh century by the Northern Uí Néill.

There is some evidence that the site is much older than that and may have been the seat of the ‘Kingdom of Aileach’, one of the ancient royal sites of Ireland.

The fort attracts thousands of visitors throughout the year.

A long-forgotten solar alignment was rediscovered at Grianan on the spring equinox in March 2012 when the sunrise shone directly through the entrance, splitting the interior into northern and southern sides.

The site is also popular with star gazers as there is little light pollution and, on occasions, the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) can be seen.

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)

This week, Buncrana woman, Bettina Linke launched a petition demanding that open access to the fort be re-introduced.

Ms Linke said Grianan hill and fort was greatly treasured by the people of Inishowen and Derry and was a place to “relish life and beauty” and to connect with ancestors.

Many people enjoyed visiting the fort for spectacular sunsets and dawns, she said. The new overnight closing of the fort meant no-one could “celebrate the beauty” of Grianan between dusk and dawn.

Ms Linke said: “This is in utter disregard of how our community is using the Grianan and, as the past few months have proven, must to the disappointment and frustration of visitors from abroad.

“We are asking for the reinstatement of the open access to the Grianan, as it was before, and to reverse the newly introduced opening hours to the monument itself.”

The Buncrana woman has called on people to sign her petition urging the Republic’s Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin to reinstate open access to the fort.

Almost 700 people have signed the petition so far.