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Grianan Of Aileach In Donegal: History, Parking + Views Galore

Grianan Of Aileach In Donegal: History, Parking + Views Galore

An Grianan of Aileach is one of the most popular places to visit in Donegal.

The Neolithic hillside fort is just a short drive away from the little village of Burt on the magnificent Inishowen Peninsula and it’s a great spot to add to your Donegal road trip. 

The views that you’re treated to from up at an Grianan Fort are worth the visit alone and it’s a handy spot to get to.

Below, you’ll find info on everything from its history and the view point to where to visit close by.

Some quick need-to-knows about an Grianan of Aileach in Donegal

Grianan of Aileach fort

Photo by ianmitchinson/shutterstock

Although a visit to an Grianan Fort is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find the fort on Greenan Mountain a 20-minuted drive from Derry City and a 25-minute drive from both Letterkenny Town and Buncrana.

2. Parking / access

There’s a generous amount of parking at the top of the hill (here on Google Maps). It’s then a 2-minute or so walk to the fort which will hopefully be doable for most fitness levels.

3. Opening hours

The An Grianán Fort opening times are very tricky to find online. The only place we could find them was in a PDF about the conservation of the area, so they may not be up-to-date:

  • 16th March to 30th April: 10:00 – 17:30
  • 1st May to 15th June: 09:00 – 19:00
  • 16th June to 15th August: 09:00 – 20:30
  • 16th August to 30th September: 09:00 – 19:00
  • 1st October to 31st October: 10:00 – 17:30
  • 1st November to 15th March: 10:00 – 15:30

4. There’s no entrance fee

We’ve had a huge increase in emails asking about the the entrance fee for An Grianán Fort over the last couple of months – this site is completely free to enter.

A speedy history of Grianan of Aileach

Grianán of Aileach

Photos via Shutterstock

The origins of the An Grianan Fort date back to 1700 BC and it is linked to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the arrival of the Celts.

The fort was built and rebuilt over the years, with the more recent remnants of the walls from when the fort was used as the seat of the rulers of the ancient kingdom of Aileach. 

Excavations on the site occurred throughout the 19th century when remnants of a Christian church, as well as an even earlier burial mound, were found around the site.

Over the course of the 1870s, a doctor from Derry, Walter Bernard, painstakingly restored An Grianan of Aileach to its current, magnificent state.

The interior of the fort measures around 23m across with stone walls rising 5m high. There are terraced steps from where the upper levels can be accessed.

What to do at an Grianan Fort

Grianan of Aileach donegal

Photo left: Lukassek. Right: The Wild Eyed/Shutterstock

Aside from the historical importance of the site, many people make a trip up to An Grianan of Aileach simply to enjoy the views.

The views alone are worth the visit with the incredible positioning of the fort on a cleared hilltop providing a complete 360-degree panorama.

From the top of the terraced walls on a clear day, you can see across counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.

It also offers spectacular views over Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly, with one of the most well-known photographs from the fort being of Inch Island off the coast of Donegal. 

Note that it can get quite wild and windy on Greenan Mountain so make sure to dress appropriately.

Things to see and do near Grianan of Aileach

One of the beauties of An Grianán Fort is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Donegal.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Greenan Mountain!

1. Wild Ireland (15-minute drive)

wild ireland donegal

Photo left: Canon Boy. Right: andamanec (shutterstock)

The Wild Ireland animal sanctuary is the newest one in Ireland and is located just down the road from Burt. It’s home to rescued animals including bears, wolves, lynx and eagles.

2. The Inishowen 100 (start at an Grianan Fort)

Mamore gap Donegal

Photos via Shutterstock

The scenic Inishowen 100 drive stretches for 160km or 100 miles around the Inishowen Peninsula. You can take a drive or cycle along the route which takes in some of the peninsula’s most beautiful natural landscapes.

3. Beaches galore (15-minute-plus drive)

Lisfannon Beach Fahan

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find some of the best beaches in Donegal a short spin away. Lisfannon Beach (15-minute drive, Buncrana Beach (20-minute drive), Tullagh Beach (45-minute drive).

FAQs about An Grianan of Aileach

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How much is it to visit?’ to ‘When is it open?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the opening times for An Grianan of Aileach?

The change during the year (see them listed in this guide) but it opens at either 9 or 10 and closes just below dusk (see times listed above).

Is An Grianán Fort worth visiting?

Absolutely. The views from An Grianan of Aileach on a clear day are magnificent, especially if you visit for sunrise or sunset.

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