Grianan of Aileach (Greenan Fort or Greenan Ely), Ireland

Grianan of Aileach Fort

Grianan of Aileach inside, Country Donegal, Ireland.

The Grianan of Aileach called also Greenan Fort, Grianán Ailigh or Greenan Ely is a fort placed on 244 meters hill in Country Donegal, Ireland. It was the main seat of Kingdom of Ailech and it was built in the 6th or 7th century.


The Grianan of Aileach is located at the edge of the Inishowen peninsula, 11km northwest of the ecclesiastical site of Derry, just near the Ireland - Northern Ireland border and just 15 minutes east of Letterkenny on the main Derry road. If you are looking for the GPS coordinates, here they are: 55°01′25.66″N 7°25′39.33″W.

Driving information

Drive from Letterkenny head east towards Derry on the N13 and after 5 kilometers you must turn left at the roundabout, staying on the N13 heading for Inishowen. Shortly after Newtown Cunningham, you will notice Burt Castle on the left. There will be the right turn and you should get that road to the Grianan of Aileach.

Grianan of Aileach from the outside.


The main structure is a stone ringfort has been built by the Northern Uí Néill in the 6th or 7th century, but the hill has been used for the defensive purposes from about 1st century. The Northern Uí Néill is the name given to several dynasties in north-western medieval Ireland, the rulers of the Fifth of Ulster, which extended from Tyrone to Donegal.

The Grianan of Aileach served as the royal seat of the Uí Néill to the 12th century when the Kingdom of Ailech had become embattled and lost a fair amount of territory to the invading Normans. According to Irish literature, the fort was destroyed by Murtagh O’Brien, then ruler of the Fifth of Munster in 1101, what was the answer to the destruction of his royal seat at Kincora. The soldiers took stones from the fort and turned it into a ruin.

Grianan of Aileach restoration

The restoration of the Grianan of Aileach has place between 1874 - 1878 and supervised by Dr. Bernard. The fort is a bit different than it was originally, but still, much of the old structure remains. More controversial works took place in 2001 by the Office of Public Works due to one of the walls collapse. The site is now owned by the Irish government.

Grianan of Aileach, Ireland. One of my "artistic" photos.

Practical tourist Information

There is not much tourist information to write about. I already explained where the Grianan of Aileach fort is and how to drive there.

There is no fee for entrance (well, there's nobody to collect the fee) and the gates are widely open to get inside the building (it was when I last visited the fort in 2014).


I love historical places, so for me visiting Grianan of Aileach was an awesome experience. When I was standing on their historical ramparts and taking the marveled views like the Irish ancestors did, I felt my mind was drifting back to the past times. I can recommend that fort to anyone comes to visit Ireland, especially Donegal Country.

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!

4.89 | 9 votes
Comments: 2
  •   24th April 2017, 18:04

    I live in Ireland and I had no idea we have such a nice place! Will have to definitely visit Grianan of Aileach, maybe next weekend! Thank you mate for this info.

  •   25th April 2017, 14:58

    A very nice place. It is a pity that there are not too many such charming and historical old places in Poland. I enter the Grianan of Aileach on the list of my places that I will want to travel to in Ireland someday. This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Bardzo fajne miejsce. Szkoda, że u nas w Polsce nie ma zbyt wielu tak urokliwych i jednocześnie tak starych, historycznych miejsc. Wpisuję Grianan of Aileach na listę moich miejsc, do których kiedyś będę chciał podróżować w Irlandii.

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