The Grianan of Aileach, County Donegal, Ireland

The Grianan of Aileach is an Iron Age stone fortress that was occupied from about 800 BC till about 1200 CE. According to legend, it was built by the renowned Kind Daghda of the Tuatha de Danann. Supposedly, the king’s son Aeah was buried in the center of the fortress.

The fort was the seat of the Kingdom of Aileach, who ruled much of Ulster at the time. It was raised once by Vikings, and Murtaigh O’Brien, Kind of Munster finished the job in 1191. It was restored to its current state in the 19th century.

The actual purpose of the place is somewhat of a mystery. Ring forts and hill forts were often used to contain cattle, and served as a defense when under attack. But the size and grandeur of the place leads most to believe it also had a special governmental purpose. In addition, there are theories that the word Gianana means sunny place, and that it also served as a sun temple.