Grianan of Aileach evening closure is criticised ahead of meeting with OPW

The OPW has been criticised after it emerged the gate into Grianan of Aileach is being locked in the evenings, it seems without any consultation with Donegal County Council or the local community.

Cllr Jack Murray says this came to light when a visitor attempted to get into the facility to photograph the sunset earlier this week, but found her way blocked.

On this morning’s Nine til Noon Show, Cllr Murray said a meeting is due to take place shortly with the OPW, and this will be raised.

He said at a time when tourism numbers are down in Inishowen, this should not be happening…………



Pictures by Bettina Linke, whose e mail to the Nine til Noon Show is reproduced below…


Dear Greg and the Team,
Yesterday evening I went to the Grianan of Aileach to enjoy and photograph what looked like a beautiful sunset. As I arrived just past 7pm a security guard got visitors with vehicles to leave the carpark and to drive down to the barrier, which is normal, only this was usually done by an employee of the OPW. The barrier at the foot of the road closes at this time of year at 7pm and opens again at 9am in the morning. Having left my car at the barrier I could stay and proceeded to the monument only to find that a gate had been reinstalled, – and it was locked! Closing the monument to the public hasn’t been done in more than over a decade, with a short lived exception during lockdown in 2020, when the gate got nicked, possible by a disgruntled visitor. The Grianan was left gateless since (August 2023).
Preventing access inside the Grianan from the early evening until the not so early hours of the morning to such a much loved and frequented monument to locals, photographers and visitors will take away the enjoyment and moments of outstanding beauty so many are getting from being there, particular at sunsets, for the night sky and some special sunrises like the upcoming equinox alignment.
A few more people arrived shortly after me yesterday, amongst them a young couple who had brought a picnic basket and blanket for watching the sunset. Having being denied entrance to the Grianan left them in utter disbelief and very much disappointed. The same reaction could be found in everyone else coming up joyful and in anticipation of a marvellous sunset to the Grianan that evening. Fortunately, the person with the keys returned for a left behind biker and was kind enough to open the gate on this occasion. More and more people arrived and even as I left at quarter to nine, people still came up the hill.
With the gate now getting closed, my great worry is the above mentioned equinox alignment around September 21. Over the years the glorious golden beam of the rising sun, running through the entire monument at its height, has attracted visitors from all over the world as well as people from other parts of Ireland who travel especially to the Grianan to observe an ancient solar alignment. The sunrise, of course, is much earlier then the opening time for the monument at 9am. For the last 11 years people were quite content to walk up the hill to see the alignment since they could enter and enjoy it from inside the Grianan. The new arrangement by the OPW would leave all those visitors, local and international, very frustrated. It also would be a setback for the Grianan, which slowly but surely is getting the recognition for its outstanding beauty and having its very own ancient alignment.
I understand that the reason for closing the gate at the Grianan is to protect against nightly acts of vandalism. But in my experience, a monument well visited is less likely to be targeted than one left alone in the dark.
With all the best wishes,
Bettina Linke
PS: For what must be at least 20 years a wonderful woman was the ‘gate keeper’ of the Grianan, opening and closing the barrier on the foot of the hill every day. She was an employee of the OPW and was instrumental at at least one occasion to keep the gate at the monument open during the night for visitors. Recently she retired and those opening and closing now don’t seem to be OPW employees but a private company, hired by the OPW.