In Celebration of the Summer Solstice

In Celebration of the Summer Solstice

Date: 21/06/2021 14:51

Today marks 2021’s Summer Solstice, the longest period of daylight of the year - the solstice is also known as the birthday of the sun. Worldwide, interpretation of this event has varied among cultures, but most mark the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around the time with themes of religion or fertility.

In Donegal, is Ireland’s very own ‘Temple of the Sun’ - the ancient ruins of Grianán of Aileach. The origins of the Grianán of Aileach ringfort date back to 1700 BC, however there is evidence that the site had been in use before the fort was built. It surmounts the hilltop, at 800 feet above sea level and looks out over the glistening waters of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. While also providing breath-taking views of Inch Island below, and an excellent panorama of the counties Donegal, Derry, Antrim, and Tyrone. 

The word “Grianán” means sunny place and it was appropriated by the early Irish to mean a place with a view. In Celtic mythology Grainne was the sister of Aine – goddes of the sun, and though Grainne was known as goddess of corn or grain (springs from the earth after being nurtured by the sun), both sisters are said to have been birthed by a sunbeam or “of the sun”.

Another tradition is that the ringfort is said to have been originally built by the Dagda, a god and the celebrated king of the Tuatha Dé Danann (a supernatural race, descended from the Goddess Danu and who inhabited Ireland before the Celts). The fort was erected to protect the grave of his son Aedh. 

All of these traditions link the hill and the fort on top with supernatural beings, to unseen energy and power and a link to the Otherworld. This has meant many gather each year at Grianán of Aileach, in celebration of the summer solstice.

Watch the start of the footage below, from McGilloway's Way: A Glimpse of Inishowen, to see for yourself the impressive structure of Grianán.