In 1998 I led a project to produce a guide to the historical sites on the Inishowen peninsula. The purpose of the book was to provide a simple and clear guide to the main historical sites in Inishowen and to help visitors and locals alike to find and enjoy the wonderful heritage of the area.
In the intervening years Ireland has witnessed an unprecedented change in its built environment and Inishowen has been part of this too. Sites, which have survived in some cases for millenia, are now exposed to risk due to lack of awareness among the local population and rising land values where a historical monument on land is viewed as a liability rather than a treasure.
It is important that we remember our past and celebrate our heritage and it is important that we know where sites are and have a basic understanding of their use, role and function. These sites put our present position in context and one has just to look at the magnificent ruins of Greencastle to see how advanced architecture and building techniques employed by master Norman masons leave mostof current building activity lookins small, poorly executed and not planned.
We can learn a lot from the Bronze Age Triangle near Culdaff, where a community built stone circles, massive burial mounds and ceremonial sites and possessed the ability to align these accurately to celestial bodies and executed these building feats up to 5000 years ago.
State bodies such as Duchas and indeed Donegal County Council need to put more resources into Inishowen’s heritage as revisting the sites in 2007 has revealed poor or non-existent signposting, many signs damaged or natural decay. Even the listed National Monuments at Grainian, Cloncha, Carndonagh and Greencastle have not received any real attention in the past 20 years and show little signs of care or concern.
In 1983 Donegal County Council commissioned and produced “The Archaeological Survey of Donegal” which was a landmark publication and which was to be used to guide planning decisions in the future. The role of this work should be revisited as there is ample evidence to suggest slippage.
Local people and visitors should keep visiting these sites as the represent a link to our past and show Inishowen as a strong and vibrant community, which has survived and developed through many eras and many challenges.
This publication is a start point only. There are hundreds of sites not listed and periods no dealth with, but a bibliography is included for those wishing to explore in more depth. Thanks is given to the many writers and researchers over the years who have kept and recorded local history and folklore so that one can bring life to the inanimate and silent stones that mark our beautiful landscape.
This is an extract from “Inishowen – A journey through its past revisited” – Neil McGrory (Published 2007 – ISBN 978-0-955739-0-1).