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Aran Inspired

Beltany Stone Circle

This remarkable, 5,000 year old megalithic site of stone circles in County Donegal is reminiscent of Stonehenge in Britain. Constructed before the Bronze Age, the Beltany Stone Circle is around 45 metres / 150ft in diameter, and contains 64 stones, some of them 2.4 metres / 8ft tall. They encircle a large area of raised ground. Research carried out on behalf of a local group, Raphoe Community In Action and funded by the Irish Heritage Council, dated the megalith to around 3,000 BCE and concluded it is almost certainly the ruins of a passage tomb / burial mound.

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Grianan Fort / Grianan of Aileach

This stone Celtic fort, known as Grianan of Aileach, is circular in shape and located atop an 810 foot high hill northeast of Letterkenny. The views from this site are breathtaking, and include the areas around Donegal Town and Kerry. The hills of peninsulas Fanad and Inishowen are visible, along with the River Swilly, Lough Swilly and surrounding landscapes.

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This tiny, coastal hamlet lies between Glen Bay and a barren moorland, and is part of Donegal's vanishing Gaeltecht (Irish-speaking) region. A quaint atmosphere still surrounds the village, which is tucked into a hidden sea-cliff. Its rural Irish charm is reflected in the homespun décor of the pubs and residences.

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Castlestrange Stone

This ancient, richly decorated and beautiful carved stone is located on the Castlestrange Estate near Athleague in County Roscommon. Free to visit, the stone dates from the late Iron Age period -- somewhere between 500BCE and 100AD. Roughly egg shaped, the Castlestrange Stone is about 60cm high and about 1 metre wide, and has a swirling design engraved into its granite surface. It sits on a bed of river rocks. A protected National Monument, the purpose of the Castlestrange Stone remains known. Historians presume it served some religious or ceremonial function.

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Baylin (Bealin) High Cross

Sitting on a small hill behind some houses in the village of Twyford, 15 minutes from the centre of Athlone, this ornate high cross is estimated to be more than 1200 years old. Standing at just over 2 metres (6.5 feet) tall, the cross previously stood in the neighbouring area of Baylin (hence its name), although it is thought to have originated in Clonmacnoise. Also referred to as the Bealin cross, the modern spelling "Baylin" reflects its pronunciation.

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Tullaghan Stone Cross

The Tullaghan Stone Cross was transplanted to the small village of Tullaghan, in County Leitrim, from a long-dissolved monastery on the coast. Leitrim is a mostly inland county, except for a two and a half miles (4 kilometres) strip of a coastline, where the Rivers Duff and Drowse form the boundaries with counties Sligo and Donegal respectively. On this tiny coastal strip lies Tullaghan, the site of an ancient High Cross, which faces the N15 road that runs between Sligo and Donegal. Tall (10.5 feet / 3.21 metres) plain and crooked with stumpy arms, the dark grey cross leans heavily to one side from its sandstone base.

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Cloonmorris Church and Ogham Stone

Located in the village of Mohill, this church was connected to the Augustinian priory here. It is a church of simple design from around 1200, with lancet windows and mouldings decorated with the figures of upturned heads. The north doorway appears to have been added in the 15th century. There is an Ogham stone standing near the attached graveyard, with a single recognizable inscription that reads ‘Qenuven.’ Ogham Stones are marker stones inscribed with the Ogham alphabet, which was named after Ogham, the god of eloquence. The alphabet originated around the fifth century and contained 25 different letters.

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In the small village of Aughnacliffe in County Longford stand the remains of a megalithic portal tomb, where ancient stones are stacked upon each other in a precarious balancing act. Believed to be around 5,000 years old, the tomb is located in a hollow, as are most of the dolmens found in Ireland. This may give a clue as to how the dolmens were created -- one popular theory suggests that a mound of earth, now gone, was used as a ramp to roll the rocks up on top of the structure.

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Gallen Church and Cross Slabs

Gallen priory (church) sits on the original site of a monastery that was established in 492. A group of Welsh monks restored the community after its buildings were burned in 820. They operated a school at this location for many years afterward. Today, there is a church from the 13th century located there, along with a group of rare cross slabs from the early Christian period. The slabs probably date back to the 8th to 11th century. Quite a few of then have been used in the rebuilding of the church, attached to the gables.

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The Rock of Dunamase

A short distance from the town of Portlaoise, in dramatic contrast to the surrounding flat countryside of most of County Laois, rises the Rock of Dunamase, with its ancient castle on top. The “rock’s” natural attributes – in fact it is a 150-foot high limestone cliff – made it the perfect spot to erect a fortress. In ruins since the 17th century, a climb to the summit nevertheless reveals broken, but still recognizable portions of walls, towers and gates, from what was once a very large and complex palace-like structure.

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