The twinning of two of Ulster’s most important historical hill forts, Tulach Óg and Grianan of Aileach, will be a first according to Clan O’Neill’s leader.
Speaking to the Mail about the plan to pair the Tyrone and Donegal forts, Dan O’Neill said: “This is the first time in history that two forts have been twinned.”
Eager to bring the two area’s together in a bid to boost tourism, are the Cineál Eoghain Council and the Ancient Clan O’Neill.
The groups have put proposals to Donegal and Mid Ulster councils to twin the two famous historical forts and create a cross border tourist route from Inishowen through Derry and the Sperrins, around the Loughshore to Tulach Óg and up to the Hill of the O’Neill, Dungannon.
Clan O’Neill said in a statement: “This idea makes perfect sense since it follows the route of Cineal Eoghain clans and their expansion from their spiritual, religious and political centre of Grianan to Tulach Óg in the heart of Tyrone, across eight centuries.”
They idea was born when Clan O’Neill leader Dan read an article in the Irish News about Inishowen councillor Jack Murray chairing a committee on the future of Grianan of Aileach fort.
Dan contacted Mid Ulster councillor Cathal Mallaghan who arranged a meeting the very same day - then he and his colleague Ronnie Carson, a leading member of the Ancient Clan O’Neill, went to Inishowen to meet Jack Murray, Mary and Dessie McCallion.
Mary is a Community Links officer in Inishowen while Dessie is a local historian.
“We were eager to tell them about the tremendous work NIEA and Mid Ulster council had done in developing Tulach Óg fort and Hill of the O’Neill,” Dan said. “They then took us on a very informative tour of a very wet and windy Grianan fort, which is a sight to behold.
“Both parties agreed that, owing to the natural historical and cultural links between these two famous landmarks, this was something which just had to be done.”
Dan and Ronnie then met Maghera’s Máirtín Ó Mealláin, chair of Cineál Eoghain Council - a body that grew from the Ancient Clan O’Neill set up six years ago to bring O’Neills from around the world together to celebrate their clan culture, history and genealogy.
It now has three branches in the US and has made many contacts around the world.
Máirtín Ó Mealláin, chair of the Cineál Eoghain, added: “Twinning of these two ancient forts is only right and we want to open up a route between them that will touch on every area of historical importance. This we believe can only help local groups and benefit tourism.”
The group also recently held a May Fest event at Tulach Óg.