Apparently, in one instance, the wrong name was given to such a place with rather awkward consequences, leaving it with a past, it did not had, and the true location of this name with no past at all. If a correction would be made, the latter might again inhabit the stories and legends and heroes, only to condemn the other into the void.
Such reinstatement, however, could provide the sole opportunity to find, what has been lost. - The name and purpose, given by the builders and people to this truly remarkable place.
It seems fitting, under the circumstances, to seek appropriate advise:
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." (Arthur Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four)
The search of the past of any given place is always a journey, which will lead on one hand the undertaker of this enterprise into his or her future as well as taking the opposite direction back into the time of the origin of the subject in question. The road towards Grianán opened up in a way it was not necessarily anticipated.
A closer inspection of its past would prove more than bargained for and nothing is left now what it seemed to be before, which has been exclusively based on conclusions drawn by George Petrie in the Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry and the Memoir of the Parish of Templemore from 1837 (pp. 216-234).
The identification of the monument as the Grianán of Aileach, the royal palace and seat of power of the Northern O'Neills, is under question with research recently undertaken by scholars like Dr. Brian Lacey and Andrew Tierney as well as older sources, which have not yet been included into the wider spread understanding of this site.
Forgotten knowledge had been retrieved at the spring equinox of 2012 as the beam of the rising sun was witnessed to half the monument into two equal parts. The alignment of the monument to mark both equinoxes resulted in positioning the monument at the beginning of the southern slope of Greenan Hill, therefore weakening the integrity and stability of the structure itself. If the Grianán would have been built as a stronghold or fort of any description, it would have been placed by its very knowledgeable builders closer to the summit to the north east and away from the slope. It is not very likely that the strength of the walls of a fortification, in times of practical need for protection, would have been sacrificed, so that a beam of light can run through the gate twice a year.
During the Féile Grianán Ailigh on May 20, 2012, members of Eireann Edge, a living history company, took their arms as well as a practical approach to the term of 'holding the fort'.
Photo by David Porter, Buncrana Camera Club
The result of testing the monument for its defencive capabilities came as a surprise. An account of this demonstration can be found here: Grianan Fort may not be a fort after all (article from the Inish Times, July 3, 2012)
The attempt to challenge the so well known name of this monument - Grianán of Aileach - and its purpose, can not be described as voluntarily, only that the evidence in this case forces to re-think strongly held opinions.
'Doubtless, whatever the nature of this monument used to be, it is in its own right royal and a seat of power. But perhaps not necessarily of the man-made power, it is usually attributed with.'