‘Ring the changes’

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The Office of Public Works has said it currently has “no plans to add visitor facilities” at the iconic Grianan of Aileach monument despite concerns that tourists are unable to adequately access the facility.

The OPW told the ‘Journal’ after it emerged a group of tourists could not gain access to the ringfort and had to walk from the bottom of the road up to the popular monument in the rain.

The OPW confirmed that, on this occasion, frost on the access route was identified as a potential “health and safety issue” for visitors and the decision was taken to close off the site. They said that health and safety signage is currently being prepared to “identify such risks” and “should be available for display on site in the coming weeks.”

However, local residents say the incident is not an isolated one and many issues emerge when the access gate is closed. Buses - packed with tourists - are having difficulties when turning, particularly if there is more than one in the area. Many people are forced to walk from the bottom of the road, up to the fort.

On the ‘Facebook’ page of ‘Burt Residents,’ on which the issue was first raised, it was stated that those who couldn’t access the site included the elderly and wedding parties who were getting photographs taken.

The gate to Grianan of Aileach was put in place to protect the monument. There have now been calls for better facilities to be put in place, for example a turning lane for buses and toilets for visitors, close to the site but far enough away so that it would not disturb its natural beauty.

Recently, County Councillor Jack Murray called upon Donegal County Council to meet with the OPW to confirm their plans and aspirations for the future of the popular ring fort. He stated the OPW had not stepped up to the mark in their responsibilities towards it compared to other monuments across the country.

In their response to the ‘Journal,’ the OPW pointed out that the opening times for the monument were seven days per week, 1st November to 15th March 10am to 4pm; 16th March to 30th April 10am to 6pm; 1st May to 15th June 9am to 7.30 pm; 16th June to 15th August 9am to 9pm; 16th August to 30th September 9am to 7.30pm; Ist October to 31st October 10am to 6pm.

A spokesperson added: “These opening times are displayed on the site Notice Board. Changes may have to be made due to daylight hours, health and safety reasons works on site. Arrangements to open are carried out by the key-holder with responsibility for the National Monument.” They added that while, at present, there are no plans to add visitor facilities, work will commence in the new year to provide a new access boardwalk and associated landscaping works.