We had just left Northern Ireland and had crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland when we pulled off the road at the Grianan of Aileach. It is one of 30 hilltop forts that have been preserved since the 6th century. This fort is thought to have been built by the Northen Ui Neill people and was the seat of royalty of the king during the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age.
We entered the fort and saw that there were three layers of steps following the circular pattern of the outer walls. From the top of the fort we could see out for miles to the neighboring counties. The threatening clouds rippling over the green land gave a very mystical feel that added to the ancient structure we were standing on.
Back in the day when this fort was in use, the center area would have been full of small houses and shops. At only 77 feet across, it did not offer a large space for all the people who lived here. The fort came to ruin sometime around 1100 when the fort was invaded by Normans and lay abandoned until 1830 when it was surveyed and then reconstructed by George Petrie.
I had circled the top tier admiring the views from every side. I had just started on my second loop around on the second tier. My aunt told me to stop so she could take my picture. Just as the picture was taken, a large bird swooped down coming within inches of my head. In trying to get away from the bird, I stepped too far and slipped off the ledge of the tier onto the one below, which was only a few feet down. I scraped up my hand on the rock and banged my knee of the wall as I landed.
I finished walking around the circle and came down the steps to the main area where my aunt was looking at a small hole, about knee high, at the bottom of the rock. She bent down to get a better look inside when a fox sped out from his burrow in the rock and took off across the grass. She shrieked with surprise as she jumped back.
Between the two of us, the fort had certainly offered some unexpected surprises in the animals we had encountered there. We laughed as we got back in the car that of all the pictures we had taken of the fort and around the fort, not one of them really portrayed our experience there and our funny moments dodging animals.