Monday, 29 June 2015

The Summer Solstice @ The Grianan of Aileach

Summer in the Northwest has begun in earnest; however the long clear evenings are already numbered. The Summer Solstice occurs depending on the shift of the calendar, sometime between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere. The summer solstice day has the longest period of daylight – except in the Polar Regions.

The solstice is also known as the birthday of the sun. Worldwide, interpretation of this event has varied among cultures, but most mark the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around the time with themes of religion or fertility. 

Here in the Northwest, the Summer Solstice was celebrated on Sunday 21st of June, 2015. Organised by the local community volunteers, the Grianan of Aileach, is an ancient and very appropriate site for such a special ritual. The original site that dates back to 1700BC is surmounts the hilltop at 800 feet above sea level. The ancient fort looks out over the beautiful waters of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, providing breathtaking views of Inch Island below, and an excellent panorama of Counties Donegal, Derry, Antrim and Tyrone.

The highlight of the morning was the presence of Inishowen Traditional Musicians and the Codetta Choir. Music was provided at various intervals, from 01:30am until 07:00am, both within and encircling The Grianán Fort, with a special Dawn Chorus by the choir heralding “Here comes the sun”. A warm welcome was extended to the RTE film crew that attended the event who are currently recording content and imagery along the “Wild Atlantic Way”. 

Inishowen Tourism Development Officer, Heidi Woods attended the event on Sunday morning from 1am taking vital visitor statistics that provided overall visitor numbers and place of residence. People came from the local community, but also far and wide. Visitors from a diverse range of countries such as the UK, USA, France, Netherlands, Canada, Korea, Mexico and Honolulu were amongst the crowd celebrating here in Inishowen at our Summer Solstice. The shuttle bus took visitors up to Grianán Fort, enabling people of different abilities to gain access to the celebrations in comfort and bringing them back down again. The event was very well coordinated and catering facilities were made available in terms of Teas, coffees & hot food. Dill’s specialty, Dexter Beef was provided courtesy of Sam and Cathy throughout the morning. 

Those that came along to participate in this event for whatever their individual reason, whether it was the Pagan Vicar and his family, or the city dweller seeking some spiritual experience, the far away visitor wanting to be part of an alternative Irish cultural; event, or the lively company of sharing with friends, all had determined this was the place to experience midsummer in one of the most ancient & historic sites in Burt, Inishowen, County Donegal.

Clouds veiled the sunrise initially, as people drifted away so did the clouds, revealing the sun in all her splendour. As in all life, nature does not conform to our order. Driving away the sun’s filtered rays flashed colours through the rear car windows. Leaving this special place was the time to reflect on the commitment of the community organizers and volunteers. Without them this event would not have been shared with so many people from near and far. A strong sense of community is always a heartening and holds promise for the future of our little corner of the world that is Inishowen.

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