Tracing the ancient route, part III

Seoirse O Dochartaigh came by the other day and his new book with the so much needed placenames is now in the safe hands of his printer. Not only should I have asked him for the title, taking notes would have been indeed a good idea. – Because he found the crossing and a couple of rather astonishing islands, giving Aileach Mor the illusive ‘eastern shore’ in Colby‘s Ordnance Survey account, credited to Greenan Hill.

According to late sixteenth and seventeenth century map and shells on the lower slopes of fields, the Greenan -, Holywell hillranges formed an island, south of Inishowen, by water and bog, much like a verta brae holding the head to the shoulders. As a result Greenan Hill and Aileach Mor were separated and crossings would have been in place. One of them was at Bridgend. My guess is that the crossing point on the other side is the eastern flank of Aileach Bheag and keeping east, a road would have lead to Dundrean right through its two raths, which stood like gate posts on the western entrance of Aileach Mor.

Being as certain as I can be about the upper part of the ancient road, leading from the summit of Greenan Hill north eastwards to a farmstead below with traces of an old trackway, I tried now to find another stretch of the road, armed with the knowledge that the road and myself have to come out at Bridgend.


The sky could not have been bluer nor the sun brighter but those winds very firmly held on to their frosty grip. Starting on the Derry to Burt road, which runs parallel to the Buncrana road, I first wondered west into Carrownamaddy, just to have a look at this stretch of the hillrange, and found above the new houses an old stonewall, a few large, flat stones of the right size and shape to have been capstones and one stone marked with a cross.


From there I walked to the large farm at Lisfannon with an old bell gable end. The farmer told me about the old farm house below the Derry to Burt road and that there is a right of way, although the old road/trackway is now gone and has become part of the fields to either side. It seems that the maps are slightly incorrect and everything should be more east and south of the main Letterkenny road. Carrownamaddy, Carrowreagh and Lisfannan lay much closer together than indicated on maps. The Lisfannan farm may stand on the old flax kiln in Griffith’s map, which would account for the bell in the gable end. From there I walked east and having tried to find some indication of the ancient road returned rather puzzled to the derelict cottage, which probably sits either on top or right beside the ancient road. For the time being I have it in my head that the road lead from there to Tummock and than to Bridgend.

For absolutely invisible reasons a thousand years ago Tummock was chosen as the point for the division of Inishowen in the The Rights of the O’Neills.

6. The household of O Neill in Inis Eoghain is made free. And three chieftains were left over them: O Heanna, and he was given as estate from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Tumog Eich I Eanna (where she died), a horse’s run; the estate of O Maolfhabhaill, from Tumog Eich I Eanna to Allta Gorma entering the Breadach; the esate of O Duibhdhiorma, a horse’s run from Allta Gorma to Ard An Chro.

Whatever was there once must have been of importance and I just have to walk my way upwards from there and see where I come out. So far, from the summit to the farmstead to the derelict cottage, the road seems to follow the gentle and wide slope running towards Bridgend. Hopefully Seoirse can shed some light on this mystery with his placenames. Lisfannan points in the direction of an earthen rath or enclosure. As to Tummock and a woman called Eanna …

Photos taken May 8, 2010

One thought

  1. Hi Bettina,

    Just wanted to leave a wee note saying how much I love your blog. I always get so excited when I see you’ve put up new posts- I love hearing about your explorations and discoveries. God, I wish I had a car and the freedom to explore that it gives. You really need one to fully appreciate Inishowen. I was going to give out about the dire lack of public transport around these parts but instead I’ve just had a wee giggle to myself at the thought of a Swilly bus trying to make it up the hill to Grianan. You’ve gotta laugh.

    Anyway, thank you for such a wonderful page and keep up the good work!


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