Holywell Hill – Part 3

Having been unable to work out any connection between Greenan and Holywell Hill in the comfort of my home, I went for a walk along Lough Swilly on a very agreeable afternoon, in the hope that motion and fresh air might proof beneficial to gain some progress on the matter. And on my way back it dawned on me, that the sun could set behind the Grianán, when standing on Holywell Hill, and it may just be possible that this would happen on the summer solstice.
So I returned, that very evening on May 30. If I could see at least roughly where the sun is setting, I would know, if my airy notion would stand a chance or be precisely just that. The sky was clear enough as I left but by the time I arrived on the cairn at Holywell, a band of clouds covered the west, just above the hills and rather frustratingly leaving the north and east perfectly clear. Despite being unable to establish a more precise point of the setting sun, I seemed to be not far off, although the sun could still set behind Inch Top to the south or go down into the Swilly further north. It would move, after all, 21 degree until summer solstice.


Inch Top left of the Grianán




To be more certain I returned on the evening of June 7 and having by now an improved familiarity of site and sights, I noticed a problem, which possible solution would require a very long sunset. The dilemma comes in the shape of the higher hills of Fanad. When standing on the cairn or in its close vicinity, Grianán is overshadowed by these hills by about ‘an inch‘, barely distinguishable from their silhouette, except for a small notch between two hills. A position which has to be carefully tuned.
So I contemplated that by going back and further down, this may raise the Grianán and as a result clear it from the Fanad Hills behind. And from this lower point I could see the monument, proudly set against the burning sky, free from higher hills.
All I can hope for now is one clear evening and being fortunate enough to live in such northern spheres, I should get the prolonged sunset needed.

The reverse should be possible for a sunrise behind the Grianán on a certain date, although I am not entirely sure, if one has to be standing on Cornamount Hill or Inch Top. Theoretically, it should be visible from both, only at different times. The date will be all important. It will be interesting to see, if the three hill tops with burials on this former vertebrae island will come up with an alignment.


The three hills in question as seen from the Lisfannon hill range

H – Holywell
G – Greenan
C – Cornamount

One thought

  1. Stunning sunset photos! I hope you get your clear evening to solve the mystery once and for all. I am trying to imagine the land below the hills immersed in crystal waters, leaving the islands sitting proud. It’s so wondrous to think of history and times gone by, how our landscape was shaped & how life was back then.. Thanks so much for sharing!

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