Proleek Dolmen in County Louth is a portal tomb of epic proportions. The capstone weighs between 35-40 tons, and at its peak is over 4 metres in height. It is supported by two portal stones over 2 metres in height and a slightly smaller backstone, which is buttressed by a modern concrete support.
Proleek Dolmen is situated at the rear of a golf course which detracts somewhat from the experience of visiting this fine monument. Usually people take the signposted path through the course to the stones however on my visit I decided to try and find a different route through fields to the rear of the golf course. Personally I’d recommend doing this as its more isolated and quiet and once the capstone comes into sight behind the hedgerows it’s a more dramatic sight to behold.
It is understandable that much folklore is ascribed to this wonderful monument. It has been referred to in the past as ‘The Giant’s Load’ as it was believed to have been carried here by a Scottish giant named ‘Parrah Boug MacShagean’. A story recounted many times, including in Ordnance Survey Letters from 1836, state that this is the place where Parrah Bough and Fionn Mac Cumhaill met. When Parrah arrived in Ireland he asked Fionn’s wife to show him where Fionn ate his meals, she told him and Parrah went to this place, killed a bullock, cooked it and ate. When he had finished eating he went to the Flurry river which runs close to Proleek to satisfy his thirst but Fionn threw poison into the river and killed the giant. Parrah was believed to have been interred in the fine wedge tomb that stands close to the Dolmen.
The translation of the name of this monument is unclear, with linguistics suggesting it may be the ‘Death Stones’ or the ‘Dinner Stones’. As it is situated on the Cooley Peninsula, the site of much of the Irish epic tale ‘Táin Bó Cuailgne’ the Portal Tomb was described by one writer in 1908 as, ‘the grave of some fallen chieftain from a battle in the Táin’.
A local tradition that is followed to the present day is that a wish would be granted to anyone who can throw a pebble from the ground and land it on top of the capstone without it falling off, the amount of pebbles on the capstone on the day of my visit shows how commonly practiced this local tradition is. Another branch of this belief states that those who can throw a pebble onto the capstone will be married before the end of the year!
Excavations at Proleek yielded cremated and uncremated human remains, and fragments of pottery, ornaments and stone implements. It is dated to around 3000BC. Some theorists have proposed that the tomb is aligned so that its portal stones point towards Slieve Gullion and the setting sun of the summer solstice.
GPS: 54.03718, -6.34825