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Proleek Dolmen, County Louth

Proleek Dolmen and gallery grave, Co. Louth

The megalithic dolmen at Proleek, located in the legendary Cooley Peninsula, is one of the finest examples in Ireland, and is widely photographed and documented. Access to the dolmen is through the grounds of a hotel, and then across a golf course, but it is well worth a visit. Nearby is a wedge tomb, or gallery grave.

Proleek Dolmen

Proleek portal tomb in silhouette
The Proleek dolmen, or portal tomb, consists of a chamber which faces towards the northwest. The giant roof stone, which measures 3.8m by 3.2m, is estimated to weigh about 30 tonnes or more, and is supported on two portal stones, each about 2.3 metres high. The archaeological term portal tomb is derived from the belief that the two large upright stones act as a portal or doorway into the burial chamber. It has been suggested the dolmen may once have been covered with a cairn of stones, but no evidence of this can be found. One of the support stones is buttressed by a modern stone and concrete support.
Proleek dolmen from front
From behind - notice modern buttressing


There are a number of smaller stones on the top of the roof stone. This is because there is a local folklore tale that says if you throw a stone up onto the roofstone and it stays up there, you will be married within a year! Another legend about the site tells why the capstone is known as the "Giant's Load". Apparently, it was carried to this point by a giant, said to be a Scottish giant, called Parrah Boug MacShagean, who according to local stories is buried nearby.

Portal tombs date from around 3000BC, and were built by Neolithic farming communities. Burials, usually cremated, were placed in the tomb and often accompanied by flint and stone implements, bone beads and pins, and fragments of coarse hand-made pottery.

Different sources give different estimations for the weight of the capstone, from 30 to 46 tonnes. Experts are still at a loss to explain how the ancients moved such a huge stone into position.

Dolmen from the south
Proleek wedge tomb
Proleek wedge tomb
The nearby wedge tomb (gallery grave). The gallery grave at Proleek. 


You can see more information about what a dolmen is can be found here. More about the history and legend of the Cooley Peninsula can be found here, while there is a beautiful photograph of the dolmen here.

All information and photos, except where otherwise stated, copyright, © Anthony Murphy, 1999-2015
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