Proleek Dolmen & Court Tomb

The sights at Proleek were another unexpected treat during my latest trip.  I hadn’t heard of the dolmen or court tomb prior to the trip, and only learned about its existence after my mother made an offhand comment to our B&B host at The Highlands, Marie, that I seemed determined to drag her to every megalith in Ireland.  Marie took interest immediately and asked if I’d heard of the dolmen just 15 minutes away.  When I shook my head, she assured me she’d have directions for us in the morning.

The site, she explained, is kept somewhat a secret due to its location.  Rather than on a remote hilltop like Loughcrew, or out in the middle of a field like the Browneshill Dolmen, Proleek sets in a very ironic spot – the middle of a golf course owned by a high-end hotel.

That’s right – a 5,000 year old sacred site now can only be reached by dodging golf balls. But the hotel provides easy access to visitor, even if they don’t advertise their hidden attraction.

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Still tired from our long drive the night before, my mom decided to rest in the car and sent me on down the trail alone.  It had a different feel to it than walking to Loughcrew, less like stepping back in time and more like setting off on an ordinary stroll down well manicured garden paths.

I passed several golfers on my way to the dolmen (and even more signs reminding visitors to watch out for golf balls), but met no one else on the path.  After wondering if maybe I’d somehow taken a wrong turn, I rounded one last corner and the court tomb came into sight.

Proleek Court Tomb

The sign beside the site offered no information, merely a reminder to keep off the grass.  And though small compared to other megaliths, it left me renewed and eager to push onward.

I didn’t have to wait much longer to see the dolmen, however, as it came into view almost as soon as the court tomb fell out of sight.  The concrete path curved around the dolmen before circling back, allowing me to look at it from every angle without stepping on the hotel’s golf course.

Unlike the court tomb, the dolmen did have a signpost that told a little about the site.  It explained that Proleek gets its name from a word meaning obscure, because not much is truly known about it.  It’s suggested a cairn might have once covered the monument, though no evidence of one has been found.

It’s also worth noting that the site has been altered – one of the portal stones has been reinforced with concrete and smaller stones sometime since the dolmen’s discovery.  And, if you look closely at the capstone, you’ll notice a number of smaller stones.  Local superstition holds that if you toss a stone on it and it stays, you’ll be married within the year.

Proleek Dolmen

Unfortunately, even after returning to the States, I’ve not been able to find much information about either the dolmen or the court tomb.  Multiple sites refer to Proleek as being one of Ireland’s most easily recognized dolmens, but little else is ever said.  The site lives up to its name in that sense, retaining obscurity in even such an open, modern space.


Admission to both the dolmen and court tomb is free during daylight hours.  However, as these sites are on the hotel’s grounds, please remember to be respectful and stay on the designated walkways.

If you wish to see more of photos from Proleek, please check out my dA account here.


Additional Links & Resources:

Ancient Ireland: Proleek DolmenCourt Tomb

Discover Ireland: Proleek Dolmen

Megalithic Ireland: Proleek

Mythical Ireland:  Proleek

Old Mellifont Abbey

In 1142, Mellifont Abbey was founded by St Malachy, the Archbishop of Armagh, and became Ireland’s first Cistercian abbey.  In its hay day, it ruled over 38 other monasteries in Ireland as Mother house of the Order, but was eventually disbanded by King Henry VIII in 1539.

Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Mellifont gets its name from the Latin Font Mellis, meaning “fountain of honey,” and its monks were known for keeping bees, as well as other tasks.  Also of note, the abbey was the first in Ireland to follow European cloistral plan, with buildings built around a central open space.

Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Today the site sits in ruins, with its lavabo (where the abbey’s monks would wash) being the most impressive feature.  The chapter house is also still standing, along with part of the medieval gate house.

The lavabo.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia

Many visitors have said the site is small and can be underwhelming, but with its close proximity to Monasterboice, I feel it would still be worth a look.

Admission to the site is 3 euro per adult, 2 euro for seniors and 1 euro for children.  It is a heritage site, meaning heritage card owners are given free entrance.  Guided tours are available, and there are picnic areas for those who bring something to eat.

Additional links & Resources:

Discover Ireland

The Gold Book:  Ireland, pages 60-61

Heritage Ireland: Old Mellifont Abbey

Monasterboice Monastic Site

Monasterboice is about 13 minutes from Old Mellifont Abbey in County Louth.  The site was built in the early 6th century by St. Buite and features two churches, the second tallest of Ireland’s round towers, and three high crosses, including the tallest high cross in all of Ireland.

Monasterboice ruins.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia

All three of Monasterboice’s crosses date from the 10th century.  At 21 feet, the West Cross holds the title of Ireland’s tallest high cross.  Over time, however, its ornate carvings have weathered and faded, though some can still be seen.

The West Cross.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

The illustrations on Muiredach’s Cross are much more easily visible, and its height of 18 feet is still quite impressive.  The site’s third cross, the North Cross, appears to have suffered the most damage over time – its original shaft was replaced at some point in time, and only one depiction appears on its face.

East face of Muiredach’s Cross.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Monasterboice’s round tower stands at 93.5 meters tall, and served as both a beacon for pilgrims and a shelter for the monastery’s monks during viking raids.  Its door is only six feet off the ground – much lower than the norm for round towers – leading experts to believe the tower has sunk over the years.  With its cap (now missing) and height lost taken into consideration, it would have been much taller than it is today.

Monasterboice’s Round Tower.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

In 1097, a fire in the tower destroyed the monastery’s library and many treasures.  The site was still in use until around 1142 though, at which point nearby Mellifont Abbey rose to prominence in the area.

Monasterboice.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Guided tours are available upon request, and the site itself is free, open all year round during daylight hours.

Something to keep in mind when visiting the site, however, is that the car park is located a distance away from the site, and cars being broken into is common enough to warrant warning signs.  Some recommend visiting in pairs, with one person staying with the car while the other looks around, and all say to take any valuables with you if you do decide to leave your car unattended.

 

Additional links & Resources:

Boyne Valley Tours

Discover Ireland

The Gold Book:  Ireland, page 61