Cú Chulainn’s Castle (AKA Dún Dealgan Motte) is one of the more unique castles in Ireland.
It’s believed that an ancient Gaelic dun (a medieval fort) once stood on the site where the current castle stands, which was known as the ‘Fort of Dealgan’.
The current structure, which dates back to 1780, has a lovely bit of Irish folklore attached to it, even if parking can be a pain (info below).
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from its history to where to visit nearby. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Cú Chulainn’s Castle
Although a visit to Dún Dealgan Motte is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Cú Chulainn’s Castle is located just outside of Dundalk in County Louth. It’s easily reached just off the N53, on Mount Avenue overlooking the Castletown River.
2. Parking (and a warning)
There’s no parking at the entrance to the castle itself and it’s important that you don’t park right in front of the gates. It’s on a narrow country lane with very little room on either side. However, there is a housing estate (entrance here on Google Maps) just a minute or so walk from the entrance. We’re not saying to park here, but you probably could…
3. The entrance
You can access the castle grounds over a stone fence and gate (here on Google Maps). You’ll see stone steps taking you through the fence just to the left of the gate. From there, you can simply walk up the drive to the castle ruins.
4. Elderly visitors
It’s a steep 5-10 minute walk to up the castle from the gate. It’s likely to be a bit too difficult for elderly visitors or those who struggle with mobility.
The History of Cú Chulainn’s Castle
The site of the current ruins has had various structures built upon it over time, many of which were used as a means of defense.
Below, we’ll take you through the area’s history along with the Cú Chulainn link.
It’s believed that an ancient Gaelic dun (a medieval fort) known as ‘Fort of Dealgan’ once stood on this site, but there’s no reliable sources that can confirm. The earliest recorded account of a dun on the site is only after 1002.
Motte and bailey castles were commonly built after the Norman invasion and were usually a mound of earth topped by a tower. The legendary Dun Dealgan motte on the site is believed to have been built around that time, in the 12th century.
The hilltop fort was a stronghold of Hugh de Lacy, 1st Earl of Ulster in 1210 until he eventually abandoned it to head north when pursued by King John. It was also the site of the Battle of Faughart, during the Bruce campaign in Ireland in the early 1300s.
Current structure’s history
The current structure on the site was built by Patrick Byrne in 1780. It was heavily damaged during the 1798 Rebellion, with only the tower remaining, and was known as Byrne’s Folly.
It was rebuilt in 1850, but has since fallen into disrepair and is now mainly visited by those interested in its folklore and history.
The folklore Around the Castle
The stories about the original pre-Christian fort, Dun Dealgan, are commonly referred to in local history and Irish literature.
It’s believed that the original fort was the birthplace of the legendary warrior, Cú Chulainn. It’s here that the warrior is said to have based himself while fighting in the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
The legend from Irish mythology tells that the standing stone marks his burial site, which can be seen in the field to the right as you wander along the entrance lane.
Things to Do Near Cú Chulainn’s Castle
One of the beauties of Cú Chulainn’s Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Louth.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Cú Chulainn’s Castle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Proleek Dolmen (10-minute drive)
Just a 10-minute drive around the northern side of Dundalk, Proleek Dolmen is an incredible capstone which weighs about 35 tons and supported by three free standing stones. The portal tomb is on the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel and is one of the finest examples of its kind in the country. It’s believed to have been carried to Ireland by a Scottish giant, and stands around 3m high.
2. Roche Castle (10-minute drive)
Further out northwest from Cú Chulainn’s Castle’s is another old castle ruin. Roche Castle is a 13th century era fortress with a unique triangular layout and incredible panoramic views from the hilltop. Similar to Cú Chulainn’s Castle, Roche Castle has a storied past, with legends attached to the original build by Lady Rohesia de Verdun.
3. Blackrock Beach (20-minute drive)
Just south of Dundalk and a 20-minute drive from Cú Chulainn’s Castle, Blackrock Beach is the perfect place to head when the sun is shining. The resort village of Blackrock is a popular summer destination, with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to explore. Or you can enjoy a wander along the old promenade to stretch your legs with sea views.
4. The Cooley Peninsula (10-minute drive)
Just around from Cú Chulainn’s Castle, the Cooley Peninsula is the hilly peninsula north of Dundalk. It’s known as being home to the tale of Táin Bó Cúailnge with a rich history in Irish literature. You can tackle one of the many things to do in Carlingford, like the tough Slieve Foye Loop or the popular Carlingford Greenway.
FAQs about visiting Cú Chulainn’s Castle
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘When was it built?’ to ‘Where do you park?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Cú Chulainn’s Castle worth visiting?
If you’re in the area and you have an interest in history and folklore, yes – just make sure to see our note above about the walk up to it.
Where do you park for Cú Chulainn’s Castle?
Don’t park on the side of the road – it’s narrow and parking here is dangerous. At the top of our guide, you’ll find a location on Google Maps to park.
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.