As one of the finest examples of a portal tomb in the country, a visit to Proleek Dolmen is a must on any road trip to the Cooley Peninsula.
Situated on the grounds to the popular Ballymascanlon Hotel, Proleek Dolmen is believed to have been built in the earlier part of the Neolithic period.
That means it’s likely to date back to around 3000 BC! In the guide below, you’ll find info on its history and how to reach it.
Some quick need-to-knows about visiting Proleek Dolmen
Although a visit to Proleek Dolmen is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
There’s no parking next to the dolmen, but it’s conveniently on the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel (here on Google Maps). You can park up at the hotel car park, have a coffee or lunch in the hotel and then head out following the path to the tomb.
3. The walk to the dolmen
It’s around a 5-10 minute walk from the car park at the hotel to the dolmen. You’ll need to walk for around 400 metres along a solid path through the hotel’s golf course.
The History of Proleek Dolmen
The portal tomb at Proleek is one of over 170 ancient dolmens that can be found dotted right the way around Ireland.
Proleek is one of the best examples of this type of tomb and it’s believed to be very old.
History of portal tombs
Portal tombs date back to the earlier part of the Neolithic period and are found mostly in the northern half of Ireland. The dolmen at Proleek is said to date back to around 3000 BC.
They were primarily used for burials in which the cremated remains of people were placed in the tomb accompanied by special goods.
Design and appearance
While some dolmens differ slightly in appearance, Proleek is what you’d describe as a ‘classic’ portal dolmen.
It has two free standing stones around two metres high and a back stone supporting the capstone which weighs around 40 tonnes.
Folklore surrounding the dolmen
There are a couple of local legends surrounding the dolmen. The first is that it was carried to Ireland by the famous Scottish giant, Para Buidhe Mor Mhac Seoidin, who is said to be buried at the wedge tomb nearby.
The second legend says that you will be married within a year if you can throw three pebbles over your head and on top of the capstone without them falling off.
Wedge tomb located nearby
Just a short distance away from Proleek Dolmen is a wedge tomb which was likely constructed around 2500 BC. Wedge tombs are quite common around Ireland, with over 500 examples found across the country.
However, the proximity of the two monuments is quite a mystery, as they were constructed many years apart and likely by a completely different cultural group.
Getting to Proleek Dolmen
Getting to Proleek Dolmen is simple once you arrive at the Ballymascanlon Hotel.
It’s around a 5-10 minute walk from the car park at the hotel to the dolmen. It’s on a solid path through the golf course for around 400 metres, accessible to most people.
Things to do at Proleek Dolmen
If you’re visiting the dolmen and looking to make an afternoon of it, your best bet is to pair a visit with food in the hotel.
Here’s a couple of things to do while you’re there (you’ll find places to visit nearby in the next section).
1. Grab lunch or coffee in Ballymascanlon Hotel
If you’ve been in the car for a while, you can drop into the hotel and have a bite to eat or a coffee. While it’s obviously an optional part of a trip to Proleek Dolmen, it’s a good spot for a bite-to-eat.
The hotel has an indoor dining area or stylish terrace bar, with delicious fresh seafood and an extensive drinks menu.
2. Then stroll through the grounds to the dolmen
From the car park, there is a footpath for 300-400 metres to reach the dolmen. It’s a firm surface path, and suitable for most people to use.
It takes you from the hotel, through the golf course and onto the historical site.
Things to do near Proleek Dolmen
One of the beauties of the Proleek Dolmen 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 the dolmen (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Annaloughan Loop Walk (10-minute drive)
Just a bit further down on the Cooley Peninsula, the Annaloughan Loop Walk starts and finishes conveniently at Fitzpatricks restaurant and bar. It’s one of the more popular walks in Louth and covers around 8km on a moderate graded trail. You’ll be rewarded with outstanding views over the bay and surrounding hills, while taking you through forest and over a mountain.
2. Ravensdale Forest (10-minute drive)
Just north of Proleek Dolman and Ballymascanlon Hotel is the Ravensdale Forest Recreation Area. There are several different trails to tackle here, with the shortest taking around 1.5 hours to complete, depending on pace.
3. The Cooley Peninsula Drive (start at the dolmen)
The historic Cooley Peninsula stretches out to sea above Dundalk town. The stunning coastal strip of land is home to plenty of walking trails, beautiful green forest and historical sites to explore. You can tackle the Slieve Foye Loop or try one of the many things to do in Carlingford.
4. Blackrock Beach (20-minute drive)
There’s some stunning beaches in Louth, and the mighty Blackrock Beach is one of the best. You can grab a coffee in the town first and then saunter along the promenade and then onto the sand, while soaking up mountain views.
FAQs about visiting Proleek Dolmen
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How old is it?’ to ‘How do you get to it?’.
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 Proleek Dolmen worth visiting?
If you’re nearby and have an interest in history, yes, but it’s probably not worth going too far out of your way to get to it.
How do you actually get to Proleek Dolmen?
Proleek Dolmen is located on the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel. It’s a short, 5-10-minute walk from the car 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.