The word ‘Portal’ evokes mysterious images of a doorway into a new domain, a pathway into a new realm.The Oxford Dictionary defines the word as, “ A doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large and imposing one. In Ireland the word has become synonymous with mysterious Portal Dolmens which lie scattered throughout our ancient green encrusted landscape. These mystical structures conjure up scenes of Wizardly magic where one world meets the next and where our ancient forefathers gathered to conduct all sorts of strange and other worldly rituals.
One of the finest examples of these structures lies just across the border from Northern Ireland in County Louth, a place which is steeped in story and history . The Proleek Portal Dolmen is one of the most magnificent of its kind in Ireland. The Dolmen itself is located on the grounds of the Ballymascanlon Hotel on the outskirts of Dundalk and is surrounded by the panoramic views of the legendary Cooley and Carlingford Peninsular.
Traditionally, Portal Dolmens have two larger stones in the front section( portal stones) and smaller stones at the back which all act to support a gigantic capstone which is placed on top. The structure located in County Louth dates from the neolithic period of around 3,000 BC. The tomb points directly towards the Mountain of Slieve Gullion in County Armagh, which also, oddly enough, has a passage tomb right at the top of the summit. Experts also believe that the Proleek Dolmen is located to line up directly with the Summer Solstice, which would fit nicely into the ancient Celtic desire of paying homage to the sun and the various seasons .
So what where these structures really for? There is no definitive answer to this question but the best guess we have is that Portal Dolmens would have been used by the Celts to place the cremated remains of their loved ones inside. Evidence found at many of these place also suggest that the Celts placed items of sentimental value inside the tombs perhaps to smooth the passage of their loved ones in any supposed journey to the afterlife.
When it comes to the Proleek Dolem there are many mythical tales which surround the ancient structure. Folklore has it that the Dolem, known as the Giants Load, was carried to its current location by the Scottish giant Para Boug MachShagean. Para had challenged the Irish giant Finn McCool to one on one combat but the wily Finn poisoned a nearby well which Para Drank from resulting in the Scottish Giant dieing and being buried at the Proleek Dolem. Other local tradition has it that if a visitor can manage to land three stones on top of the Dolmen that they will be granted whatever wish that their heart desires. Other tradition suggests that if someone can land three stones on top that they will fall in love and will be married within the year.
The Tomb in Proleek has a huge capstone weighing a gigantic 35 tons and however it got there it certainly was a remarkable feat of engineering orchestrated by our Celtic forefathers. And whether the stone got there by being lifted by a Scottish Giant one thing is for sure and that is that it will remain there for many years to come as a testament to the history, stories, and myths that are passed down from one generation to the next.