Living on the edge of Táin territory, Dún Dealgan is a place I’ve long wanted to visit. A couple of weeks ago, I got my chance, as I was writing a piece about his long-suffering wife, Emer.
If this was where Cuchulainn was based during his heroic escapades of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, this is where he must have brought her after they were married, although it seems from the tales that she spent much of her time at the ‘Royal Site’ of Emain Macha.
Dún Dealgan means ‘the stronghold of Dalgan’ in Irish. According to legend, long before it became the home of Ulster’s hero, Cuchulainn, it was originally the site of a fortress constructed by a Fir Bolg chieftain by the name of Delga.
This legendary and historic site is situated on a ridge just outside of Dundalk, overlooking the Castletown River, known also as Abhainn Chaisleán Dhún. It is a lovely location with a fine view of the surrounding rolling countryside, and would have served well as a defensive structure.
Approaching the site, you have to step over a stone stile (I do love stone stiles!), and gravitate along a path which winds up through trees around the side of the motte. This is a pleasant walk which allows those stunning views over the landscape whilst at the same time showing just how deep the ditch is.
The mound itself rises to 10m high. As the path curves to the right, it opens out into a wide flat circular enclosure surrounded by an earthen bank.
After the Anglo-Norman invasion, a motte and bailey (earthern mound crowned with a wooden palisade) was constructed on the site by Bertram III de Verdun during the mid twelfth century. In 1210, it was appropriated for a time by Hugh de Lacy, 1st Earl of Ulster, and then abandoned.
The tower, known as ‘Byrne’s Folly’, which is still standing today was built by a local landowner named Patrick Byrne. He was quite a character by all accounts, as he was reputed to have made his fortune by smuggling. Sadly, his legacy was partially destroyed during the 1798 Rebellion.
The structure was rebuilt as a country home in 1850 by Thomas Vesey Dawson, but soon fell into disrepair, and was further damaged following the 1916 Rising.
Today, it is evident that the local community take great pride in this monument; other than some graffiti on a few of the lovely old trees in the ditch surrounding the site, it is well looked after, and the grounds are very well kept.