Standing Stones, Baltray
On the north side of Inbher Colpa, near Baltray in Co. Louth, you will find two imposing standing stones that have watched over the river for 5,000 years. This site is relatively unknown and not a common stop for locals or tourists alike. The view alone is worth the short trip from Drogheda.
The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (in Irish Táin Bó Cuailgne, pronounced – Tawn Bow Cool-in-ya), written more than 1,200 years ago, is Ireland's greatest legend and one of Europe's oldest epics. The Boyne Valley is associated with many of the tales central episodes. In this saga Queen Maeve of Connacht and her husband Ailill decide one night to compare their possessions. After much discussion, it becomes evident that Ailill owns a great white bull, Finnbennach, of which Maeve has no equal. There is only one bull in Ireland equal to Finnbennach, the great brown bull of Cooley. Cooley is a peninsula in modern day Co. Louth. Maeve decides she must have the Brown Bull and so begins the story of the Táin. Maeve and her armies set off from the Royal Palace at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon (passing near modern day Kells, Co. Meath) in pursuit of the Brown Bull. The only thing that stands in her way is Cúchulainn, the greatest of all Celtic heroes, who defends the Brown Bull and lands of Ulster, as his fellow warriors lie asleep under a spell.
Cúchulainn and Connla: The standing stones at Baltray are said to be the place where Cúchulainn first met his son Connla who had arrived from Scotland. Unknown to Cúchulainn the Princess Aife had reared his child after he had returned to Ireland following his training in arms by Sacthach in Letha (Scotland). Connla arrived at Baltray at the tender age of seven. Refusing to reveal his identity Cúchulainn challenged the boy. In the fight that ensued in the waters of the Boyne overlooked by the stones, Cúchulainn fatally wounded his son. On realising what he had done, Cúchulainn ordered the men of Ulster to not let any calves go to their cows for three days to commemorate his son.
Image credits: courtesy of Boyne Valley Tours