A bend of the River Quoile can be seen in the left background and, in the right foreground, is the Mound of Down or Rathkeltair. There is much debate concerning this site. One of the major earthworks of Ulster, some believe that it was the residence of Celtchar mac Ulthechair, the legendary Iron Age hero of the Ulster Cycle. In any case, it seems to have become the administrative centre of the Kings of Dál Fiatach by the early Christian period.
In 1177 John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight from Somerset who had come over with Henry II in 1171, marched north from Dublin with 22 horsemen and about 300 soldiers. The force was joined by Irish allies at the plain of Muirhevna.
Courcy then pushed north into Ulster. He then attacked the capital
of the kingdom of Dál Fiatach and surprised the defence so
much that the local ruler, Rory MacDunleavy, had to flee. MacDunleavy
as high-king of the Ulaidh returned a weeklater with a large force.
The fierce and bloody battle was fought along the River Quoile but
de Courcy held on to his position. De Courcy used his position in
Downpatrick to colonise much of eastern Down and Antrim. He was eventually
ousted himself by another Anglo-Norman, Hugh de Lacy, in 1199.