Which is the most considerable of those in the Lower Lake, containing about eighty plantation
p.46acres, is connected, by a causeway and bridge, with the main land: in summer, the morass, separating the island from the continent, is completely dry; but in winter, Ross becomes again perfectly insulated. On this island, or rather peninsula, stands Ross castle, which held out so obstinately, under Lord Muskery, in 1652, against the English, commanded by General Ludlow.
Upon the 26th of July, in that year, at Knockniclachy, in the county of Cork, a battle was fought between Lord Muskery, at the head of the Irish, and the Lord Broghil, commander of the English forces, in which the former were defeated with great slaughter, and Colonel Mac-Gillicuddy, a native of Kerry, and greatly beloved by the Irish, slain. Upon this defeat, Lord Muskery withdrew to Ross castle, whither he was followed by General Ludlow, with a body of four thousand foot and two hundred horse.12 This experienced officer and upright statesman thus describes the siege of Ross castle:In this expedition I was accompanied by the Lord Broghil, and Sir Hardress Waller,13 major-general of the foot. Being arrived at this place, I was informed that the enemy received continual supplies from those parts that lay on the other side, and were covered with woods
p.47and mountains; whereupon I sent a party of two thousand foot to clear those woods, and to find out some convenient place for erecting a fort, if there should be occasion. These forces met with some opposition, but at last they routed the enemy, killing some, and taking others prisoners; the rest saved themselves by their good footmanship. Whilst this was doing, I employed that part of the army which was with me in fortifying a neck of land, where I designed to leave a party to keep in the Irish on this side, that I might be at liberty, with the greatest part of the horse and foot, to look after the enemy abroad, and to receive and convoy such boats, and other things necessary, as the commissioners sent us by sea. When we had received our boats, each of which was capable of containing one hundred and twenty men, I ordered one of them to be rowed about the water, in order to find out the most convenient place for landing upon the enemy; which they perceiving, thought fit, by a timely submission, to prevent the danger that threatened them; and, having expressed their desires to that purpose, commissioners were appointed on both parts to treat.
The garrison of Ross castle was greatly intimidated, and urged to a surrender, by the appearance of an armed vessel floating on lough Lein; for there was a prophecy amongst the inhabitants,
p.48that the castle would not be taken until a vessel of war was seen to swim upon the Lake. The fact is, that nothing would have been more improbable than that a ship of war should ever have appeared upon the Lake of Killarney; and had it not been for the unerring energy of Ludlow, in the discharge of his trust, the long boats, sent by the parliament to Castlemain, had never been hauled up shallow streams, and carried over rugged tracts of land.
The surrender of this castle terminated hostilities in Munster, and induced about five thousand of the Irish to lay down their arms. The conditions of the treaty of Ross castle were accurately fulfilled by parliament, by which Lord Broghil was granted one thousand pounds yearly, out of the estates of Lord Muskery. The castle, which was built by the family of O'Donoghoe-Ross,14 is now an important ruin, standing upon a rock: it consists of a lofty, square building, with embattled parapets, formerly enclosed by a curtain wall, having round flankers at each corner, the ruins of which are yet visible. The interior possesses some extremely well proportioned apartments; and from the battlements may be had a most extensive panoramic view of
p.49Mangerton, Turk, Glenà, and all the surrounding scenery. A small building has been erected against one of the side walls of the castle, for the accommodation of an officer and a company of men, which does not harmonize very well with the general character of the scene, and is particularly hurtful to the eye, in looking from Inisfallen towards Mangerton. There is a governor also on the establishment of Ross castle; and a garrison was kept here in 1690, in the wars between William and James. (See Articles of Limerick.)
The Island of Ross is of considerable extent, and though the woods were cut down in 1803, they have sprung up again sufficiently high to upbraid their destroyer and delight the admirer of the beauties of nature. On Ross island are to be found great varieties of trees and plants, oaks, yews, &c. Amongst the plants are the spleenwort, the true-love, or one berry, which the peasantry make use of as an excellent specific in malignant fevers; the tutsan, or park leaves, which is supposed to possess healing powers: the raspberry-tree; the common mother-thyme; the service-tree, &c.
Here lead and copper are to be had in great abundance; and though the working of the mines is discontinued, yet it is rather for want of capital in the proprietors, than from a deficiency of ore.
p.50These mines were worked at a very early period, and some of the rude implements used for breaking down the ore, are to be found on the island; they are large oval stones, quite smooth, and round the centre of each is a mark, evidently caused by the fastening on of a convenient handle: they are called, by the country people, Dane hammers, a belief still existing that they were formerly used by those invaders. Besides the various ores, there is a vein of tolerably rich marble in the centre of the island, used frequently by the peasantry for tomb-stones, which they seldom omit placing over the remains of their relatives.
The shores of Ross island are beautiful and interesting in the extreme, being deeply indented, and possessing endless variety of commanding promontory, and retiring bay; the rocks along its margin are worn into the most fanciful shapes, for every group of which the helms-man is supplied with an appropriate appellation; the most aptly denominated are those to be seen in passing from Ross bay to Inisfallen, called the Books.
Immediately opposite the little wharf, erected for convenience of strangers embarking, is Lord Kenmare's boat-house, where a number of large boats, in excellent order, are sheltered and preserved for the public use, the deep water, at that side of the bay, being the most desirable for this
p.51purpose. Near the boat-house is a spot from whence the effect of a bugle, with the mouth directed to Ross castle, infinitely exceeds any other echo to be met with about the Lakes; the first echo is returned from the castle, the second from the ruined church of Aghadoe, the third from Mangerton, and, afterwards, innumerable reverberations are distinguished, which appear like the faded brilliancy of an extremely multiplied reflexion, lost by distance and repetition.
Besides having the advantage of an expanse of water, with a tranquil surface, such as Lough Lein possesses in a mild summer's evening, the castle is situated in the centre of an amphitheatre of mountains. For these reasons it is, that the return of sound from Ross castle, at evening time, will be found more curious than in any other situation about the Lakes, contrary to the general belief, and of this the tourist can satisfy himself by experiment.