I never beheld the beauteous golden stars of heaven with more angry eyes than on the morning of the fifth of October, as, equipped for my journey, I stood alone and undisturbed in the street of Tralee, whilst minute after minute elapsed without the arrival of the mail-coach, which was here to pick me up, and convey me to Killarney. At last I looked at my watch, and then discovered, to my great annoyance, that the careless waiter had driven me out of bed and into my boots, out of the sheets into my travelling cloak, at four instead of six o'clock. The God of Sleep was now too far gone to be recalled. I therefore left my luggage in the coach-office, with a request that it might be transferred to the coach on its arrival, and wandered forth on foot, to pass the time and be picked up on the road. It was a beautiful October morning, and as the stars looked down so friendly on me, in despite of my vexation, I at length became reconciled to them, and in the society of these thousands of beautiful worlds, I plodded along my lonely road into the county of Kerry.
It has been remarked that the hours previous to the dawn of morning, when every one is buried in the deepest sleep, are those most favourable to the robber. But numerous as murders and personal offences are in Ireland, the wanderer has seldom any thing to fear, certainly much less than in Italy, Spain, and some other countries. The Irish are a restless and rebellious people, but not a nation of banditti. Their state of bondage affords too good a reason for the former, whilst their hospitality is a sufficient security against the latter. Personal offences are therefore seldom connected with plunder, but are, in general, the result rather of revenge and hatred, arising from personal quarrels and injuries. Inglis, in his work on Ireland, states that out of 199 criminal cases which were tried at the Kerry quarter sessions, 10 only were for larceny, whilst 74 were cases of riotous assemblies, 34 of rescue, and 47 of personal assaults. It must also be remembered that the county of Kerry belongs to the less disturbed counties, as the English call them. Assaults, resistance to the lawful authorities, and riotous assembliesthese are the principal crimes of the Irish.
As yet I had been unable to form any notion of the aspect of the country south of Tralee, in which I was wandering; and when at last the sun began to rise, the landscape presented the appearance of a great sea, in which the tops of a number of black mountains represented islands. The whole of the plain was enveloped in a dense white fog; but as the summits of the hills remained clear, I could reckon them whenever I came on a rising ground. When the mail-coach at length picked me up, we soon worked through this stratum of mist, as the Russian peasants in winter work their way through the snow; but I can give little account of the country through which we passed in this way, until we came to the far-famed Killarney, the aim and goal of many who wander
Thomas Moore's poems have certainly contributed much to the celebrity of many places in Ireland, as well as the patriotic Irish Penny Magazine, and those English sight-seers who are ever hunting after novelties.
- Through Erin's isle,
To sport awhile.
Formerly it was the higher and wealthy classes of England only who travelled, and as these were wont to despise all that was to be seen at home, they usually resorted to the celebrated scenes of foreign lands. But now, such is the increasing love of travel, and the facility and cheapness of communication, that many classes of society who were formerly, like the glebae adscripti, rooted to the soil, or only
p.130travelled on business, have been set in motion by the descriptions of romantic and lovely scenery, and have become familiar with the beauties of places which were once known only to those who lived in their neighbourhood, and which the traveller passed without a glance. This generally awakened desire for travelling has brought in its train a multitude of other desires and interests. It has brought more money into circulation, and supports numerous hotels, coachmen, and others. These people, who formerly knew not the difference between the appearance of an Irish bog and that of an Alpine valley, now speak of the superior charms of this or that beautiful locality, and discover, now here, now there, a wondrous paradise. As it is their interest to seduce travellers into those quarters where they may be most profitable to themselves, glowing descriptions of the scenery to be met with in their neighbourhood are written, and published in the newspapers, or in pamphlets to serve as guide-books. Hence comes the patriotism which the writers invariably feel for their fatherland, their home, and their birthplace, and which makes them always discover this paradise as near as possible to the latter. Formerly, this patriotism busied itself only with the institutions, the political freedom, the great men, or the social superiorities of the country. Now, however, so glowing has become the love of nature, and so ardent the desire for travelling and wandering about the country, and hunting after interesting and pleasing scenes, that it has also taken its natural beauties under its especial protection, and adorned them with the most charming songs, poems, and colours. Thus it is that certain spots have obtained so great a celebrity, that it is regarded as little less than barbarism to have been in the country and not to have seen them. To these places belong The Lakes of Killarney, or, as they are called in Ireland, The Lakes; for although it has many others, yet by the lakes, those of Killarney only are meant. In England and Scotland, there are also lakes called The Lakes par excellence. Those of Scotland are Loch Lomond and its neighbours; and when the English ask, Have you seen our lakes? it is invariably those of Westmoreland and Cumberland that are meant.
Killarney (like Tralee, Tarbert, and many other little towns in the south of Ireland, which have but recently acquired any importance, and must have been miserable-looking places thirty years ago,) is a neatly-built town, and contains several excellent hotels, which furnish every possible assistance and convenience for visiting the lakes and their environs. I arrived at breakfast time, and associated myself with an English officer who was about to visit the lakes, having arrived from I know not what barrack or
p.131battery on the Shannon, to spend a couple of weeks in the paradise of Killarney, and to enjoy its beauties con amore.
The lakes lie in a crescent around the foot of the highest group of mountains in Kerry, called Macgillicuddy's Reeks. There are two principal lakes,a large upper and a small lower one. Killarney lies on the former. In order to vary the journey, and to see as much as possible of the surrounding country, it is customary to hire at the same time a car, a boat, and a pair of saddle-horses. The boat goes up the lakes, and awaits the traveller in a little harbour of the upper lake; the horses are sent forward to a mountain pass which cuts through the Reeks, and is called the Gap of Dunloe. This the traveller reaches by driving round the end of the lower lake, and a few miles further to this Gap. He then mounts his pony, and rides across the mountain, on the other side of which he arrives at the extreme end of the upper lake, where he takes to his boat and descends the lakes to the point from whence he started. From Killarney, which lies on the level shore of the lake, one sees the mountains towering up on the opposite side like a dark wall, and mirrored in the calm clear lake that washes their feet. Wherever the hedges, fences, and walls did not impede our view, we enjoyed charming glimpses of this scene. Along the flat shore of the lake is the Race-course of Killarney, which I mention only to show that, in Ireland, even such little places as this have their racing-grounds. A horse-race here, beside the picturesque lakes, must produce an effect extremely interesting.
In the villages through which we passed, we again saw the little boys running to school, each with his slate and primer under one arm, and his sod of turf for the schoolmaster under the other.
The Gap of Dunloe, which we at length reached, is a wild pass through the mountains, like many others in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It lies between Macgillicuddy's Reeks and the mountains Tormes and Glenaa, which, properly speaking, are part of the former. Macgillicuddy's Reeks are said to be the most lofty mountains in Ireland. Their highest point is called Gurrane Tual, and is 3404 English feet above the level of the sea. Snowdon, in England, is somewhat higher, being 3571 feet. Ben Nevis, in Scotland, rises to 4370 feet, and is said to be the highest in the United Kingdom. Macgillicuddy's Reeks stand like a row of gigantic haycocks, and each has its separate name. Reek is probably derived from the German Recken, which primarily signifies any thing heaped up to a great height, and is specially applied to heaps of hay, called hay-ricks in England. This Macgillicuddy is said to have been a great lord and landowner.
p.132His father was an O'Sullivan, and bequeathed all his property to this his favourite son, whom he also named Macgillicuddy, that is, Darling of my heart. To these paternal estates he himself afterwards added so many more, that, compared with his extensive possessions, these mountains were but as hay-ricks to the little estates of other men. Hence they were called the reeks of the darling of my heart, to mark the vastness of his territory.
We mounted our steeds at the mouth of the pass, and trotted forward. Above our heads soared a pair of eagles, which even the best-mounted rider must ever look up to with envy. The Kerry horses, like all horses of a mountainous country, are small, but sagacious, cautious, and hardy. Their harness, for want of leather, flax, or any better material, is composed of straw, and is the poorest I ever met with. Straw ropes are used every where throughout Ireland, and it is very usual to see one tied round the leg of a pig, as it is driven to market. In other countries straw ropes are also occasionally used, but I never before saw an entire harness of plaited straw; and what is more remarkable is, that it was not a mere makeshift, or the whim of an individual, but the general custom throughout the whole west of Ireland.
The rocks on each side of the Gap certainly rise to the height of 1500 feet. At some parts the pass itself is wider than at others; and, including its windings, it is from three to four miles long, and rich in the wildest scenery. The colour of the rocks contributes not a little to this wildness, as, being covered with turf-mould, they often look perfectly black. The hollows of all these mountains are deeply covered with bog-stuff, which also lies upon their summits, although not in such great masses; whilst every point of rock or ledge of stone, every little landing-place and crevice, is completely filled with it. I would not believe this until I climbed some of the rocks and took from the chinks small pieces of turf which had received and retained the form of the rock. One would almost imagine that the bog-stuff floated in the air, and was deposited on the walls of rock, or that a turfy bog sauce had been poured over the whole group of mountains, and flowed down into every crevice and hole, to the very lowest valley. Whence comes it that on these mountains all decaying vegetable matter is changed into bog-stuffa change which never takes place elsewhere? I was informed by the mountaineers who accompanied us, that the turf was much more plentiful, and the strata much thicker, on the north than on the south side of the Reeks. Here and there a mass of bog seems to have been washed off by the rains, and carried to some distance, until its progress was arrested by projecting rocks; whilst in other
p.133places it appears rather as if a liquid stream of turf had run down over the precipitous sides of the mountains, which in some places are coloured from top to bottom with long black patches and streaks. It is also remarkable that these black streaks are every where speckled with innumerable clear white spots, produced, I have no doubt, by a small white moss which grows on the bare rock, close to the turf. This reminded me of the strangely blackened buildings of London, on which, I know not from what cause, clear white spots appear intermingled with the dingy streaks and blotches.
The chief inhabitants of these rocks are goats and their herdsmen; and their principal enemies the eagle and fox, which lie in wait for the young kids. Formerly there was also the wolf, which remained in these wilds longer than in any other part of the United Kingdom. The last Irish wolf is said to have been shot on Macgillicuddy's Reeks about the year 1700. The last in Scotland was shot in 1680, at Lochaber, in the Highlands; and in England wolves survived longest in Yorkshire, where they were numerous about the year 1300, in the reign of Edward I. The extermination of the wolf may therefore be said to mark the gradual march of civilization in the three kingdoms, Scotland following England, and Ireland again following Scotland. The goats remain here, in a half wild state, throughout both winter and summer, and the herdsmen do not trouble themselves much about them. Once a year they are collected together, and those which are in the best condition being selected from the flock, the remainder are again allowed to go at large. The owners are well satisfied if, on these occasions, out of fifty goats they find forty: the remaining ten either having died a natural death, been destroyed by the eagles and foxes, or perished in some other way among the rocks.
A small river runs down the Gap of Dunloe, over the rocks, and in the middle of the valley spreads out into a large basin, forming a couple of little lakes, which now presented a remarkable appearance. Their water communicates to the rocks over which it flows a dark colour, as black as ink; and as all waters are generally lowest in October, and the October of 1842 was remarkably dry, the lakes were now almost drained, and their rocky basin, on the lofty edge of which we rode, looked like a gigantic empty ink-bottle. The banks, the huge rocks that had fallen from above, all were stained black; so that, had there been fire, instead of a little water, at the bottom, it would have required no great stretch of imagination to fancy that we were looking down into the black gorge of hell. The entire upper part of the Gap of Dunloe is therefore appropriately named The Dark Valley; and Blackstones,
p.134the name of a village in the neighbourhood, fully describes the nature of the country in which it is situated.
Looking upwards from the Gap, in every nook and cleft we observed piles of turf collected by the herdsmen, which is brought down in winter. In many of these clefts also the celebrated mountain dew was formerly distilled, and there is little doubt that even at the present day it is sometimes furtively made here. This spirit possesses in a high degree that flavour of turf to which both the Irish and Scotch are so much attached in whisky; and the Kerry mountain dew is the most choice description of whisky in Ireland. The appellation would, however, in my opinion, be much more suitably applied to the fine rich goats' milk we obtained in a little hut in the neighbourhood of these lakes, and which was also a dew that descended from the mountains. This hut lay at the foot of the rocky saddle in the middle of the pass, which is the highest spot of the whole ridge of mountains. The passion for rounded rocks has become so great in England, since Agassiz published his theory of glaciers, that large masses of this description have been dragged into their provincial museums. It was impossible for us to remain longer on horseback, when we beheld this entire ridge strewed with rocks rounded in the most remarkable manner. It seemed as if they had been continually rolled backwards and forwards for time immemorial; and as it is impossible that they can ever have been raised from the bowels of the earth in their present form, by what external agency have they been thus polished at some later period? Has it been by the action of the wind, or of water, or by a coating of ice, now sliding this way, and now that? The snow sometimes lies on the Reeks till May, but in general it disappears before the end of April. The little lakes in the Gap of Dunloe, like the larger ones of Killarney, are never frozen.
Descending this ridge by half rocky half boggy paths, we looked down into another desolate, wild, and desert valley, called Kumiduff. The little lakes it contained looked as black as those above described; the rocks were of the usual turfy colour; and the little wretched huts here and there scattered through it could only be recognized by the blue smoke rising from them. How much more pleasing would their appearance have been, had they been surrounded by gardens, trees, and cultivated fields? In all these wild glens the inhabitants still speak Erse only, and the cry of the grouse is heard in the rocky clefts.
We now descended to the upper lake, where our boat awaited us. These lakes possess the peculiarity, that, while they lie in this wilderness of rocks, they are surrounded partly with
p.135a border of beautiful meadow, partly with a fringe of leafy trees. They are also studded with numerous little grassy and wooded islands, and many peninsulas jut out from the mainland far into the lakes, forming subdivisions, bays, creeks, and harbours; and some of these divisions are connected with straits or inlets. On their banks wealthy individuals, delighted with the solitude and retirement of the spot, have built pretty cottages; and the straits and inlets are here and there spanned by picturesque and old ivy-covered bridges. The entire crescent of the lakes is, from end to end, about nine miles long, and a boating excursion over this space is one of the most delightful and varied that can be desired. Although the water of the lakes appears of a dark golden brown, it is as transparent as crystal, and the bottom can be seen at a great depth. In a glass it shows no colour. We embarked in a boat manned with six rowers, (in Ireland six pair of arms are invariably used, where two would suffice,) and shot away over these sombre waters.
In reading some of the exaggerated English accounts of these lakes, one would almost imagine that the authors had been sailing on some enchanted piece of water. Thus, one of the best-known writers on Ireland, in describing the wild, mountainous scenery in the neighbourhood of Killarney, saysHere Nature assumes her roughest and most terrific attire, to astonish the gazing spectator, who, lost amid wonder and surprise, thinks he treads enchanted ground, and while he knows not to which side he shall first direct his attention, can hardly believe that the scenes he sees around him are not the effects of delusion, or the airy phantoms of the brain, called into momentary existence by the creative powers of a fervid imagination. Here is a rare piece of bombast and nonsense; and if it is applicable to the lakes of Killarney, what is to be said of others which are still more charming? Nature is, indeed, almost every where beautiful and charming beyond the power of description, and no language can ever pourtray her lovely and multifarious charms as they are in the reality; but in describing the beauties of a country, we ought always to speak comparatively, and remember that there are an infinite number of other delightful spots on the earth, to all of which we do injustice by our overstrained praise of one. Besides, these general eulogies of enchanted ground, of airy phantoms, and other delusions of fervid imaginations, describe simply nothing. Nature is beautiful in her stony, woody, earthy, reality, and there is no necessity for lifting her, by a lie, into the realm, of phantasmagoria. We should rather endeavour, by an enumeration of individual features,
p.136often so difficult to be pourtrayed, to give a faithful picture to the distant reader.
A black streak or border, about two yards (Ellen) in breadth, which every where surrounded the little islands and the rocky shores of the upper lake, denoted the height at which the water had stood during the summer. Immediately above this black streak, and in most striking contrast with it, there also appeared another which was perfectly white, and was caused by a multitude of the light gray mosses we had already seen on the rocks of the Gap of Dunloe. Above this, again, there came a bright yellow streak, produced by the blossoms of the furze, which is here very abundant, and seems to have a strong affinity for the boggy soil with which the islands and rocks of Killarney are covered. Last of all, above the yellow, appeared the beautiful foliage of the oak and the arbutus, the latter of which forms a prominent and very celebrated charm of the environs of Killarney, for they grow wild in the south of Ireland only, although not in such numbers, nor so beautiful, as on our German lakes and islands. Yet in Killarney are to be seen, their thick stems winding upwards between the rocks, and clinging to the cliffs, some of the most beautiful specimens of this noble tree. The visitor who arrives at Killarney in the autumn is most to be envied, as the foliage of all the trees that surround the lakes is then most beautiful, and displays the most manifold variety of colour. As, in addition to this many-hued autumnal foliage, we also enjoyed very fine weather, we were doubly to be envied, for rainy weather is the usual, and, as I was informed, the almost daily lot of Killarney.
Most of the islands of these lakes rise above the water like whales, with their round ridges; and as the English are a maritime people, they have given them the names of marine monsters. One which lies like a great ship of the line, is called the man-of-war, and some smaller ones at its side, jolly-boats. Several of these islets produce nothing but turf and weeds, and did not once remind us of Isola Madre, and Isola Bella, the far-famed isles of the Lago Maggiore.
The projecting cliffs of Glenaa Mountain sometimes run out, steep, high, and commanding, into the middle of the lake, especially one termed the Eagles' Rock, upon which a pair of eagles have for many years built their nest. The people regularly take the young of these poor birds from the nest, and sell them to this or that Marquis for four or five pounds. There are other eagles' nests in the neighbourhood; and a great many young eagles are every year exported from hence to England. Two of our boatmen,
p.137having pursued this trade for many years, furnished me with a minute account of their mode of proceeding. From this it appears that between the middle and the end of June the young birds are old enough to be reared by their captors, and at this time, therefore, the plunder begins. The nests being all situated on steep and inaccessible cliffs, that cannot be reached by climbing up the rock, the captors are lowered from above in baskets, and by ropes. The hours during which old eagles are accustomed to absent themselves from the nests, in search of food for their young, are chosen for robbing them of the objects of their loving care; but as the old birds often unexpectedly return before the spoilers have secured their booty, the latter, to be prepared for the furious attacks which they must in this case encounter, usually arm themselves with an old pistol or sabre; and these occurrences have before now occasioned many a fierce combat.
Horace Vernet can know nothing of this eagle's nest at Killarney, otherwise he would assuredly have chosen it as the subject of an interesting picture. I will therefore here faithfully describe the scene from nature, as I saw it through a telescope from our boat, as accurately as if I were standing close before it. The nest is built of old and young twigs, and rests upon the little platform of a projecting rock. Underneath it is a perpendicular cliff, several hundred feet in depth, and far below gleams the sparkling brown crystal water of the lake. Above it the cliff is equally steep. Suspended by an old knotted rope, held somewhere by invisible hands, there hovers over this abyss a human being, naturally the most helpless of creatures, but whose covetousness renders him more daring, and furnishes him with more artificial versatility, than is possessed by any other animal. He has planted one foot on the ledge of rock, and is bending down, partly to protect himself from the attacks of the old eagle, partly to make himself completely master of its young, one of which he has already grasped by the throat. With his right hand he is making a cut at the parent bird which has approached him with the greatest boldness; the feathers of the poor bird are flying around;it is the mother. She bites the bright blade with her crooked beak, and the strokes of her wings whizz close to the pallid man, who gazes at her with terror depicted in his countenance. The male eagle has prudently retired beyond the sweep of the blow; and one of the young, which has hopped out of the nest, is helplessly piping and wheezing on the edge of the rock. Such extraordinary and exciting situations as are here presented would, I think, be amply sufficient to arouse the imagination of a painter, and furnish materials for a highly-effective picture, which might beset, as for a
p.138frame, in one of the many old knotted oaks, Which have taken root here and there in the rugged rocks, and have for centuries been shooting up their mighty stems.
Such is the mode by which, for many long years, this old pair of eagles have been deprived of their young. One of our men asserted that he had for twenty years assisted in this robbery, and he also assured me that during the whole period the nest was occupied by the same birds, as the various pairs of eagles were easily distinguished. This pair is deemed the oldest in the entire country, for the feathers of both are exceedingly faded. After they have been robbed of their young they generally scream and flutter around their nest day and night for three or four days, and sometimes longer, flying to and fro in search of their offspring. It is surprising that the parents have never changed their nest, instead of continuing to lay and hatch their eggs in the same place. The young are usually two, but sometimes one only. These facts, attested as they were by several witnesses, seemed to me worthy of preservation. The faithful love of this old pair, returning every spring, and their sorrow returning every summer, for twenty years, is, indeed, a touching reflection. It is said that whenever a tamed eagle regains his liberty and returns to the mountains, he is invariably attacked and destroyed by the wild ones. It is also worthy of remark that eagles generally prefer hares to goats, either because they relish the hare better, or that the goats, by keeping together, are more able to defend their young. The male and female birds usually hunt together, and having by their joint exertions driven their prey into a wild, rocky region, the one then flies beneath and the other above him, so that, should the hare escape the lower, he must fall into the talons of the upper eagle.
Passing through a narrow, rapid channel, overshadowed by beautiful trees, and spanned by the half-fallen arches of a bridge, after some hours' labour we arrived at Turk Lake. Here and there we disembarked on the shore of an island, to admire a fine old tree, or to prove an echo; and when at length we entered the large lake by another narrow passage, we all landed, and spread our mid-day meal beneath an arbutus tree. The cold meat, the ale, the mountain dew, all tasted deliciously, and no stinted portion was allotted to our rowers. They thankfully accepted the meat, but, as they were all temperance men, the liquids were respectfully yet firmly declined. We urged them at least to partake of our ale, but they would not taste a drop of it, and procured water from the lake to wash down their bread and meat. I inquired whether they did not regret, since it was so cold on the lakes, that their vow did not permit them to refresh themselves
p.139with something stronger and more cheering than water. They replied, that they did not in the least regret it, and that they had no temptation at all, as they no longer required ardent liquors in the cold, and found themselves incomparably better since they abandoned their use. My companion and I felt ashamed to drink more in the presence of these people, and we left much more in the bottle than would have been under other circumstances. Such is the salutary influence of example. My friend was a warm advocate for temperance in the army, those soldiers who abstained from spirits being decidedly the most orderly and the best disciplined; whilst the crimes and punishments in his regiment had diminished at least one-half, if not two-thirds, since Father Mathew's reform. In the old drinking time, every day brought him trouble and vexation; but now he could enjoy his leave of absence, without an anxious thought for his company.
As on the upper lake we had been entertained by the eagles, the arbutus, and the islets with their yellow, white, and black streaks, so here, on this lower one, the famed knight O'Donaghue, and the legends respecting him, furnished us with amusement. This O'Donaghue was a powerful knight or king, who some ages ago resided in a splendid castle that now stands in ruins on the shore; his character and his deeds, however, were so extraordinary that they are indelibly stamped on the memories of the people, and he is consequently the hero of many a legend. Among the motley forms of the islands of this lake, which have all something peculiar and striking in their appearance, they still discover many of his domestic conveniences. Thus one rock is called O'Donaghue's Pigeon-house. An island, which contains a large subterranean vault, is termed O'Donaghue's Prison. This cave it was once possible to enter, but it is now filled with bog-stuff. But the strangest rock is that named O'Donaghue's Library, which consists of a number of thin small strata of stones, divided into fragments, and thrown upon each other in layers, so as actually to resemble a quantity of books, tumbling down in confusion, Even the Holy Bible is above there, said one of our rowers, as, in passing the spot, he pointed to one of the thickest stones, which lay on the top, and bore a sufficiently striking similarity to a large book. And that's his Lexicon, said another, and a multitude of hard words there is in it. Several of these islands have ruins upon them, but it is difficult to determine whether many of them are the artificial work of man or the effects of nature, just as one is occasionally doubtful whether he is listening to legendary tales or to authentic history.
Even at the present day it is sometimes said that O'Donaghue
p.140rides forth from his castle to inspect his domestic arrangements. For these excursions he is said to choose a beautiful morning, while the first beams of the dawn are struggling with the fogs of night. Mounted on a beautiful white, bright-shining steed, he gallops over the mirror of the lake, whilst a band of lovely fairies hovers around him, strewing his path with flowers. Whilst he is thus riding over the lake, his castle, his library, his pigeon-house, his prison, in short, every thing around, again assumes its former state of pomp and splendour. Whoever then sees him, and has the courage to follow, can pass dry over the deepest parts of the lake, and accompany him to the opposite mountain, where his treasures are concealed, and having inspected these, he hospitably and liberally rewards his daring follower. But before the sun flings his beams on the glowing waves of the lake, he rides back and disappears in his castle. It is strange how similar such legends are in all countries. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood still call the high foamy billows which sometimes arise on the lake, O'Donaghue's white horse.
The most extensive, and at the same time the most interesting island of this larger lake, is Innisfallen. It is entirely covered with choice old trees, which are planted as in a park, with wide spaces between them, and beneath them the cattle and sheep find the richest pasture. There are some oaks, but the majority are old lordly ash trees. Here also I saw the largest hollies I ever beheld, one being twelve feet in circumference, with mighty and far-spreading branches, like an oak. After having seen the little sickly hollies which are preserved with so much trouble in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, the traveller knows how to appreciate those he finds in Ireland. The one I have above mentioned was also peculiar, inasmuch as its leaves were alternately thorny and smooth. One of the mighty ash trees had been prostrated by a storm in the preceding winter, and in its fall had separated from the rest of the rock a huge block of stone, not less than twenty feet in circumference, which it had embraced with its roots, and which it still held fast in its prostrate situation. The ruins of a former abbey, various grottoes, thickets of evergreens, and other pleasing and interesting objects, also assist in adorning this island, which Moore has celebrated in one of his lays
- Sweet Innisfallen, fare thee well!
May calm and sunshine long be thine;
How fair thou art let others tell,
While but to feel how fair be mine.
After a water excursion of at least fourteen miles, we landed at the ruins of Ross Castle which lies on the shore of the lake, not
p.141far from Killarney, and from whose walls we enjoyed a delightful view of the lakes we had just traversed, and their charming islands. The walls were covered with ivy; and the best-preserved object in the castle was the great chimney-piece in the principal hall, which afforded ample proof that even in the olden time an Englishman's fireside was as dear to him as at present; only, that instead of the Newcastle coal which is now burnt, huge logs of wood, such as at this day are to be seen in France, were then used as fuel.
Having requested our rowers to furnish us with copies of some of the pretty songs they had sung on the lake, in the evening they commenced their task; but although they assured us that while at school they had become adepts in the difficult art of penmanship, yet we could as little decipher the sheets filled with writing which they brought us, as if they had been old Druidical runes, and the pretty songs were therefore uncaught fishes for us.