Black's Guide to Ireland 1872
County Kerry

Blacks Guide to Ireland 1872

Excerpts--12th Edition (Charles Black)


(Hotel: Blennerhasset Arms-Bed 1s. 6d., breakfast 1s. 6d., dinner 2s 6d, private room 2s 6d.,) is a prosperous town, prettily situated on the banks of the small river Lee, with about 10,000 inhabitants, and returning one member to Parliament. A ship-canal, unites the town with its port at Blennerville, and brings up vessels of 300 tons into a basin adjoining the town. The Franciscan Abbey of Ardfert is only 6 miles north of this, and should be visited if possible. The traveler now takes the coach for Limerick via Listowel and Tarbert.


In position, it is about one mile and a half from the north-east margin of Lough Leane, or the Lower Lake. In the principal street are situated some of the hotels, the parish church, a mean edifice, the market, and a reading-room, open to strangers. A place of worship for Methodists is in the town; also a nunnery, with a school attached, where 400 girls are educated. Lord Kenmare, besides providing clothing fo thirty of the girls, annually contributes a sum of 100 pounds for the maintenance of the school. A dispensary, a fever-hospital, and alms-house, swell the number of the town charities. The Roman Catholic cathedral to the north of the town is a magnificent building, designed by Pugin, celebrated for his imitations of medieval art, and completed but recently. The hotels are all good and well regulated, and can supply cars, ponies and boats. The Railway Hotel is well spoken of as a first-class house.

Tariff for Kilalrney Excurions

One-horse car:

To Gap of Dunloe {Including 2s 6d to driver} 10s

to Mulgrove Station {ditto}12s 6d

to Muckross Dinish and Torc Waterfall {ditto} 12s 6d

to Ross Island, Muckross and Dinish {ditto} 12s 6d

to Muckross and Dinish {ditto} 12s 6d

to Mangerton {ditto} 10s

to Ross Island, Deer Park and Aghadoe {ditto} 9s

to Ross Island and Demesne {1s 6d to driver} 6s

Two-horse car:

To Gap of Dunloe {Including 3s 6d to driver} 16s

to Mulgrove Station {ditto} 18s

to Muckross Dinish and Torc Waterfall {ditto} 18s

to Ross Island, Muckross and Dinish {ditto} 18s

to Muckross and Dinish {ditto} 16s

to Mangerton {ditto} 16s

to Ross Island, Deer Park and Aghadoe {ditto} 14s

to Ross Island and Demesne{2s 6d to driver} 10s 6d

Parties returning by car from those excursion will pay 2s extra

Killarney Hotels

Railway- Royal Victoria-Lake-Kenmare Arms, and Innisfallen-

Tariffs of charges may be had on application, and the landlords will be glad to assist in making up parties for visiting the Lakes.

Tarriffs for Cars at Killarney

One-horse Car, for one or two passengers, 6d. per mile-for three or four passengers, 8d per mile-Two-horse Car, 1s per mile

Ponies, Boats, etc, per Day

Pony (including 1s to boy), 6s ; Two-oarded Boat (including 5s to men), 7s.6s; Four-oared Boat (including 10s. to men), 15s

Bugler, 5s.- Guide 3s.6d

Muckross, or Cloghereen

Hotels.- The Muckross (Roche's)-Bed 1s. 6d., breakfast 1s. 6d., dinner 2s.6d., tea 1s.3d., supper 1s.3d, attendance (charged in the bill) 1s. 3d. O'Sullivans-Bed 1s, breakfast 1s. 6d, dinner 2s. 6d., tea 1s. 3d, supper 1s. 6d, attendance (charged in the bill)1s

This village, the property of Captain H.A. Herbert, M.P. for Kerry, and one of the largest proprieters in the south of Ireland, is two miles south of Killarney, within a few minutes walk of the ruined abbey, whose name it now bears, and two miles north of the celebrated cascade of Torc. Its position is half a mile from the south-east corner of the Lower Lake. The principal buildings in the village are two hotels, the post-office, and a school-house. Many visitors prefer this village to the town of Killarney.

Killarney to Gap of Dunloe, Lakes

Leaving the streets of Killarney, we proceed in a north western direction, passing the spacious Union Workhouse and palace-like County Lunatic Asylum on our right, and the beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral on our left. We get now and then a peep of the larger of the lakes and two and a quarter miles from the town pass on our right the venerable ruins of Aghadoe, perched on a piece of rising ground, and overlooking the immense valley in whose bosom rest the majestic Lough Leane. This is one of the most delightfully situated assemblages of ruins in the kingdom.

The Castle is but a fragment of a tower about 30 feet in height. Of its foundation or occupation no records are extant, but the titles given by tradition, "the Bishop's chair," and the "the pulpit," would seem to indicate that it had been originally the residence of the bishop of the diocese.

The Church, writes Windele, "is a low oblong building, consisting of two distinct chapels, of unequal antiquity, lying east and west of each other; that to the east is in the pointed style, date 1158, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity; the other, or western chapel, is of an earlier period, between the sixth and twelfth centuries, in the Romanesque style, and was under the patronage of St Finian. These are separated by a solid wall, through which had once been a communication, but closed up long before the destruction of the building. The whole of the church is about eighty feet in length, by twenty in breadth."

The Round Tower is in no better condition than the castle. Its present height is about fifteen feet. "its masonry is greatly superior to that of the church. The stones are large, regular, and well dressed. The grreater part of the facing stone of the north side has been unfortunately taken away for the erection of tombs in the adjacent burying ground. Within and without, the spoliator has been effectually at work, aided by those worst pests, the gold-seekers-fellows, whose unhallowed dreams are most fatal to our antiquities." Continuing the drive for another mile, we take a sharp turn to the left, before which, however, we pass Aghadoe House, the pleasant mansion of the Dowager Lady Headley. After a quarter of a mile's drive in a south-eastern direction, we take another sharp turn to the right, and for two miles and a half continue due west.. To our left, on the lake side, is Lake View House, the residence of James O'Connelll, Esq.-- On the same side appears Killalee house, and on the right the ruins of the church of the same name. Nearly six and a half miles from Killarney we have on our left the beautiful demesne of Beaufort House, having first crossed the river Laune, which conveys the surplus water fron the Upper Lake.

Dunloe Castle on the left, the seat of Daniel Mahony, Esq., was originally one of the residences of the powerful O'Sullivan Mor.

The Cave of Dunloe

situated in a field close by the high road, and about two miles distance from the entrance to the Gap will tempt the antiquarian tourist. It was discovered in 1838 by some labourers who were making a ditch, when they broke into a hollow under the earth.

"The Cave of Dunloe must be regarded as an ancient Irish library, lately disinterred, and restored to light. The books are the large impost stones which form the roof. Their angles contain the writing. A library of such literature was never heard of in England before and scarcely in Ireland; and yet it is of the highest antiquity."* We have already referred to the Ogham character, as that supposed to have been used by the Druids before the introduction of Christianity into Ireland. It consists of sixteen letters represented by four arrangements of strokes, either upon a line, or, as is more generally the case, upon the sharp edge of a stone.

The Beth-Luis-Nois, or Irish alphabet, contains but eighteen letters, fashioned differently from the Roman characters, and each symbolically representing a tree or plant. Thus the D, Duir, is the name for the oak; O, Oun, is the broom; U, Ur is the heath, and I, Idolho, is the yew tree. The cottage said to have been inhabited by the celebrated beauty Kate Kearney stands invitingly at the entrance to the Gap. It is now inhabited by the reputed grandaughter of the heroine, who conveniently bears the same name, although not the same charms, as her prototype. Goats' milk, seasoned with a little potheen, will in all likelihood be offered here, and a gratuity received in return.

* Hall's Hibernia Illustrata

The Gap of Dunloe

The Gap is one of those notable places about which there exists so much diversity of opinion. It is a wild and narrrow mountain pass, between the range of hills known as Macgillicuddy's Reeks, and the Purple Mountain, which is a shoulder of the Tomies. The entire featureof the pass is the height of the rocks which bound it, compared with the narrow track of road, and the insignificant streamlet which courses through it. "On either hand, " writes Sterling Coyne, " the craggy cliffs, composed of huge masses of projecting rocks, suspend fearfully over the narrow pathways and at every step threaten with destruction the adventurous explorer of this desolate scene. In the interstices of these immense fragments a few shrubs and trees shoot out in fantastic shaped, which, with dark ivy and luxuriant heather, contribute to the picturesque effect of the landscape. A small but rapid stream called the Loe traverses the whole length of the glen, expanding itself at different points into five small lakes, each having its proper name, but which are known in the aggregate as the Cummeen Thomeen Lakes. The road which is a mere pony track, constructed on the frequent brink of precipices, follows the course of the stream, and in two places crosses it by means of bridges. One of these stands at the head of a beautiful rapid, where the water rushes in whitening foam over the rocky bed of the torrent the part of the glen which attracts most admiration is that where the valley becomes so contracted as scarcely to leave room between the precipitous sides for the scanty pathway and its accompanying strand. The peasantry have given to their romantic pass the name of "the Pike". Mr Inglis writes in a different strain. "The Gap of Dunloe," says he, "did not seem to me worthy of its reputation. It is merely a deep valley, but the rocks which flank the valley are neither lofty nor very remarkable in their form; and although, therefore, the Gap presents many features of the picturesque, its approaches to sublimity are very distant. I was more struck by the view after passing the Gap, up what is called the Dark Valley, a wide and desolate hollow, surmounted by the finest peaks of this mountain range." The road for a little way up the Gap keeps to the right of the stream, passing the lowest of the tarns, sometimes called Cosaun Lough, which is about nine miles from Killarney.. Quarter of a mile further on, it crosses the stream below the second, of Black Lough, ( here St Patrick is said to have banished the last Irish snake) and keeps to the left of Cushvally Lough, and Auger Lough. The Pike Rock is situated at the upper end of the latter, being about eleven miles from our starting point.

Cars are never taken beyond this point, from whence the tourist may either walk or ride the four miles to Lord Brandon's cottage, where he embarks. It would be well even to send back the car at the first lake, as the road is very trying for the horse. Touters frequent this valley with cannon, which they discharge in order to awake the magnificent echo, which passes from hill to hill.

Emerging from the Gap at its upper end, we come within sight of

The Black Valley

Coom-a Dhuv,* which stretches away to our right, and seems lost in its own profundity. The darkness of the valley is not caused by any excess of vegetation,, what exists being, on the contrary, very stunted, and sparingly scattered. The effect is produced by the height of the hills surrounding the vale, and the immense quanitity of dissolved peaty matter in the water. We are inclined to concur with Mr Inglis, whe he describes the vale as more striking than that which we have just left, for few could look into its wild recess without a feeling of awe akin to horror. Mr. Windale thus describes the valley:_"On our right lies the deep, broad, desolate glen hemmed in by vast masses of mountain, whose rugged sides are marked by the course of descending streams. At the western extremity of the valley gloomily reposes, amid basins of dark still water, Loch-an-bric-dearg, "the lake of the char or red trout" Other lesser lakes dot the surface of the moor, and uniting, form at the side opposite the termination of the Gap a waterfall of considerable height, enjoying the advantage, not common to other falls in Ireland, of being plentifully supplied with water at every season of the year". When we catch the first view of the valley on a hot hazy day, the effect is truly magical, minding us of some of the dioramic representations of the blasted heath in Macbeth. The whole valley is a black scarcely defined prison. and the water throws back the light which it receives by reflection from the clouds, giving the idea of being lighted from below. "had there been black rock, some smoke and flame instead of water, we might have imagined we were looking into the entrance to the infermal regions."

*Unfortunately there seems to be no rule among writers for the spelling of Irish words. Cummeenduff, Com-a-Dhuv, Coom-Duv, and Coom-Dhuvh, are among the different versions given of the Irish name of the Dark Valley. We prefer Coom-A-Dhvw, because it comes nearest the pronunciation of the natives.

The Lakes of Killarney

(Lower, Middle and Upper Lakes)

From the over-strained laudation, and the multitude of paintings and engravings that have been produced of these justly celebrated lakes, the tourist is apt to form too high an estimate of their beauty. There can be no doubt, how-ever, that the rocks that bound the shores of Muckross and the Lower Lake, with their harmonious tints and luxuriant decoration of foliage, stand unrivalled, both in form and colouring; and the character of the mountains is as grand and varied as the lakes in which they reflect their rugged summits. Of less extent and without so much of that sublimity that distinguishes the lochs of Scotland, the Lakes of Killarney possess some remarkable features, amoung which may be noted the dense woods that surround them, the elegant and imposing contours of the mountains, of the arbutus whos fresh green tints contrast so well with the grey rocks among which it grows.

Derrycunihy Waterfall occurs on a stream which meets the river from the Black Valley. The name is supposed to be derived from a remarkable personage who leapt over the stream, and left his footmarks printed in a stone. These marked stones are common all over Ireland, and have had various origins ascribed to them. Spencer concluded that they were a sort of sign-manual of the chiefs,who, standing on the stone, "received an oath to preserve all the ancient customs of the country inviolable" The vale of Coom-a-dhuv is but the upper end of a large valley, stretching from under the lofty Carrantuohill (3414 feet), the loftiest mountain in Ireland, in a western direction until, under Mangerton (2756) and Comaglan (1226), it widens out into the upper Lake.

Lord Brandon's Cottage is situated close to the Upper Lake, From this the tourist may conviently ascend the Purple Mountain, from which is obtained a most expansive view, extending over the Upper and Middle Lakes, and surrounding mountains, including the Reeks and Glengariff, with the Black Balley, Lough Guitana, Dingle Bay and mountians, the mouth of the Shannon, and Kenmare and Bantry Bays, besides a beautiful expanse of open sea, The descent may be made into the Gap of Dunloe.

The Upper Lake, Weld writes of this lake-"The Upper Lake displays much greater variety that the others, but that variety arises from different combinations of the same wild and uncultivated features. In picturesque scenery, indeed, it far surpasses all the other lakes"

M'Carthy's Island is one of the first we encounter on entering the lake. It is difficult to trace the origin of the name of this, or indeed any other spot in the vicinage of the lakes with certainty, so active have been the imaginations of guides and boatmen in coining origins and fact that the county Kerry at one period was chiefly owned by the two powerful chiefs, O'Sullivan and M'Carthy, though it is long since the power of both has dwindled into insignificance. It is believed that one of the last M'Carthy's either dwelt or took refuge on the island.

Arbutus Island is one of the largest on the lake, being twenty-five perches by eleven. In area it is inferior to another called Eagle Island, being one acre and twenty-six perches, while the latter is one acre and thirty perches. There can be no doubt of the origin of this island's title, seeing that it is completely covered with the beautiful plant whose name it bears.

The Muckross, Torc or Middle Lake. of the beauty of Torc Lake much has been written, but that it is inferior to the smaller or Upper and superior to the Lower is generally conceded. The admired author Thackeray, "the Irish Sketch-book," in answer to the question, "What is to be said about Torc Lake?" replies, "When there we agreed that it was more beautiful than the large lake, of which it is not one-fourth the size, then, when we came back, we said, 'No, the large lake is the most beautiful; Lough Leane or the Lower Lake is entered by passing under Brickeen Bridge.--This lake, though it cannot boast the magic halo thrown around Loch Katrine by the writings of Sir Walter Scott, is not without its legendary interest. The legend of the great O"DONAGHUE, the tales of the M"CARTHY"S and a world of other matter, in the hands of another boarder minstrel, would supply materials for poetry such as few countries can boast. One legend may be worth recording here as a specimen which can be recommended to the makers of romantic ballads. It concerns O'Donaghue of the Lakes, whose castle on Ross Island lies in ruins, but the fame of whose deeds still lives in the memories of the people.

Once every seven years, on a fine morning, before the first rays of the sun have begun to dispearse the mists from the bosom of the lake, the O'Donaghue comes riding over it on a beautiful snow-white horse, intent upon household affairs, fairies hovering before him, and strewing his path with flowers. As he appraoches his ancient residence everything returns to its former state of magnificence; his castle, his library, his prison, and his pigeon-house, are reproduced as in olden time. Those who have courage to follow him over the lake may cross even the deepest parts dry-foote, and ride with him into the opposite mountains, whre his treasures lie concealed; and the daring visitor will receive a liberal gift in return for his company; but before the sun has risen the O'Donaghue recrosses the water and vanishes amidst the ruins of his castle.

Glena Bay

is part of the Lower Lake first entered and the quiet beauty which surrounds it, coupled with the sheet of water beyond, which seems to melt into the horizon, give a favourable impression of the lake.. A picturesque little cottage, known as Lady Kenmare's, stands on the shore, The range of hills, which for fully two miles bounds the south-west side of the lake, takes the name of Glena. It is clothed with wood, and the hunt of the red deer, now scarce, even in Scotland, and all but extinct in England. Stag-hunts used to be of frequent occurrence among the lakes, and many a good fat buck has been slain and eaten to the Irish chiefs; now, however, it is customary to capture the animal in the water, and afterwards allow it to escape. From Mr. Weld we extract a few notes relative to this sport.

On the day preceding the hunt, those preparations are made which are thought best calculated to ensure a happy issue. An experienced person is sent up the mountain to search for the herd, and watch its motions in patient silence till night comes on. The deer which remains aloof from the herd is selected for the next day's sport. The deer, upon bein roused, generally endeavours to gain the summit of the mountain, that he may the more readily make his escape across the open heath to some distant retreat.. To prevent this, numbers of people are stationed at intervals along the heights, who by loud shouting terrify the animal, and drive him towards the lake. I was once gratified by seeing a deer run for nearly a mile along the shore, with the hounds pursuing him in full cry. On finding himself closely pressed, he leaped boldly from a rock into the lake, and swam towards one of the islandsl but, terrified by the approacch of the boats, he returned, and once more sought for safety on the main shore, Soon afterwards, in a desperate effort to leap across a chasm between two rocks, his strength failed him, and he fell exhausted to the bottom. It was most interesting to behold the numerous spectators who hastened to the spot. Ladies, gentlemen, peasants, hunters, combined in various groups around the noble victim as lay extended in the depth of the forest. The stag, as is usual on such occacions, was preserved from death.

Innisfallen Island

(and Annals of Innisfallen)

about half way between the east and west shores of the lake, is interesting on account of the historical associations connected with it, the charm thrown around it by the poetry of Moore, and more especially for its own exceeding beauty. Of all islands it is perhaps the most delightful.

The island appears fron the lake or the adjoining shore to be densely covered with magnificent timber and gigantic evergreens, but upon landing, the interior of the island will be found to afford a variety of scenery well worthy of a visit-beautiful glades and lawns, embellished by thickets of flowering shrubs and evergreens, amongst which the arbutus and hollies are conspicous for their size and beauty. Many of the timber trees are oaks, but the greater number are magnificent old ash trees of remarkable magnitude and luxuriance of growth. The island is about twenty-one acres in extent, and commands the most varied and lovely views of the Lower Lake, its shores, and circumjacent moutain scenery.

The abbey, whose ruins are scattered about the island, is believed to have been founded in 600 by St Finian, to whom the cathedral of Aghadoe was dedicated.

In this abbey the celebrated"Annals of Innisfallen" were composed. The work contains scraps from the Old Testament, a compemdious, though not by any means valuable universal history, down to the period of St Patrick, with a more perfect continuation of Irish history to the beginning of the fourteenth century.

The original copy, written from 500 to 600 years ago, is now preserved in the Bodleian library. The publicationof this valuable work has been attempted ar various times, but a complete translation has not yet issued from the press.. The annals of Innisfallen are considered of value, more particularly in the history of Munster; but the general reader would persue without interest a dry chronological record of erimes, wars, and rebellion; list abbots, princes and clergy; and a special account of the petty dissensions and generally violent deaths of the ancient kings of Kerry.

The annals record that, in 1180, the abbey of Innisfallen, which had at that time all the gold and silver, and richest goods of the whole country deposited in it, as the place of greatest security, was plundered by Mildwin, son of Daniel O'Donoghue, as was also the church of Ardfert, and many persons were slain in the very cemetery by the M'Carthy's. We take leave of the island with Moore's lines: -

" 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

"Sweet Innisfallen, long shall dwell

In memory's dream that sunny smile

Which o'er thee on that evening fell,

When first I saw thy fairy isle"

Ross Island

situated in the eastern shore of the lake, is not properly an island, but a peninsula, though at high water it is difficult to reach it from the shore without having recourse to the bridge. It is well planted and intersected with beautiful walks. On the southern point we come upon a copper mine opened in 1804 by Colonel Hall, father of the talented S. C. Hall. The position was very unfavourable, being close to the margin of the lake; but notwithstanding this, the labour proceeded and was rewarded for a time by an abundance of rich ore. Crogton Croker asserts that "during the four years that Ross mine was worked, nearly 80,00 pounds of ore was disposed of at Swansea, some cargoes producing 40 pounds per ton.

"But this very richness," he adds, "was the ultimate cause of it's destruction, as several small veins of pure oxide of copper split off from the main lode, and ran towards the surface. The ore of these veins was much more valuable than the other, consequently the miners (who were paid by the quality as well as quantity) pursued the smaller veins so near the surface, that the water broke through into the mine in such an overwhelming degree, that an engine of thirty horse-power could make no sensible impression on the inundation."

There can be no doubt that these mines had been worked at an early period, whether by the Danes or not, it is difficult to say. Colonel Hall's miners found several rude stone hammers of a very early make, besides other unequivocal proofs of pre-occupation of the mines.

Ross Castle

is a conspicous object from some positions on the lake, but is generally visited from land. From the summit is obtained a most delightiful view. Admission may be obtained by applying at the cottage close by; a small gratuity is expected. The castle was built by one of the O"Donoaghues. In 1652 it held out aginst the English, and was the last to surrender in Munster. On the 26th of July, Lord Muskerry had been defeated in the county of Cork, and many of his followers slain, among whom was a Kerry chieftain, Macgillicuddy, who held a commision as colonel. Retreating to Ross Castle, he held out against the repeated attacks of General Ludlow, and not until "ships of war" were seen upon the lake did the garrison give in. An old prophecy had declared the Ross impregnable till ships should surround it; and the Irish soldiers, looking upon the prophecy as accomplished, would not strike a blow. Ludlow in his memoirs ths narrated the incident:-

"When we had received our boats, each of which was capable of containing 120 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" After the surrender 5000 of the Munster men laid down their arms. Lord Broghill, who accompanied Ludlow, had granted to him "1000 pounds yearly out of the estate of Lord Muskerry."

The castle is now in ruins, but occupies a situation which, added to its ivy-clad walls, gives it an interesting and romantic character.

Torc Cascade

The visitor is admitted by a little gate, and may give, or not, a small gratuity to the person who acts as porter. The gravel walk leads up a valley lined with larch on the one side, and holly, birch, oak, alder, and arbutus, on the other. The stream all the while is heard roaring down its channel on our right; a rough wooden seat is gained, and the cascade burst suddenly upon the view. It comes over a broken wall of rock, forming numerous cascades in its progress, but, from the nature of the rock, has less of the

______"Falling, and brawling, and sprawling,

And driving, and riving and striving."

characteristic of Lowdore Fall, which, in appearance, though not in magnitude, it somewhat resembles. On each side rise precipitous rocks, covered with luxuriant trees and ferns. To the left a circuitous footpath leads to a spot from whence is obtained a view of the Middle and Lower Lakes, with peculiar peninsula of wooded rock separates them.. The Torc mountain rises close at hand on the left' beyond the Middle Lake Glena appears, and the faint line of the Dingle hills forms the distance to the right. In the immediate foreground is the demesne and mansion of Muckross. The walk conducts still higher to a spot where the cascade is far under the observer's feet, and here the view is even finer than that from the lower station.. The view from Torc Cascade should never be omitted, for it certainly one of the finest in Ireland

The waters of the cascade are precipitated in a sheet of white foam over a ledge of rocks sixty or seventy feet in height. After breaking on the rocks in mist and spray, the torrent resumes its impetious course through a deep narrow ravine, amidst plantations of fir and pine trees, and tastefully arranged pleasure-grounds, until it falls int the lake."

Thanks to Bridget Smith for sharing this transcription.


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