From Glenngariff To Killarney
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The journey from Glengariff to Kenmare is one of astonishing beauty; and I have seen Killarney since, and am sure that Glengariff loses nothing by comparison with this most famous of lakes. Rock, wood, and sea stretch around the traveler—a thousand delightful pictures; the landscape is at first wild without being fierce, immense woods and plantations enriching the valleys—beautiful streams to be seen everywhere.
Here again I was surprized at the great population along the road; for one saw but few cabins, and there is no village between Glengariff and Kenmare. But men and women were on banks and in fields; children, as usual, came trooping up to the car; and the jovial men of the yacht had great conversations with most of the persons whom we met on the road. A merrier set of fellows it were hard to meet.
After much mountain-work of ascending and descending (in which latter operation, and by the side of precipices that make passing cockneys rather squeamish, the carman drove like mad to the hooping and screeching of the red rovers), we at length came to Kenmare, of which all that I know is that it lies prettily in a bay or arm of the sea; that it is approached by a little hanging-bridge, which seems to be a wonder in these parts; that it is a miserable little place when you enter it; and that, finally, a splendid luncheon of all sorts of meat and excellent cold salmon may sometimes be had for a shilling at the hotel of the place. . . . For almost half the way from Kenmare, this wild, beautiful road commands views of the famous lake and vast blue mountains about Killarney. Turk, Tonnes, and Mangerton were clothed in purple like kings in mourning; great heavy clouds were gathered round their noble features bare. The lake lay for some time underneath us, dark and blue, with dark misty. islands in the midst. On the right-hand side of the road would be a precipice covered with a thousand trees, or a green rocky flat, with a reedy mere in the midst, and other mountains rising as far as we could see. .. And so it was that we rode by dark old Mangerton, then presently past Mucross, and then through two miles of avenues of lime-trees, by numerous lodges and gentlemen's seats, across an old bridge, where you see the mountains again and the lake, until, by Lord Kenmare's house, a hideous row of houses informed us that we were in Killarney.
We rattled up to the Kenmare Arms; and so ended, not without a sigh on my part, one of the merriest six-hour rides that five yachtsmen, one cockney, five women and a child, the carman, and a countryman with an alpeen, ever took in their lives. The town of Killarney was in a violent state of excitement with a series of horse-races, hurdle-races, boat-races, and stag-hunts by land and water, which were taking place, and attracted a vast crowd from all parts of the kingdom. All the inns were full, and lodgings cost five shillings a day, nay, more in some places; for tho my landlady, Mrs. Macgillicuddy, charges but that sum, a leisurely old gentleman whom I never saw in my life before made my acquaintance by stop-ping me in the street yesterday, and said he paid a pound a day for his two bedrooms Mrs. Macgillieuddy's house is at the corner of the two principal streets in Killarney town, and the drawing-room windows command each a street. A sort of market is held there, and the place is swarming with blue cloaks and groups of men talking; here and there is a stall with coarse linens, crockery, a cheese; and crowds of egg-and milk-women are squatted on the pavement, with their ragged customers or gossips. Carts, cars, jingles, barouches, horses, and vehicles of all descriptions rattle presently through the streets; for the town is crowded with company for the races and other sports, and all the world is bent to see the stag-hunt on the lake.
The morning had been bright enough, but for fear of accidents we took our macintoshes, and at about a mile from the town found it necessary to assume those garments and wear them for the greater part of the day. Passing by the Victoria, with its beautiful walks, park, and lodge, we came to a little creek where the boats were moored; and there was the wonderful lake before us, with its mountains, and islands, and trees. Unluckily, however, the mountains happened to be invisible; the islands looked like gray masses in the fog,. and all that we could see for some time was the gray silhouette of the boat ahead of us, in which a passenger was en-gaged in a witty conversation with some boat still farther in the mist.
Drumming and trumpeting was heard at a little distance, and presently we found ourselves in the midst of a fleet of boats upon the rocky shores of the beautiful little Innisfallen. Here we landed for a while, and the weather clearing up, allowed us to see this charming spot. Rocks, shrubs, and little abrupt rises and falls of ground, covered with the brightest emerald grass; a beautiful little ruin of a Saxon chapel, lying gentle, delicate, and plaintive on the shore; some noble trees round about it, and beyond, presently, the tower of Ross Castle, island after island appearing in the clearing sunshine, and the huge hills throwing their misty veils off, and wearing their noble robes of purple. The boats' crews were grouped about the place, and one large barge especially had landed some sixty people, being the Temperance band, with its drums, trumpets, and wives. They were marshaled by a grave old gentleman with a white waist-coat and queue, a silver medal decorating one side of his coat, and a brass heart reposing on the other flap. The horns performed some Irish airs prettily; and, at length, at the instigation of a fellow who went swaggering about with a pair of whirling drumsticks, all formed together, and played " Garryowen"—the active drum of course most dreadfully out of time.
Having strolled about the island for a quarter of an hour, it became time to take to the boats again, and we were rowed over to the wood opposite Sullivan's cascade, where the hounds had been laid in in the morning, and the stag was expected to take water. Fifty or sixty men are employed on the mountain to drive the stag lake-ward, should he be inclined to break away; and the sport generally ends by the stag, a wild one, making for the water with the pack swimming afterward; and here he is taken and disposed of. how I know not. It is rather a parade than a stag-hunt; but, with all the boats around and the noble view, must be a fine thing to see.
Some scores more boats were there, darting up and down in the pretty, busy waters. Here came a Cambridge boat; and where, indeed, will not the gentlemen of that renowned University be found? Yonder were the dandy dragoons, stiff, silent, slim, faultlessly appointed, solemnly puffing cigars. Every now and then a hound would be heard in the wood, whereon numbers of voices, right and left, would begin to yell in chorus—Hurroo! Hoop! Yow—yow—yow! in accents the most shrill or the most melancholious. Meanwhile the sun had had enough of the sport, the mountains put on their veils again, the islands retreated into the mist, the word went through the fleet to spread all umbrellas, and ladies took shares of mackintoshes and disappeared under the flaps of silk cloaks.
The wood comes down to the very edge of the water, and many of the crews thought fit to land and seek this green shelter. To behold these moist dandies the natives of the country came eagerly. Strange, savage faces might be seen peering from out of the trees; long-haired, bare-legged girls came down the hill, some with green apples and very sickly-looking plums; some with whisky and goat's milk; a ragged boy had a pair of stag's-horns to sell: the place swarmed with people. We went up the hill to see the noble cascade, and when you say that it comes rushing down over rocks and through tangled woods, alas!, one has said all the dictionary can help you to, and not enough to distinguish this particular cataract from any other. This seen and admired, we came back to the harbor where the boats lay, and from which spot the reader might have seen the following view of the lake—that is, you would see the lake, if the mist would only clear away.
But this for hours it did not seem inclined to do. We rowed up and down industriously for a period of time which seemed to me atrociously long. The bugles of the Erin had long since sounded "Home, sweet home!" and the greater part of the fleet had dispersed. As for the stag-hunt, all I saw of it was four dogs that appeared on the shore at different intervals, and a hunts-man in a scarlet coat, who similarly came and went : once or twice we were gratified by hearing the hounds; but at last it was agreed that there was no chance for the day, and we rowed off to Kenmare Cottage—where, on the lovely lawn, or in a cottage adjoining, the gentry picnic, and where, with a handkerchief full of potatoes, we made as pleasant a meal as ever I recollect.
What is to be said about Turk Lake? When there, we agreed that it was more beautiful than the larger 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." And so, at every point we stopped at, we determined that that particular spot was the prettiest in the whole lake. The fact is, and I don't care to own it, they are too handsome. As for a man coming from his desk in London or Dublin and seeing "the whole lakes in a day," he is an ass for his pains; a child doing sums in addition might as well read the whole multiplication table, and fancy he had it by heart. We should look at these wonderful things leisurely and thoughtfully; and even then, blessed is he who understands them.