KERRY

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

« County Galway | Book Contents | County Kildare »

Description of County Kerry | O'Connell Chapel, Cahirciveen | Muckross Abbey | Brickeen Bridge, Killarney | Glena Cottage, Killarney | Derrycunnihy Cottage, Killarney | Kenmare Convent | Kerry Map

NAME.—Fergus, ex-king of Ulster, one of the Red Branch Knights, in the time of Conor Mac Nessa (see Armagh) had a son named Ciar (pron. Keer), who settled in Munster. Ciar's descendants, who were called from him, Ciarraighe (pron. Keeree), possessed the district lying west of Abbeyfeale; and this district, which took the name of the tribe, ultimately gave name to the whole county—Ciarraighe, now Kerry.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Greatest length from Tarbert on the Shannon to Bolus Head, 69 miles; breadth from Mweelin Mountain, 14 miles east of Kenmare, to Ballydavid Head at Smer-wick Harbor, 53 ½ miles; area, 1,853 square miles; population, 201,039.

SURFACE.—The north part of the county, consisting of the barony of Iraghticonor and the greater part of the barony of Clanmaurice, is moderately level; all the rest, with some trifling exceptions, is mountainous.

MOUNTAINS.—The Kerry Mountains form part of the great group that covers the west and southwest of both Cork and Kerry; like those of Cork they generally run in chains east and west; and they include the grandest combination of mountain scenery, the most tremendous precipices, and the finest valleys, in Ireland.

Three chief chains, each with minor subdivisions, stand out very prominently, running westward to the end of the three peninsulas of Corkaguiny, Iveragh and Bear, the Bear chain belonging partly to Cork. The middle chain is divided toward the west into two distinct chains, by the valley of the river Inny. Toward the eastern end it includes Macgillicuddy's Reeks, of which Carrantuohill (3,414), a grand peaked mountain, is the highest summit in Ireland. Near Carrantuohill are Beenkeragh (3,314) half a mile toward the north, and Caher (3,200), a mile to the west. The Gap of Dunloe, a magnificent ravine, cuts right across the chain from north to south, separating the Reeks from the Killarney Mountains, which are the continuation of the chain to the east. Of these the chief summits are Tomies (2,413), Purple Mountain (2,639) a fine conical peak, and Torc (1,764), a massive hill with precipitous sides, all three looking down on the Lakes of Killarney—the two former on the west side the last on the south; and, lastly, the great mountain mass of Mangerton (2,756). Near Mangerton are Stoompa (2,281) and Knockbrack (2,005). The continuation of the Killarney Mountains to the east brings us to the beautiful twin peaks, The Paps (2,268), close together, with a high narrow pass between them.

West of the Reeks the most conspicuous mountains are Drung (2,104), and west of it, Knocknadober (2,266), both rising from the very shore of Dingle Bay; and 4 miles south of Drung, Coomacarrea (2,542).

In the southern division of these Iveragh Mountains, south and southeast of the valley of the river Inny, are Boughil (2,065), northwest of Kenmare; Mullaghanattin (2,539), a few miles west of it; and Coomcallee (2,134), 4 miles west of the village of Sneem.

The whole of the Corkaguiny or Dingle peninsula is a mass of mountains, which form a continuous chain like a great backbone, traversing the peninsula from east to west, and sloping precipitously down to the sea on all sides. They begin on the east with the Slieve Mish range, rising directly over Tralee Bay, of which the highest summits are Baurtregaum (2,796), and Cahirconree (2,715). Beenoskee (2,713) stands in the middle of the peninsula; and northwest of this is the grand mountain of Brandon (3,127), directly over the sea. St. Brendan, from whom this mountain received its name, was a native of this district, and lived in the beginning of the 6th century. He is often called Brendan the Navigator on account of his famous voyage in which it is said he spent seven years sailing about in the Atlantic Ocean. He set out on his voyage from a bay under Brandon Mountain, and his little oratory, which is held in great veneration, is still to be seen on the very summit. This great Corkaguiny range is abruptly terminated on the west by Mount Eagle (1,696), a spur of which, Dunmore Head, is the most westerly point of the mainland of Ireland.

In the southern or Bear peninsula, the Caha Mountains lie on the boundary with Cork, as does the Derrynasaggart range, northeast of them. Knockboy (2,321) rises over Glengarriff.

Northeast of Tralee the Glannaruddery Mountains (1,097), run nearly north and south; and west of these are Stack's Mountains (1,170). The moory hills east and northeast of Castleisland are well known as Slieve Lougher, though the name is not now often marked on maps. Their highest summit is Mount Eagle (1,417).

At the northern end of the county, Knockanore (880) rises over the Shannon mouth, and though not lofty, is conspicuous by its isolation. On the shore at the western base of this hill is the village of Ballybunnion, noted for its fine sea caves.

COAST LINE.—The coast is pierced by deep bays which cut the land into long and narrow peninsulas and from these larger bays innumerable smaller ones branch off, presenting an infinite variety of the finest seacoast scenery the whole way round from Tarbert to Kenmare.

HEADLANDS.—Beginning at the north: Beal Point marks the commencement of the opening of the Shannon into the ocean: Kerry Head, a bold promontory, the southern point of the mouth of the Shannon: Brandon Head is a grand cliff under Brandon Mountain. Sibyl Head, Clogher Head, Dunmore Head and Slea Head, are at the extreme west of the Corkaguiny peninsula. Bray Head, a tall cliff, is the southwestern end of Valentia Island; south of which is the still more lofty promontory of Bolus Head, the extremity of the rugged peninsula that separates St. Finan's Bay from Ballinskelligs Bay; east of this, at the other side of Ballinskelligs Bay, is Hog's Head; and lastly Lamb's Head, at the mouth of the Kenmare River.

ISLANDS.—The largest is Valentia, which lies at the extremity of the Iveragh peninsula; it is 7 miles long, and rises 888 feet over the sea. Proceeding southward from Valentia, Puffin Island lies outside St. Finan's Bay; Off Bolus Head are the Skellig Rocks; the largest one, the Greater Skellig, stands like an enormous pillar 714 feet out of the sea, and though nearly inaccessible, has on it the remains of a very ancient religious establishment which has been for ages a place of pilgrimage; there are two lighthouses on this rock. The rocky and lofty island of Scariff (839 feet high) lies in front of Darrynane Bay, and near it is the smaller island of Deenish, of much the same character. In the Kenmare River or Bay at the Kerry side are the islands of Sherky, Rossdohan, and Rossmore.

Going northward from Valentia, the Great Blasket, at the end of the Corkaguiny peninsula, is 3 ¾ miles long and very narrow and lofty; it has tremendous sea cliffs on the northwest side which run in a continuous line the whole length of the island; one peak, Croaghmore, is 961 feet over the sea, and another, Slievedonagh, 937; each presenting an almost perpendicular wall of rock to the sea. Near this is Inishtooskert, 1 mile in length and 573 feet high, on which is a little church called St. Brendan's oratory; and west and southwest of Blasket is Tearaght, 602 feet high; southwest of Great Blasket are the two high rocky islands, Inishvickillane and Inishnabro. All these rise in lofty cliffs from the sea, the whole group presenting a sublime appearance from the mainland. The Magharees or Seven Hogs, a cluster of sea rocks, lie at the northern extremity of the long peninsula that separates Tralee Bay from Brandon Bay. Lastly, in the Shannon, near Ballylongford, is Carrig Island, with the fine old castle of Carrigafoyle near the shore, the ancient residence of the O'Conors-Kerry.

BAYS AND HARBORS.—Beginning on the north, Ballyheige Bay lies south of Kerry Head; Tralee Bay and Brandon Bay, west of Tralee, are both nearly circular, and are very well sheltered; Smerwick Harbor is near the extremity of the Corkaguiny peninsula. Dingle Bay (including Castelmaine Harbor) is about 25 miles long, with an average breadth of about 7 miles; is overtopped by mountains on both sides, and is noted for the splendid scenery of its shores. At the head of Dingle Bay is Castlemaine Harbor, sheltered in the outside by the two long sandy peninsulas of Inch from the north side, and Rossbehy from the south; and off the north side of Dingle Bay are Dingle Harbor and Ventry Harbor, both well sheltered—the latter celebrated in legend. Between Valentia and the mainland is Valentia Harbor. At the south-western extremity of the Iveragh peninsulas are St. Finan's Bay, and Ballinskelligs Bay, and Darrynane Bay, this last having on its shores Darrynane Abbey, formerly the residence of Daniel O'Connell. The mouth of the Kenmare River, or Kenmare Bay, separates Kerry from Cork, but belongs for the greater part to Kerry. Branching off from it on the south are Kilmakillog Harbor, and Ardgroom Harbor, the latter belonging partly to Cork.

RIVERS.—Beginning on the north, and taking the rivers in their order: The Shannon washes the north shore of Kerry from Tarbert to the mouth. The Blackwater rises in Kerry, then runs on the boundary between Cork and Kerry, and next enters Cork.

The Cashen runs into the Shannon mouth, and is formed by the junction of the Galey (which rises in Limerick), the Feale (which rises in Cork), and the Brick (whose chief headwater is the Shanow); the Feale (which forms the boundary for 13 or 14 miles) being joined from the Kerry side by the Clydagh, the Owveg, and the Smearlagh. The little river Lee flows by Tralee into Tralee Bay, and gives name to the town—Tralee, the traigh or strand of the Lee.

The Maine, which receives the Brown Flesk as tributary, flows into Castlemaine Harbor. Into the same harbor flows the Laune, which carries off the overflow of the Lakes of Killarney; it receives as tributaries the Gweestin from the northeast, and from the south the Gaddagh, which runs in the Hag's Valley under Carrantuohill, and the Loe flowing through the Gap of Dunloe. The beautiful river Flesk flows through the fine valley of Glenflesk into the Lower Lake of Killarney, receiving high up in its course the Loo and the Clydagh, this latter, which draws some of its waters from Cork, being properly the headwater. The Gearhameen drains the splendid vale of Coomyduff, or the Black Valley, and flowing eastward under the very base of the Reeks, joins the Upper Lake; before entering the lake it is joined by the Owenreagh. The Glanbehy flows through the fine valley of Glanbehy into the head of Dingle Bay, and near it on the east is the Caragh, which, before it enters the bay, expands into the lovely Lough Caragh.

The Ferta runs by Cahirsiveen into Valentia Harbor. The Inny drains the valley separating the two Iveragh Mountain ranges, and falls into Ballinskelligs Bay; and near it, and parallel to it, is the Cummeragh, falling into Lough Currane. The Roughty flows through a fine glen (which gives to the surrounding barony the name of Glanarought), and entering the sea at Kenmare, opens out into the great estuary called Kenmare River, or Kenmare Bay. The Sheen (called in the early part of it course the Baurearagh River) joins the Roughty on the south bank opposite Kenmare; the Slaheny joins it a little higher up on the same bank, and through Kenmare itself runs the pretty river Finnihy, also into the Roughty.

LAKES.—The glory of Kerry is its combination of lake and mountain scenery. The lakes of Killarney are three in number—the Upper Lake, the Middle Lake, and the Lower Lake. The Lower Lake, or Lough Leane, the largest of the three, is 5 miles long by about 2 ½ miles broad; it contains several islands, the two principle being Innisfallen, noted for its beauty, and containing the ruins of the celebrated Abbey of Innisfallen, founded in the 7th century by St. Finan the Leper, and Ross Island (which is now connected with the mainland), on which stands the fine old ruin of Ross Castle. A torrent flowing into this lake down the side of Tomies Mountain forms the beautiful O'Sullivan's cascade. Middle Lake, or Torc Lake, or Muckross Lake, is 2 miles long by three-quarters of a mile wide; it is separated from Lough Leane by the lovely peninsula of Muckross, on which are the ruins of Muckross Abbey, and by the little island of Dinish. The Upper Lake is 2 ½ miles long by ½ mile broad; it contains a number of islands, the chief of which are Eagle Island, Ronayne's Island, and Stag Island; and it is by far the wildest of the three in its scenery. The Galway's River, flowing into it from the south, forms the cascade of Derrycunnihy. The Upper Lake is connected with the Lower and Middle Lakes by a channel 3 miles long—half river, half lake—called the Long Range, over the north bank of which rises a lofty rock called the Eagle's Nest, noted for its fine echoes. All three lakes are overhung by splendid mountains, their shores and islands are well wooded, and their scenery is unequaled for softness, freshness and beauty. Near the Upper Lake and beside the road from Killarney to Kenmare is Looscaunagh Lough.

The Devil's Punch Bowl (called in Gaelic Poulaniffrin, or the hole of hell), near the summit of Mangerton, is an extraordinary mountain tarn; a stream flowing from it tumbles into the Middle Lake and forms in its course the beautiful Torc Waterfall. Under a stupendous precipice between Mangerton and Stoompa is the deep glen called Glenacappal, in which are three small lakes, Lough Erhagh, Lough Managh, and Lough Garagarry; and near this last is the large circular Lough Guitane. On the south side of the Kenmare River are Inchiquin Lough and the two lakes of Cloonoe, all three beside each other. West of Killarney, near the head of Dingle Bay, is the beautiful Lough Caragh, 3 ½ miles in length, with Carrantuohill towering over it. Lough Currane, or Waterville Lake, is a fine sheet of water near Ballinskelligs Bay; and 6 miles northeast of it are Lough Derriana and Cloonaghlin Lake, both of which send their overflow of water to Lough Currane by the Cummeragh River.

The word coom is used very often in Kerry to designate deep basin-like hollows among the mountains; it is used as a topographical term in other parts of Ireland, but it is more common in Munster—especially in Kerry and Cork—than elsewhere. A vast number of the cooms of the Kerry Mountains contain lakes; as, for instance, Coomasaharn, near Drung Hill, in which the Glanbehy River rises. Some of these cooms give names to the hills which rise over them, as in the case of Coomacarrea Mountain, south of Drung.

TOWNS.—Tralee (9,910), the assize town, stands on the little river Lee, near where it enters Tralee Bay. Killarney (6,651), is situated a mile east of Lower Lake. The other inland towns are Listowel (2,965), in the north part of the county on the Feale; in the east Castleisland (1,466), on the Maine.

Beside Tralee, the towns on or near the coast are, beginning on the north, the stirring little town of Tarbert (712) on the Shannon; near it Ballylongford (829), on a creek of the Shannon; Castlegregory (597), on the western shore of Tralee Bay; Dingle (1,833), on Dingle Bay is the capital of the Corkaguiny peninsula; Milltown (636) stands near the mouth of the Maine; near it is Killorglin (1,028), on the Laune, where it enters Castlemaine Harbor. Cahersiveen (2,003), the capital of the Iveragh peninsula, stands on a creek of Valentia Harbor, and lastly, the pretty town of Kenmare (1,279) stands in a deep valley at the mouth of Roughty River.

MINERALS.—On the island of Valentia there are valuable quarries of flags and roofing slates. Copper ore is found at Muckross and at Ardfert; also near Cahersiveen and in Glanarought. The stones called Kerry diamonds, which are very like real diamonds, are found among the rocks on several parts of the coast, especially near Dingle and near Kerry Head.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—Kerry anciently formed one of the five Munsters, namely, Iar-Muman, or West Munster. The district between Tralee and the Shannon, and west of Abbeyfeale, was the original Ciarraighe, from which Kerry derived its name. It was often called Ciarraighe-Luachra, from Sliabh-Luachra, or Slieve Lougher.

Remains of antiquity, both Pagan and Christian, are more numerous, and in many respects more interesting, in Kerry, than in any other county of Ireland. They are more abundant in the peninsula of Corkaguiny than elsewhere.

The most curious and interesting early Christian oratory in Ireland is at Gallerus, on the southern shore of Smerwick Harbor; it is very small, rectangular in plan, and the side walls curve upward till they meet in a ridge so as to form a roof. At Kilmalkedar, a mile from Gallerus, there is another oratory. Both these buildings are coeval with the introduction of Christianity into Ireland; and beside each there is a pillar-stone with an inscription in Roman letters.

Staigue Fort, near West Cove, on the north shore of the Kenmare River, is the most perfectly preserved circular stone caher in Ireland. At Fahan, southwest of Ventry, just at the base of Mount Eagle, there is a whole village of ancient beehive-shaped stone-roofed houses, the most curious collection of the kind in the country.

On a shoulder of Cahirconree Mountain, near Tralee, is an immense Cyclopean fortress, built up in the usual pagan fashion, of very large stones without cement. This is the caher or fortress of Curoi MacDara, who was king of all this southwest part of Munster; and the mountain still preserves his name, for Caherconree means the caher of Curoi. He lived in the time of Conor Mac Nessa, in the first century; and he is one of the chief characters in several of the ancient tales of the Red Branch Knights.

Description of County Kerry | O'Connell Chapel, Cahirciveen | Muckross Abbey | Brickeen Bridge, Killarney | Glena Cottage, Killarney | Derrycunnihy Cottage, Killarney | Kenmare Convent | Kerry Map

« County Galway | Book Contents | County Kildare »


Library Ireland Facebook