Glen Veigh, County Donegal

Samuel Gamble Bayne
Dunfanaghy to Fallcarragh (3) | Start of Section

As we drove down from the head, a drizzling rain began to fall and we were glad to reach the shelter of the hotel and fortify the inner man by a substantial dinner.

At this stage in our tour we were quite undecided as to our route. We did not like to give up a visit to Glen Veigh, Gartan lakes and the "Poisoned Glen," as these are considered the finest things of their kind in Ireland, but finally decided that a detour which would cost us two days of driving would be impossible, owing to pressure of time; so after sleeping another night in Dunfanaghy, we pressed on to Fallcarragh. Inasmuch, however, as I often visited and fished in these glens and lakes, I may be pardoned for attempting to give the reader a short description of their principal features.

Glen Veigh, County Donegal

Glen Veigh, County Donegal

Lough Veigh lies to the east of the Derryveigh Mountains, occupying the opening to Glen Veigh. It is a long, narrow sheet of water; on the north side, and running into it, a rocky, almost perpendicular, wall rises to over twelve hundred feet, covered with Alpine vegetation. Over the top of this wall several large streams fall and break into cascades as they find their way to the lake below. Back of this and framing the whole, rises the majestic Dooish, the highest ridge in the Derryveigh range, standing two thousand one hundred and forty-seven feet above the tide. In old times I have counted a dozen eagles that built their nests on the topmost crags overhanging the water, their majestic, circling flights giving life and interest to the scene. The south side is a steep hill on which grow in riotous profusion the wild rose, bracken, creeping plants, ferns, lichen, moss, the primrose, the bluebell, the yellow gorse, and hazel; while in trees, it abounds in the gray birch, mountain-ash, larch, yew, juniper, white hawthorn, and laburnums with their glorious rain of gold— a mass of teeming harmonies and contrasts. But by far the finest display is its panoply of purple heather, which in some places reaches a height of ten feet; nowhere else can such heather be found.

This is the beauty spot of Ireland; the lower part of the lake equals the best bit of Killarney, while the upper reaches of the glen surpass it in grandeur; it is indeed the wildest mountain-pass in Ireland. It may be described as, one might say, a salad of scenic loveliness, made up of countless varieties of color, form, and garniture; for I could pick out parts of it that resemble spots I have seen at the base of the Himalaya Mountains in India, and others where I have noticed a similarity to some places I visited near the Hot Springs of Hakone, in Japan. A comparison with the Trosachs of Scotland will result in no reflection on Glen Veigh; in fact, there is a close resemblance between them, and I cannot do better than quote Sir Walter Scott's celebrated description in The Lady of the Lake, Sir Walter, the greatest word painter of them all, the wizard of the pen, the man who could pick the magic word and almost paint a scene with it:

"The western waves of ebbing day

Rolled o'er the glen their level way;

Each purple peak, each flinty spire,

Was bathed in floods of living fire.

But not a setting beam could glow

Within the dark ravines below,

Where twined the path in shadow hid,

Round many a rocky pyramid,

Shooting abruptly from the dell

Its thunder-splintered pinnacle;

Round many an insulated mass,

The native bulwarks of the pass.

The rocky summits, split and rent,

Formed turret, dome, or battlement

Or seemed fantastically set

With cupola or minaret,

Wild crests as pagod ever deck'd,

Or mosque of Eastern architect.

Nor were these earth-born castles bare,

Nor lacked they many a banner fair;

For, from their shivered brows displayed,

Far o'er the unfathomable glade,

All twinkling with the dew-drop sheen,

The brier-rose fell in streamers green;

And creeping shrubs, of thousand dyes,

Waved in the west wind's summer sighs.

"Boon nature scatter'd free and wild,

Each plant or flower, the mountain's child.

Here eglantine embalm'd the air,

Hawthorn and hazel mingled there;

The primrose pale and violet flower,

Found in each clift a narrow bower;

Foxglove and nightshade, side by side,

Emblems of punishment and pride,

Group'd their dark hues with every stain

The weather-beaten crags retain.

With boughs that quaked at every breath,

Gray birch and aspen wept beneath;

Aloft, the ash and withe of oak

Cast anchor in the rifted rock;

And, higher yet, the pine-tree hung

His shattered trunk, and frequent flung,

Where seem'd the cliffs to meet on high,

His boughs athwart the narrow'd sky.

Highest of all, where white peaks glanced,

Where glist'ning streamers waved and danced,

The wanderer's eye could barely view

The summer heaven's delicious blue;

So wondrous wild, the whole might seem

The scenery of a fairy dream."

Read "On an Irish Jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara" at your leisure

On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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