General Character of the Counties of Cork and Kerry

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter I

IN no part of Ireland will the tourist in search of the picturesque receive more ample gratification than in travelling through the south-western portion of the island. Lakes, which, in romantic beauty, vie with the boasted ones of Switzerland or Cumberland—mountains, that, for sublime grandeur, might be proudly claimed by Scotland herself—rivers and unregarded streams, whose sylvan charms are as deserving the homage of the poet's pen and the painter's pencil, as the more favoured banks of the pastoral Wye—continually surprise and enchant the wanderer through the counties of Cork and Kerry. But in what other country under heaven will he meet with such magnificent scenery as that which presents itself along the extensive line of coast lying between Cork harbour and the mouth of the Shannon? There, nature has placed her everlasting barriers of rock to oppose the rage of the Atlantic, whose mountain billows vainly lash the huge and jutting headlands, that shelter within their Titan arms noble bays and lovely creeks—or in the happier words of Ireland's poet—

"Glens, where the ocean comes,

To 'scape the wild winds' rancour,

And harbours—worthiest homes,

For freedom's fleets to anchor."

The general character of this portion of Munster is hilly. In the more western districts the lofty mountain ranges exhibit a wild and beautiful aspect—delightful to the lovers of sublime and picturesque scenery, but generally barren and unproductive, except in the deep valleys that lie between the gigantic hills, where prolific nature revels in her richest attire. The most equable and fertile tracts are found in the eastern part of the county of Cork: nothing can exceed the richness and abundance of the land in the neighbourhood of Doneraile, Fermoy, and along the banks of the Blackwater down to Youghal. From the great diversity of the scenery, it need hardly be said that the western parts of Ireland furnish the most favourable field that an artist could select for the application of his talents, while, for the gratification of the antiquarian examiner, the county of Cork alone will yield him a rich harvest of subjects, particularly in the mounds, raths, cromlechs, pillars, excavations, circles of upright stones, and other vestiges of the gloomy mysteries of the Druidical worship, which thickly overspread this country. Of churches and other ecclesiastical edifices, there are few to be found of striking architectural importance, although many examples occur of small churches, constructed of great stones piled together without the use of cement, with inclined walls, and doors narrower at the top than at the base, evidently of Pelasgic origin. There are to be found in this county the remains of one only of the ancient Irish round towers; it is situated at Cloyne, a small town not far from Queenstown.