Monkstown, County Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-10 | Start of chapter

The southern shore of the great bason now extends on our left-hand, from the harbour's mouth to the village of Monkstown. The scenery here is exceedingly beautiful; demesnes rich in cultivated lawns, woods, and green pastures, stretching down to the water-side, arrest and charm the eye; while the broad expanse of the harbour, encircled by undulating hills, assumes all the features of a broad lake, and completes the noble picture.

Monkstown is a pleasant little village, delightfully situated in the opening of a lovely glen. Some modern cottages, built in the Swiss style, and a church of light and graceful proportions, on the slope above the town, give a highly picturesque appearance to the place when viewed from the river. The ancient castle of Monkstown—

"Bosomed deep in tufted trees,"

stands in a commanding situation on the overhanging hill. It is a plain, square structure, and was founded by an ancestor of the Jephson family, in the reign of James I. A popular tradition exists in this neighbourhood that the castle was built for twopence. It is explained in the following way:—Anastasia, the wife of Sir John Jephson, during the absence of her husband, who was serving in the army of Philip of Spain, resolved to surprise him on his return by building a stately castle, without diminishing his funds. To accomplish this, she compelled her tenants and workmen to purchase milk, vegetables, and other provisions, which they formerly received gratuitously from the possessors of the estates: and, by this traffic, she realised a sum of money which enabled her to build the castle, and left her, on reckoning up the expense, a loser of only twopence.

The shore from Monkstown to Passage is extremely beautiful. Rock Lodge, the residence of Mr. Galwey, midway between these places, occupies one of the most picturesque situations on the river; viewed from thence, the wooded hill, rising precipitously from the water, has a noble appearance: a white-walled bathing-lodge, a rustic bridge, thrown across the deep channel of a brawling stream, a tea-house, and a mimic fortification, placed in different conspicuous parts of the wood, give a peculiarly pleasing effect to the landscape; but the most remarkable features of this "romantic spot," are those immense masses of rock which nature has piled up from the water's edge, with such apparent regularity as to present, when viewed in profile, a striking resemblance to a succession of huge steps, from whence they have received the name of "The Giant's Stairs." Here, too, tradition has been busy; and the tales of the peasantry assign to a powerful giant, called Mahoon, the construction of these stupendous steps: they implicitly believe that he resides in a cave beneath the cliff, and they gravely relate the adventures of persons who have had the hardihood to enter his subterranean abode. Carrick Mahon, the seat of Mr. O'Grady, next attracts our attention: the house, though an unpretending building, forms, from its elevated situation, a pretty and remarkable object from the river. The improvements around it, we have learned, are entirely owing to the taste of the present possessor; and the luxuriant trees and shrubs that now clothe the rich slopes to the water's edge, are the immediate successors of the unprofitable heath and ragged furze, which a few years since were the sole possessors of the uncultivated soil.