The Road from Galway to Dublin

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

THE principal road from Galway into Leinster, by way of Ballinasloe and Athlone, possesses few charms for the tourist. After passing the village of Oranmore, pleasantly situated on an inlet at the head of the Bay of Galway, and commanding a fine view of the Burrin mountains, and the broad expanse of the bay, I entered upon a cheerless and desolate tract of country, where large sheep farms, inclosed by fences of loose stones, dreary-looking bogs, with patches of wretched tillage, and miserable dwellings of the peasantry, presented a painful picture of neglect and poverty. A few stunted thorns are the only approaches to wood to be met with, except in the neighbourhood of the thickly-scattered seats of the gentry, where the improvements in their immediate vicinity relieve, in some degree, the desert and monotonous character of the surrounding scenery.

The same bleak and uninteresting aspect of the country continued until I had left behind me the straggling town of Loughrea, the property of the Marquis of Clanricarde, built upon the borders of a small lake, which, if the high grounds on the south side were planted, would make an exceedingly pleasing feature in the landscape. The mansion and plantations of Roxborough, embosomed amidst lofty hills, have a picturesque effect as seen from the high road near Loughrea. The suburbs of this town are amongst the poorest and dirtiest now to be found in Ireland; but I am happy to say, that the reproach which attached to Irish towns and cities generally, from the miserable condition of their outlets, is wearing fast away, and that the wretchedness which made such an unfavourable and frequently an indelible impression upon a stranger entering a town, is giving place to an appearance of neatness and regularity, extremely gratifying to behold.

The country to the eastward of Loughrea assumes a more cheerful appearance than that which lies between it and Galway. Good farms, respectable cultivation, and marks of the distribution of property, begin to exhibit themselves on every side; but still there is a want of wood, which gives a tameness to what would be otherwise a very pleasing prospect. The high-road passes through the little village of Aughrim, within three miles of Ballinasloe, rendered remarkable from the battle which was fought by the armies of James and William on the neighbouring heights of Kilcommadan, in 1691, when the forces of the former were totally defeated, and General St. Ruth, the commander of James's army, was killed by a cannon-shot. The ball by which the gallant St. Ruth received his death is still preserved in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. It is attached to a few links of iron chain, and is suspended in the nave of the cathedral, near the communion-table.