[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 21, 1832]
CUNNEMARRA is a word which to English, and even to Irish ears, is expressive of nothing but the ultima Thule of barbarism. Yet its signification is most poetical - "bays of the sea." Towards the north-east extremity of the county of Galway there is a portion cut off, as it were, by a natural barrier of lakes and mountains. If the map does justice to its subject, Cunnemarra will appear black with mountains, dotted with lakes, and studded with bogs; its coast will be seen rugged and indented with fine harbours, while the inland country, though wild, mountainous, and ill cultivated, and so little known and visited, that its name is a proverb, is yet equal to the finest part of Wales or of Scotland, and the traveller who ventures to enjoy its romantic picturesque
scenery, and who, from natural or acquired taste, can relish the "lone majesty of untamed nature," may here have his feeelings gratified to the full. As a proof how little is known of this singular part of Ireland, it may be mentioned, that a magistrate in an adjoining county, when he heard that a criminal had been arrested who had long hid himself in the mountain fastnesses of these Irish highlands, declared that "the poor fellow had suffered enough, in all conscience, for any crime he might have committed, by being banished seven years to Cunnemarra."
The inhabitants of this part of the country are, of course, behind the rest of Ireland in knowledge and civilization. But if the reader understands by this, that they are barbarians, and destitute of the feelings of humanity, he commits a very great mistake. Our Irish highlanders are a warm-hearted generous people, attached to their wild mountains and romantic glens, and, considering the few advantages which they enjoy, a lively, intelligent race. In the old times, their "mountain land" was the retreat of those daring spirits who scorned to submit to the yoke of an invader; and here, preferring poverty and freedom to restraint and submission, they found a shelter amid the deep vallies and craggy rocks, like the ancient Britons in Wales, and the highlanders in Scotland. This was the region of Grana Weal or Uille, the proud queen of the west, who paid a visit to the court of Queen Elizabeth. This noble heroine ruled over the mountains of Cunnemarra, and even the islands on the coast owned her sway. Of her we will speak again, and give some anecdotes of her daring and courageous character: but in this article we merely wish to introduce our readers to the Irish highlands, assuring those of them who may be ignorant of the circumstance, that when in Cunnemarra they are in the "nearest parish to America!"