Lions of the Lake

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (7) | Start of Chapter

Thursday.—Two boatmen, for five shillings, took me upon the lakes, and showed the various curiosities. We saw Goat Island, where were two cottages, one of great beauty, but found no inmates—the island called O'Donohoe's Library, having stones so arranged about the edge that they have the appearance of books lying slantingly upon each other—a circular pond, now called Father Mathew's Coffee Basin, once the resort of punch-drinkers, and called the "Devil's Punch Bowl"—and another pond, which was the favorite resort of Sir Walter Scott, and called by him the "Meeting of the Waters." This pond is surrounded by beautiful shrubbery, into which the lake empties itself by four different ways, a nook peculiarly fitted for the play of an imagination like his. The Eagle's Nest came next, a lofty mountain much like the one in Glengariff, but no frightful inhabitants there. Here the proud eagle uncontrolled soars fearless of the marksman's arrow, as lord of both sky and mountain; here too, are cradled the young eaglets till fitted for flight; and the boatmen showed me a cavity in the rock where a nest has yearly been made; the nest was once robbed, and two of the young eagles are now kept for pets in Killarney. An adventurous man, with a pistol and hook in his hands, was fastened by a rope round his body and legs, the rope was carried to the top of the rock and there made secure; when he had reached the nest, he grappled the hook, secured the young, fired his pistol, and was let down.

We sailed back from the foot of the mountain, and viewed the shores from the middle lake. Here the water has worn the rocks till it has formed beautiful caverns, called wine cellars. In some places pillars are left, which look as if hewn by a chisel.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.