"Sweet Innisfallen"

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (8) | Start of Chapter

The famous Innisfallen was not the least of the beauties of these lakes, sung by poets, and admired by all—a green spot where stands a castle, or rather the remains of one, but no cottage. The island was beautifully green, and sheep were feeding upon it. The Bed of Honor, about which so many ludicrous stories are told, is in quite a perilous place for a retreat of safety; a point of the rock juts into the lake, in the side of which is a little shelf, where it is said two runaway lovers hid from the wrath of a father and affianced husband who followed. The fugitives went out to meet them, and the lover left the matter to the honor of the betrothed one, who, notwithstanding the partiality the maiden evinced for another, bore her away, and made her his unwilling bride.

The story answers well for the purses of the guides, who are sure to add every variety that can give zest to the tale.

But Innisfallen has beauties which can scarcely be exaggerated, and if art has any part in rendering landscape lovely, a cottage here would be at least a pleasant variety. The lady who owns it has proceeded so far towards a commencement as to send a huge pile of lime to the spot, and a few stones, but the selfish thought that she had no children to enjoy it, and that she would not build it for the benefit of strangers, prevailed, and the rubbish remains as a memento of the lady's love for posterity.

On our return we had a view of the ivy-covered castle on Ross Island. The side fronting the lake was completely overrun with ivy, except a few little white spots, which at a distance had the appearance of patches put on. The place, the plan, and finish of this castle, are a worthy comment on the taste of the ancients, and the former prosperity of Ireland. The boatmen obeyed to the letter the command given when setting out, not to give one fairy tale. Consequently my eyes were not diverted, nor my imagination stretched, to make out beauties and wonders which were not exactly before me. The realities of Killarney-lakes are enough without any varnishing. As a whole, a fairy land in reality, I had read much of it; but when I saw it, I determined to mock no reader with a description, as I had been, but to invite all who may choose to have a spare shilling, to give it to a common-sense boatman on the lakes of Killarney.

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.