Shannon Valley - Irish Pictures (1888)

From Irish Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil (1888) by Richard Lovett

Chapter VI: The Shannon … continued

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On leaving Limerick in the Kilrush boat, the shipping trade is seen in active operation along the quays. This, unfortunately, is not so brisk as it used to be; but it still represents a large capital. The trip to the estuary occupies several hours, and is full of enjoyment to those fond of river scenery. The bridges, quays, castle, spires, and cathedral of Limerick soon disappear in the distance, and Carrig-O-Gunnell, the first of the many ruined castles of this district, comes into view. A few miles inland is Mungret, once a great centre of Irish learning, its abbey, now a ruin, formerly accommodating no fewer than 1500 monks; and further inland still Adare, the lovely seat of Lord Dunraven, famous not only for Adare Manor, one of the finest houses in Ireland, but also for a wonderful group of ruins. These consist of a castle, the Trinitarian Friary (1230), the Austin Friary (1306), the Franciscan Friary (1464), and two ancient churches. The late earl was an enthusiastic lover of Irish antiquities, as his great work, Notes on Irish Architecture, proves; and these ruins are carefully looked after. There is nothing of the kind more beautiful in the country.

Ruined castles are not quite so frequent along the lower valley of the Shannon as on the Rhine, nor are they quite so picturesquely situated; but, like their more noted brethren, they speak of a time when violence was rampant, when men took what they could get by the strong right hand, and kept it only as long as they remained stronger than their turbulent neighbours. The old keeps alternate with fine modern country seats, this district now, no less than in the past, being a place of residence desired by many. Leaving Bunratty Castle, a massive ruin, on the right hand, and crossing the mouth of the Fergus, which is really a wide bay, Foynes, the terminus of the railway, is reached; a few miles further the seat of the Knight of Glin is passed, and finally Tarbert is reached. The river at this part is exceedingly lovely. Below Tarbert the stream broadens out into a magnificent estuary, forming a splendid approach to the heart of the country. A run of eight or nine miles in a north-westerly direction brings the vessel to Kilrush. On the left, the ruined churches, the Round Tower, and the tiny hamlets of Scattery Island are in full view. But before this can be duly enjoyed the pier is reached, and any imaginative excursion into those far-distant days when St. Senan crossed to the island in a coracle very similar to those still to be seen on the beach is promptly terminated by the discordant shouts of the car-drivers on the quay, each hailing some old employer, or eager to secure a prey before a rival succeeds. For in Kilrush there is little of interest, and most of those who come by the boat have as their goal Kilkee.

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