Lough Corrib divides the county into two unequal portions, which differ very considerably from each other in several important points; the eastern is, for the most part, fertile, and comparatively level; the western is rugged, mountainous, and barren. The former of these, with the exception of the Slievebaughta mountains, which separate it from Clare, is generally flat and uninteresting.

A very fine vein of land, supposed by some to be a continuation of the Golden Vale of the south, proceeds from Gort by Loughrea to Aughrim and Ballinasloe; and in the northern part, about Dunmore, the country is exceedingly picturesque, being highly diversified with hill and dale, and mostly rich pasture or tillage. The land between Oranmore and Monivae exhibits a sterile surface, covered with short heath and fern, yet with a substratum of limestone gravel.

Amongst the mountains of the western portion, those of Benabola, commonly called the Twelve Pins, are the most elevated: they lie midway between Lough Corrib and Aghris point, in a western direction, and between Birtirbuy and Killery bays, in a northern, covering a space of about six miles square, and consist of two ranges or groups connected by the elevated pass of Maam Ina. Knockenhiggeen, the highest, is 2400 feet high.

The cliff on the south side of Glen Ina is particularly grand, being a naked perpendicular precipice of about 1200 feet, over which a considerable sheet of water falls. On the east of the same vale, a chain of hills proceeds along the boundary of the barony of Ross: the passes through which are known by the name of Maam, a term also used in the highlands of Scotland; they are called Maam-Turk in the north of Derbyshire.

But the western district, although mountainous, is not an upland country like Wicklow. At least three-fourths of Connemara proper are less than 100 feet above the level of the sea. Great part of Iar-Connaught rises from the shore of Galway bay, by a gentle elevation to about 300 feet, at the upper edge of which there are some hills of about 700 feet, and beyond them a low limestone country, to the edge of Lough Corrib, which is but little elevated above the level of that lake.

Joyces' country, on the other hand, is an elevated tract, with flat-topped mountains from 900 to 2000 feet high, and intersected by deep and narrow valleys. The entire western part of the county is justly regarded as one of the most uncultivated parts of Ireland, presenting in a general view a continuous tract of bog and mountain; the quantity of arable land not amounting to one-fiftieth of the whole; yet the greater portion of it is capable of being reclaimed, being every where covered with a surface of peat, with a declivity sufficient for drainage, and intersected by numerous layers of limestone rock, thus affording an inexhaustible supply of material for the best manure, and of that of fuel for its preparation.

Of the lakes, of which there are upwards of 150 of every size, the largest and most interesting is Lough Corrib, covering a surface of upwards of 30,000 acres. It derives its origin from several streams in Joyces' country, and assuming the form and magnitude of a lake near Castlekirk island, spreads to a considerable breadth near Cong where it has a subterranean communication with Lough Mask, in the county of Mayo, from which it is about two miles distant: it narrows at the ferry of Knock, and again suddenly expands, until, about two miles from Galway, it assumes the character of a river, which it retains to the sea. It receives several large rivers, and at its outlet seems to be fully equal to the Shannon, at Athlone, but more rapid.

The islands in it comprehend together about 1000 acres: they are Inchiquin, Inishrater, Inishnavoe, Island Shendela, Inishgall, and Inishdarus, inhabited; and Castlekirk, Ennisdavey, Ennisrobin, and St. Francis's, uninhabited. Its level is about fourteen feet above high water mark, and it rises about three feet in floods. This lake is navigable from its head down to Galway, and a plan for a water communication by means of lockage, between it and the sea, has been estimated at a cost of £13,000. Between the mountains of Maam and Galway bay, a line of lakes, 27 in number, extends in a westerly direction from Oughterard to Ballynahinch, a distance of 23 miles; the principal are Loughs Fuogh, Baffin, Derryclare, Uriel, Poulnagopple, and Ballynahinch, which latter empties itself into the bay of Birtirbuy.

Loughrea, situated near the road from Dublin to Galway, and giving name to a barony and a large town, is remarkable as well for its extent as for its picturesque scenery. Lough Ross is in Joyces' country; it receives the waters of several rivers and numerous mountain streams, yet has no visible outlet; there are numerous small but very interesting lakes near Roundstone, scattered over various parts. Lough Mask is bounded on the whole of its western shores by the county of Galway; a high ridge of land, about three miles in breadth, separates it from Lough Corrib. A subterraneous communication between these lakes serves as a vent for the waters of the former, the whole of which, after passing through a series of extensive caverns, rises again in numerous magnificent springs near Cong; and, after turning several mills, hastens by a rapid course to mingle with the waters of Lough Corrib.

Some tracts, called Turloughs, which are dry in summer, assume the appearance of lakes in winter, owing to their outlets being insufficient to discharge their accumulated water. The largest is that of Turloughmore, which covers a large tract near Tuam; the next in extent is near Rahasane; and there are several smaller. They maintain seven or eight sheep to the acre, for about four months in summer, but in wet seasons are scarcely of any value.

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