The surface of the county is generally either flat or gently undulating with small hills, exhibiting a pleasing variety rather than picturesque effect. The inequality is mostly caused by the escars, ridges of which traverse the county in several parts: they are mostly formed of rounded nodules of limestone, calcareous sandstone, and coal shale, the parent rocks of which are found in the county or close to its confines. The principal of these escars, called the Ridge, rises near Athlone and thence proceeding across the King's county, enters the Queen's at Mountmellick and proceeds to Rathleague through the extremity of Maryborough, forming in this county an unbroken line about 6 miles long, varying in height from 12 to 45 feet, being generally broad at the base and narrowing upwards to the width of a few feet; to the north of Maryborough a road is carried along its summit; south of the town it is planted. Near the same place a very copious spring bursts from it, called the Blessed well of Maryborough, and much resorted to by the peasantry, who perform devotional ceremonies, called stations, round it.

Beyond Rathleague the escars maintain a southeastern course, and are broken and interrupted, but they soon resume a regular ridge-like form and divide into two branches, one southwards to the Doon of Clopoke, the other eastwards to Stradbally, again forming an unbroken line of more than 6 miles. The tract extending from Urlingford, in Kilkenny county, to Dawson's Grove near Monastereven, on the confines of Kildare, is the most improved of any in Leinster. It is generally well planted, not in isolated patches close to the mansion-houses, but over the whole face of the landscape, so as to give it much the appearance of an English woodland scene. The Dysart hills, which are situated in this rich tract of country, add much to its variety and beauty; they are wholly composed of limestone, and their direction is north and south between the baronies of Maryborough, Stradbally, and Cullinagh, not forming a continuous elevation, but in most cases standing singly: the rock of Dunamase and the Doon of Clopoke are two of the most striking of them.

To the west the land rises into the lofty range of the Slieve-Bloom mountains, which form a marked line of division between this and the King's county: their summit is called "the Height of Ireland," from a popular opinion that it is the most elevated point in the island; near it is the Pass of Glandine, a narrow defile, impassable for carriages, and forming the only mountain communication between the King's and Queen's counties. The northern side of the mountains of this range is very fertile, while the southern, though more exposed to the genial influence of the sun, is nearly barren and mostly covered with heath. Towards the southern boundary of the county the ground rises into the Slievemarigue hills, which separate it from Kilkenny. The only lake is that of Lough Annagh, called also Lough Duff, on the border of the King's county, to which one-half of it is considered to belong.

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