Kilfenora, Ballinalacken (1891)

Kilfenora runs over a rising ground through a wide extent of peat soil on both sides, where turf for the country round is cut and prepared, and which terminates near an abrupt turn of the road, a few miles from Kilfenora, and then clay and lime-stone formation begins; the descent is a very rapid one into the valley, the view of the extensive tract of land, with Kilfenora down below, an old castle to the left, and its ancient church partly in ruin, the Deanery, close at hand, surrounded by a nice plantation, and the houses of the gentry and farmers, scattered far and wide, and all set in a framework of hills, is indeed a charming picture, and farther inland, at Leimineagh, is an old castle, once the seat of "Mauria Rhue," or "Red Mary," of the clan O'Brien, who it appears ruled the country with a high hand in those days when "might was right." The castle is one of those old castellated mansions, and it would appear as if built adjoining a more ancient structure of a different type altogether. The difference is easily seen in the slits in the wall to admit light and air, while in the other portion the windows are larger, with stone mullions, and although erected as if to form one edifice, it is evident both are built, from the foundation to the top, separately. The demesne wall of this ancient inheritance of the Dromoland family is in good repair, and can be easily defined and what was once a carriage drive or entrance to the Castle, has been converted into the public highway for some distance, and the stone pillars of the gateway are preserved along the road in almost the same state they were in when this distinguished lady herself was driven or rode through them.

But the crowning feature of all is the drive to Ballyvaughan round the sea coast by Blackhead. From Lisdoonvarna the route is westward, over a road rising slightly till one approaches near Ballinalacken, and then the descent is gradual at first, and on a nearer approach to the sea more rapid for several hundred feet, till one reaches the level road running along the coast.

In the valley through which we pass before reaching this point, Ballinalacken old castle is seen on the right, built on the verge of a steep rock, on the brink of a ravine. The mansion of a local landowner whose estate extends "far and near," and who is connected with one high in office under the Crown, is quite close to it, and both the modern, as well as the ancient structure add to the beauty of the situation; the grounds and plantations surrounding this gentleman's residence are well kept and look like an "Oasis" in the desert. Away in this romantic region with magnificent views of sea, rock, and landscape, it is one of these places one would like to live in, to get away from "the busy haunts of men," to enjoy repose and solitude, and this old castle always so near reminding one of the great difference in manners and habits between the modern landowner and his predecessor, who lived hundreds of years ago; the type of architecture is also so different in the two eras. In the past it seems what we regard as home comforts were utterly disregarded; for example, the admission of light and air through these slits in the wall would not satisfy our modern tastes; they had no need of blinds or window hangings in former days; the moat or trench outside the castle walls must have been their bathing place, with the arch of heaven forming a covering, as we see no provision in this old castle for bath rooms; neither can we observe a trace of a kitchen range or arrangements for sending hot water through the rooms to temper the morning bath for the ladies and gentlemen of the family. We wonder how men of the past could dispense with all the luxuries and contrivances which we, in modern times, consider so necessary for our comfort and enjoyment. Perhaps, after all, it is as well not to dwell on these matters, or make such comparisons; the changes effected in the manners, habits, and tastes of the people within the last fifty years are nearly as remarkable as those we have been discussing.

Holiday Haunts on the West Coast of Clare by H.B.H
Courtesy of Clare Local Studies Project

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