Kilshanny, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin (1891)

And now having given an outline of the more interesting features of this coast, which we have often visited and never tired of, we prepare for a journey to Lisdoonvarna Spas, and whether one takes a seat in a railway carriage at Lahinch for Ennistymon, and then hire a car for Lisdoonvarna, or drives direct from Lahinch, is a question that each individual must decide for himself; however, we take a car, and driving over the same highway which we traversed on our westward trip, but turning to the right instead of to the left, after going a short distance beyond the bridge, drive along a valley which is not altogether uninteresting, and on approaching Kilshanny we observe, a short distance from the road, a cairn, or heap of stones, commonly known as "cairn-na-connachta"-or the "cairn of the Connaughtman"-with no ancient building, ruin, or structure of any kind near it, except the ordinary farm-house, not even rocks or other stones in the immediate neighbourhood. This collection is a strange sight, with such surroundings; it appears that tradition assigns to it some history, or story of a battle, or other event, in which an important Connaught personage was slain, over whose grave these stones were piled, having been placed there, from time to time, by passers-by throwing a stone on the spot, which is a custom that used to be practised in Ireland within our own recollection wherever a murder was committed, on, or near the roadside, and probably the custom is observed in other parts of the country still. Proceeding onward, through an undulating county rather interesting, and coming within a few miles of Lisdoonvarna we have a view of the sea again, with more of moorland in the landscape, and soon after are passing over the "spectacle" bridge which crosses a river running through a deep glen on its course to the sea a few miles westward. The peculiarity of this bridge is probably due to the fact that owing to the great depth of the chasm that had to be spanned, the bridge should be built unusually high, in order to bring it on a level with the banks on either side, so as to form a level roadway above; and the architect, perhaps, with a view to make the structure as light and graceful-looking as possible, contrived a circular opening where the dead work should be, and now there are two apertures-one below through which the water flows, and the circular one above, which is rather a novel feature in bridge-making.

After passing over this "spectacle" bridge we turn to the right, and are then brought in line with the ravine which we are after crossing; and near the Episcopal Church, half way down a steep incline, we come to the first of the spas, which are known as the "Twin Wells," namely, sulphur and iron, issuing from the side of a rock, almost side by side, and which both in taste and smell are as distinct as if miles asunder. As we approach the centre of this health-resort, we are impressed with the appearance of large and imposing hotels, and other fine houses, built for the accommodation of those coming to drink its mineral waters; there are large and well-stocked shops on all sides, which are not the least of many indications of the enterprise of those who built and stocked them; everywhere there are evidences of prosperity, and of the large amount of capital invested, and manifest appearances everywhere of a desire to minister to the comfort of those who come to this interesting region. Good potable water is brought, by gravitation, a considerable distance, and distributed by stand-cocks, and other means; and while the rich and the humbler class meet here, as in the world at large, the wants of all are provided for according to their rank and station, and their ability to pay for extra comforts. Not far from the square, on the road to the sea, to the right, are the iron and the magnesia wells, and down in the valley, on the brink of the ravine already referred to, but on the opposite side altogether, is the great sulphur well, with the baths quite convenient. Here, in a nice "well-house," crowds come regularly to drink the sulphur which appears to be that most generally partaken of, and which is pumped up from the spring beneath; and while some appear to enjoy the draught, others, judged by their grimaces neither like the taste nor smell of it. We could never fancy the sulphurous odour, which is remarkably strong; however, like most other draughts for curative purposes, the question of taste and smell must be dismissed from one's thoughts altogether when we partake of such.

On a slight eminence, over the sulphur spa, is the handsomely designed residence of a medical doctor, who evidently enjoys the confidence of the people, judging from the numbers seeking his consulting room. He is owner of the sulphur baths also, and the public have great reason to thank him for this valuable addition to the other health restoring agencies. Farther up the incline is another series of hotels and lodges for visitors. Lisdoonvarna appears to be in two divisions, separated by a deep ravine, with a bridge crossing it near the sulphur well, besides the "spectacle" bridge, lower down the stream. Both sides of the valley are partly built upon, but the business portion is evidently confined to the northern end. As a rule the houses and hotels are detached buildings scattered over a wide district of country, which present an attractive appearance when seen from a distance, amid such wild scenery, however, good accommodation is provided in apartments adjoining, and over the business concerns, and by most people the houses in the streets are preferred to the outlying ones, for convenience as well as comfort; the hotels are certainly as well managed as any in the kingdom, and admirably fitted and furnished to suit modern tastes and habits. The glens and deep ravines which intersect the country, add much to the beauty of the place. Its close proximity to the sea, which can be seen westward, the mountainous nature of the region, and the peat heath-covered soil, contribute very much to its fame as a health-restoring holiday haunt. And that Lisdoonvarna Spas have effected cures which treatment at home, under medical advice, failed to accomplish, are facts admitted by thousands who have come helpless invalids, and returned to their homes in the enjoyment of robust health; such evidence is better than all that the faculty could say in recommendation of its springs, and its salubrious air, for the cure of the "ills which flesh is heir to."

From Lisdoonvarna excursions are made to the Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch, Spanish Point, and even to Kilkee, already described. The drive from Lisdoonvarna to the Cliffs is a most enjoyable one, along the coast, with the Islands of Arran in view, and the ruins of another old telegraph tower on the landscape, on the coast over Doolin; and here at this extreme west coast, down at the shore at Doolin is some of the best grazing land in the county, which is proverbial for its fattening quality. There is a tradition that an acre of this land fattens a bullock, and if its verdant apperance at all seasons of the year, is any guarantee of richness, the land certainly must be prime. Ballaghaline is a fishing station, near Doolin, and being the nearest and most convenient place for visitors staying at Lisdoonvarna, it is customary to hire a canoe for an excursion to the nearest of the Islands of Arran, which is about an hour's rowing from the mainland, with favourable wind.
The Arran people come here with fish to sell, and also to buy goods on the mainland. They bring cattle to neighbouring fairs and markets, and make purchases also, which they take back with them. Horses, cattle, and animals of every description are transported to and from the Island in open boats, and a cruel practice it is, owing to having no place but the beach to land and embark; the want of a harbour or quay of some sort is experienced by the fishermen themselves, who have no place to turn to for shelter when overtaken in a storm, while out at sea fishing. A breakwater connecting the mainland with Crab Island, a few hundred yards opposite the shore, would accomplish all that is necessary, and would be a great boon conferred on the poor men who have nothing to depend on except the "harvest" which the sea produces for their support. The Government could not better employ the public money than in providing harbour accommodation for the fisherman of the mainland as well as for the Arran people who frequent Ballaghaline.

Driving from Lisdoonvarna to Doolin, subterranean passages may be observed, into which the streams flow, and are carried underground to the sea beyond, and near the coast are openings which indicate where these subterranean chambers exist.

An excursion to Mount Elva, and that long range of hills round about it, from whose summit magnificent views are obtained of sea and landscape, is most enjoyable.

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

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