Spanish Point, Malbay, Mount Callan (1891)

And now leaving Kilkee, with the feelings of regret, behind, to employ a nautical term, steer northward, wending our way along the coast, still keeping the wide ocean, with old castles, and high cliffs, in view, arriving after a pleasant time spent on the journey, at another sea-side resort known as Spanish Point, on the Malbay coast. Here also is an extensive strand, with immense sand-hills in the background, in the midst of which are nestled handsome marine residences, and in the neighbourhood are also the seats of the local gentry as well as other sea-side lodges, nearly all of which are detached buildings, and being scattered over a wide area add much to the beauty of the landscape; elsewhere, as in Kilkee, for example, these sea-side houses are, as a rule, built in Town fashion, at Spanish Point it is different, so that anyone wishing to live a secluded life may occupy a house standing on its own grounds, with out being brought into close proximity with one's neighbour. At Spanish Point is a hotel of remarkably large dimensions for a rural place, but evidently the beauty of its situation attracts many, or such ample accommodation as this hotel affords, need not have been provided.

Spanish Point, in Summer or Winter, is certainly a charming place to reside in, and having seen it under both aspects we speak from experience: Mutton Island, near the shore, adds to the interest of its position; to it pic-nic parties often resort in canoes or other suitable boats supplied by the Sandfield fishermen. In Tromora, opposite Mutton Island, once resided a branch of the great clan Clan O'Brien. Here, in 1276, Donald, the son of Teige-a-luinn O'Brien, lived, when Torlough fled to him, from his uncle, King Brian and his allies, who attacked the Palace of Torlough, at Clonroad, near Ennis. Torlough, it appears from the interesting paper in the Antiquarian Journal, by T. Johnson Westropp, M.A., "having won over and formed an alliance with the sons of O'Brien, of Tromora, the De Burghoes, the O'Madigans, the O'Kelly's, of Hy-Many, and others marched with this force to attack King Brian, and his allied army, and having met in battle array, at Moy Gressin in Upper Bunratty, Brian was defeated: numbers fell on both sides: among them was De Clare's brother-in-law, Patrick FitzMaurice. Bunratty Castle was filled with lamentations, and each felt his loss as if he had been their relative. King Brian also fled thither, and was at dinner with De Clare in Bunratty Castle, when the latter's wife denounced the unfortunate King as the sole cause of her brother's death, and got leave to hang the King, who was seized at table, brought out of the Castle, and dragged to death between horses; his head cut off, and the mangled body suspended by its feet from a gallows."

Happily we live in better times, when equality before the law is the rule; life and limb are respected, and when, if the rights of property have to be dealt with, the "voice" and the "pen," which are now "mightier than the sword" being the only weapons employed to affect changes, which to accomplish in former days, physical force would have been resorted to. It is wonderful, judging from all we read in olden times, what little regard there used to be for human life. In those days it would appear as if men's heads were disposed of with just as much indifference as when we go through our fields now, and with sickle in hand lop the heads off those weeds which are so objectionable to the agriculturist. Evidently, in the "good old times," heads counted to represent so many men, who were moved about just like chessplayers move their men in a game of chess.

The coast at Spanish Point is not so elevated as that at Kilkee, but the sea beating on the shore is felt to be fiercer, and the waves higher, because, probably, being seen to greater advantage. Sitting on a high elevation, and only able to observe the action of the waves down far below, one is obliged to give greater scope to the imagination, in measuring their size, and estimating their force, but here at Spanish Point, one standing on a lower elevation, is able to observe the waves striking on the rocks, and mounting upwards, in some instances high above the position one occupies. It was to us a most enjoyable occupation, when reclining on the green turf on shore, in the company of those near and dear to us, to watch the sea tossing and foaming on the rocks extending a long distance seaward-just as if in anger, at not being permitted to reach, and submerge us in its vastness. Here, on the shore, in a green field, are a number of grass-covered mounds in a cluster, which tradition assigns to be the graves of the soldiers and sailors who were cast ashore, when some vessels of the Spanish Armada were wrecked in the neighbourhood, and from which event the place derives its name.

At Freagh, a short distance from Spanish Point, northwards, is another "puffing hole" of large extent, which, if in operation when the sun is shining, produces beautiful rainbow tints, and at each "puff" making a noise resembling that of a distant cannonade. This "puffing" comes from a cavern under the cliff, and is caused, no doubt, by the pressure of the inflowing wave on the air within which rushing out to escape produces the effect described, at the same time carrying a quantity of water in its progress, which, being converted into spray, dashes all round, as well as high up in the air, producing the same effect that rain does, so that a near approach will often cause inconvenience. At about half-tide, and when the waves are strong, this "puffing" is at its best. The collecting and burning of sea-weed along the coast, and converting it into kelp, which is shipped from Sandfield to England, appears to be a general practice and a profitable industry. Spanish Point is in no sense a Town like Kilkee.

Miltown, a mile or so inland, is the town proper, which is of considerable size and importance, with its system of water supply for domestic purposes, and from which town all the supplies come from baker, butcher, grocer, and other warehouses, which contribute to the feeding and clothing of the multitude, and from which the people of Spanish Point obtain their supplies. In Miltown there are two hotels, affording comfortable accommodation, and quite convenient enough to the coast for tourists and others, it has its Bank also for the transaction of monetary affairs.

Farther inland Mount Callan soars aloft, and from its summit a wide extent of sea and land may be seen. At Mount Callan are glens and ravines well worth exploring, and in one of which is the residence of a gallant gentleman who owns the country for a considerable distance on all sides; it is beautifully situated at the base of the mountain, and so closely surrounded by hills, north, west and east,-that on approaching from the north, after leaving the highway, over the principal carriage drive, across a heath-covered valley of great extent, and by a purling stream, with rare trees and shrubs planted along the avenue here and there, one arrives within a few hundred yards of the mansion before it is seen, and then we have before us wood, mountain, and valley, beautifully planted and artistically laid out, with walks excavated along the sides of a deep glen, the stream rushing below, across which rustic bridges are thrown at certain vantage points, and in sheltered situation are beds of choice plants and flowers, with the royal fern growing luxuriantly everywhere in its habitat, and all this in the midst of district as barren and as isolated as if one lived in the wildest part of the world, with this difference, of course, that within a few hours drive of Mount Callan, association with civilized life, is possible, and other advantages may be enjoyed not to be met with in less favoured situations.

An ascent to the top of Mount Callan reveals an ancient monument, whose history is lost in obscurity, or like almost all other ancient monuments is mixed up with fact and fable. Not far from the coast are Doulough and Coor lakes, and several rivers also, which, like the lakes, are well stocked with fish, to which many who delight in fishing as a pastime are attracted. The drives, both south and east, through mountain, valley, and plain, are most interesting, so that he who cannot enjoy a month or two at Spanish Point must be hard to please indeed.

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

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