By Adam Staunton, Library Assistant, Special Collections and Archives, Maynooth University Library
Pictures by David Rinehart, Library Assistant, Special Collections and Archives, Maynooth University Library
It’s that time of year again where I dive in the Russell Library travel books for this year’s recommended hot spots. Last year we visited Venice, Madrid and Maynooth. This year under the current travel restrictions we’ll be looking at three places closer to home for that next staycation.
For those of you looking for a city break, Galway City comes highly recommend by Joseph Stirling Coyne in The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland (1842). Coyne describes Galway as “completely Spanish looking” with stairs that remind him of Malaga, fountains from Seville and architecture from Valencia and best of all it’s in “tolerable preservation.” It’s not just the city that looks Spanish but its inhabitants, the colours and noise of the city lead Coyne to remark “Galwayians struck me as differing from all the other Irish I had seen.” Who needs to travel to Spain when you have Galway? Coyne recommends a grand total of two things to do in the city. First, the market which sounds delightful, “The noise of potato and pig traders was perfectly deafening, and there seemed the promise of a fight in every group.” Secondly, a Roman style house on Lombard street of which “over the door, is sculptured a death’s head and cross-bones.” Lovely.
Galway City Harbour, 1842, looking very Spanish apparently
A theme that emerged during last year’s travel blog was that no matter where in the world our authors travelled, nowhere could compare to the English countryside. This year is no different as John Francis Waller in Picturesque Europe, Vol II (1876) describes the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim as “a disappointment.” He questions how the Causeway became famous over Staffa Island off the coast of Scotland. “How, then, is it that the Causeway became specially famous and still maintains its reputation?” Not a fan then. Waller instead recommends heading to Donegal despite “having none of the beauty of Wicklow or culture of Dublin.” So what is there to do then in Donegal I hear you ask? Well climb an extremely dangerous mountain called One Man’s Pass of course. “To ascend this mountain is an exploit, if not of peril, affording but a very scant footway for the climber, a rocky path only two feet wide, we counsel no one to attempt it that has not a good head and a firm foot.” It’s worth noting that there is a much safer route up the mountain on its other side, but Waller warns “people who take [it] are under the delusion that they have performed the feat of a difficult ascent.” After hopefully avoiding certain death on One Man’s Pass, you’ll be treated to a view of the coast of Mayo and Sligo, “a sight not easily equalled with glorious colours” Waller finally concedes.
The Very Safe One Man’s Pass, Donegal, 1876
If you like the sound of a mountain climb but don’t want to risk the danger of Donegal, W. J. Joyce recommends The Featherbed Mountain, South-West Dublin, in Rambles Near Dublin (1890). Featherbed Mountain’s name is given from its soft rolling appearance and bog land to the right of the road that travels up it. On its summit Joyce notes “There is an extensive view over the Dublin plain, with the broad green expanse of Phoenix Park in the foreground.” After taking in the view you can stop at a nearby Inn House for a pint of Guinness or Malt. Continuing along the road from the Inn, the flat plains of Kildare and Meath come into view “with a slight haze they might easily be mistaken for the sea.” Or it could be the Guinness kicking in. Continuing along the road you’ll get views of Lough Bray, Two Rock Mountain and Glencree. Lough Bray of course is believed to be a crater of an extinct volcano. Joyce, clearly having a great time on his hike remarks “What a treat it would be in these dull times if some morning activity resumed and it reappeared in its original form as a majestic volcano, emitting volumes of smoke and flame and projecting streams of lava down quiet Glencree!” The occupants of Glencree might disagree with that point of view. We continue along the road to end our journey at Lough Bray Cottage which serves tea al fresco and “commands a splendid view of the lake and the rugged mountain cliffs that encompass it.” After tea simply turn around and follow the road back down the mountain, hopefully avoiding streams of lava.
Lough Bray Cottage, 1890. Potential Lava not pictured.