Supplement to the Cork Examiner 8th October, 1887
This beautiful and favourite health resort, which deserves to be better known than it really is, has, since the opening of the West Clare Railway, become much more easy of access, as the station at Ennistymon is only seven miles from the Spa. In the old days the long car journey from Ennis, a distance of twenty miles, was very fatiguing and was enough to deter persons of weakly or delicate constitutions from undertaking it at all.
I arrived in the height of the season and only that I took the precaution of telegraphing from Ennis, I could scarcely have got quarters at the comfortable hostelry where I had sojourned on a former occasion. I had the good fortune to fall in with pleasant and companionable society, including a large sprinkling of the softer sex and, If I had not long ago received my baptism of fire from a pair of Southern blue eyes, and so was armour proof against the shafts of the winged god, I certainly should have not returned heart whole.
I found Biddy at the celebrated sulphur well as youthful looking and full of ready repartee as ever, while her faith in the healing virtues of the spring seems to grow stronger as the years roll by. Our time was mainly spent in drinking the waters, climbing the neighbouring hills, or following the courses of the tortuous ravings, which the mountain torrents have worn, here there and everywhere through the beds of shale. The monotony of this style of existence was occasionally broken by excursions through the various places of interest round the Spa, and two of these outings deserve at least more than passing reference.
We arranged on one day to go by Ballinalacken and Black head to Ballyvaughan, and returned by the famous Crokscrew road, a piece of engineering that would do credit to the genius of the first Napoleon. The road from Ballinalacken to Ballyvaughan runs along the Southern shore of Galway Bay. The country to the right forms portion of the Barony of Burren and presents a chain of rocky and barren looking hills. Yet we were assured by our driver that succulent grasses grew in the interstices of the rocks and that splendid sheep were raised on these hills.
The day was beautifully fine, the blue sky being perfectly cloudless, while Galway bay was a calm as an inland lake. Here and there a hare-legged, sunburned child peered out from some fisherman’s cabin; anon a startled hare fled away from a wayside clump of rare ferns. Ivy clad ruins of ancient abbeys and churches formed a prominent feature in the landscape and bore eloquent testimony to the piety and faith of our Celtic ancestors.Of the old castles, Ballinalacken, once a stronghold of a sept of the O’Briens, claimed most attention and reminded me forcibly of Blarney. Altogether it was a day worth living for and although I have spent many pleasant days in various nooks and corners of our Island, the memory of this golden one shall abide with me forever.
A few days before my departure, I visited Galway. Galway – quaint, old and decaying! Galway still redolent of the days when dark-eyed Spaniards promenaded its streets and quays, intent on selling their precious cargoes of rare wines! I was very much struck with a curious mixture of the ancient and the modern. In one of the principal streets stands a battlemented castle of the date 1473, with curiously carved escutcheons and leering griffins; the basement being devoted to the utilitarian purposes of a tallow-chandler’s shop!
The other places of interest to the visitor or tourist within easy reach of Lisdoonvarna are the Cliffs of Moher, which rise perpendicularly from the ocean to a height of 800 feet; St. Bridget’s well, near Liscannor, the subject of Petrie’s famous picture of “The Blind Girl at the Holy Well”; Corcomroe Abbey and Inchiquin Lake.
When the holiday season comes round again and tired citizens are asking themselves the question, “Where shall we go to?”, I would strongly advise a visit to Lisdoonvarna and West Clare, where pure mountain air, natural scenery, and, to those who may require them, healing springs, cannot fail to please and charm the most fastidious.