« PredošláPokračovať »
ficial content of Ireland, including the inland lakes, to be as follows : English square miles, 32,901-Irish acres, 12,729,615. -English acres, 20,437,974.
be described as a country partly level, and partly of a surface gently undulating, with many interspersed mountains. Considerable elevations occur in the contiguity of most parts of the coast which are exposed to the fury of the western ocean. The shores of Antrim, on the north-east, are rocky, bold, and high; and the county of Wicklow, on the eastern margin of the island, chiefly consists of one vast assemblage of granite mountains.
It is remarked by Dr. Beaufort that there are not in Ireland, as in many other countries, “ long ranges of mountain ; if we except one ridge, of various heights, and interrupted by the river Blackwater, which extends from near Dungarvan to the county of Kerry. They stand rather in unconnected groups, or masses,
of different magnitude, which are so dispersed through the island, that there are few parts of it in which the prospect is not somewhere terminated by this species of majestic scenery, forming a back ground seldom more remote than twenty miles.".
To the south of a range of mountains that intersects the county of Down, the country sinks into a level of great extent, which stretches over the counties of Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, and Carlow. The county of Kerry presents a mountainous tract, of great sublimity, and comprises the highest land in Ireland. Leitrim and Mayo are also of a mountainous character, and abound in wild and romantic scenery. In the interior, the Sliebhbloom mountains, which divide the King's and Queen's counties, form a lofty and noble chain of elevations. Further in the south the Galtee mountains rise conspicuous, and exhibit the rude magnificence of nature in bold contrast to a wide extent of equable surface.
Except on rare and favoured spots, a want of wood is observable throughout the whole of Ireland. More extended remarks
on this subject are presented in future pages; but it must be noticed, in this place, that the finest outlines of the country are often rendered in a considerable degree frigid and unpleasing, by a want of that lovely variety and colouring which can be imparted by no other means than umbrageous shelter. Without this aid the richest verdure tires on the eye; and the surface is, in some tracts, destitute even of the verdant bosom that forms the just boast of the island. Through many long miles of Connaught the traveller views around him a continuous expanse of cheerless level, thickly strewed with massive fragments of rock, which would appear to have descended in a prodigious and destructive shower, and are probably the memorials of some remote and awful volcanic eruption.
But districts so severe are not of frequent occurrence; and each dreary interval of pleasing scenery acts as the conductor to such exquisite gems of natural beauty, as might almost recompense the traveller for a pilgrimage over Arabian deserts. It is well observed by Mr. Young, in the second volume of his “ Tour," that the mountains of Ireland give to travelling that interesting - variety which a flat country can never abound with. And at the same time, they are not in such number as to confer the usual character of poverty which attends them." To which it must be added, that the luxuriant vales of this island ; its numerous lakes ; the fertile banks of its rivers, and the frequency of sea-views ; unite with the wild magnificence of mountain scenery, in producing all which the most ardent fancy can require of the sublime, the soft, and the attractive.
The natural features of Ireland, considered in a pictorial view, may, indeed, be said to consist of extremes. Districts scarcely to be rivalled, and certainly not to be excelled, in their respective points of beauty, by the most admired and celebrated parts of any country, are contrasted with monotonous and dull tracts-flatstony-dreary—incapable of eliciting one pleasurable emotion in the mind of the spectator. It is obvious that such a disposal of natural circumstances is, on the whole, favourable to a display of nature, in her grandeur and unusual beauties. The principle of
poetical influence is here exemplified on a stupendous theatre. More equable scenery lulls and soothes the mind, but leaves its energies untouched. The amazing contrariety of Irish landscape admits of no medium, but gratifies the traveller in the same degree as does the artificial expedient of conducting to the blaze of noonday splendour, through the gloom of a darkened avenue.
The following is the elevation above the level of the sea of the most lofty mountains of Ireland, as measured by Mr. Kirwan :
co. Kerry... 3695
co. Down... 2809
co. Kerry.. 2693 Crow, or Croagh Patrick.... co. Mayo .. 2660 Nephin. .
co. Mayo ...... 2630
As it is by comparison alone that clear and definite ideas are conveyed, respecting extraordinary circumstances of height and size, we illustrate the above statement of admeasurements, by noticing the altitude of some remarkable eminences, in England, Wales, and Scotland.
North Wales 3568
Cumberland. ... 3390
Scotland ...... 4350
SOIL AND Bogs.- Ireland does not afford any great varieties of soil, but the only decisive feature, of general prevalence, is the stony character of the surface. This circumstance constitutes, in the opinion of a distinguished agricultural tourist (Mr. Young), “ the greatest singularity of Ireland,” and induced that writer to join in the very common belief, that “ the whole island is one vast rock, of different strata and kinds, rising out of the sea."
A large proportion of this rock consists of limestone, which
greatly assists in enriching the land. It is usually asserted that the best limestone is found in the neighbourhood of Carlow; but this useful substance abounds in nearly every part of Ireland, except the counties of Wexford, Wicklow, Tyrone, and Antrim. Chalk is unknown; and the species of flint, so frequently seen in several parts of England, is here very rare. Limestone-gravel, an excellent natural manure, is found in great abundance in most parts of the country. Some account of this valuable production is given in our notice of manures, under the head of Agriculture. The great
“ rockiness" of the soil would appear to be repugnant to fertility ; but the fact is on the contrary side, and in an eminent degree. It is supposed by Mr. Young, that “ acre for acre," the natural fertility of Ireland is superior to that of the sister country. This opinion is combated by Mr. Wakefield and several other writers; but it is still unquestionable that certain districts of Ireland, and those occupying a wide expanse, surpass in richness any lands to be seen in other parts of the united empire.
In many places, and particularly throughout the county of Meath, the soil is a deep and rich loam, of a truly valuable character. In other districts, of considerable extent, the earth is thinly spread over the calcareous subsoil, but produces herbage of the most luxuriant description. Sand is never seen, except in the vicinity of the coast ; and the stiff and tenacious clay, prevalent in many parts of England, is not found at the surface in any part of this country. A fine dark and sandy loam, admirably adapted to the purposes of agriculture, prevails in Tipperary, Limerick, and some other counties ; but, viewing the island generally, there is only a small part of its surface sufficiently light in soil to come strictly under the denomination of land suited to the very estimable system of turnip culture.
With an exception of the Corcasses, a term bestowed on rich tracts of land upon the borders of the rivers Shannon and Fergus, the finest soil in Ireland is to be found in the counties of Tipperary; Limerick ; Roscommon ; Longford ; Meath; and Cork.
The mountains of Ireland are not usually of so barren a cha
racter as many of those in Scotland and Wales. In general they afford profitable pasturage, even on their utmost heights. The calcareous soil, in many instances, does not ascend to the top of the Irish mountains ; but still a luxuriant growth of clover is found on their summits. The interspersed valleys are often of extraordinary fertility.
The Bogs of Ireland constitute a curious feature in the natural history of the country. Reserving to future descriptive pages several observations concerning the extent and character of particular bogs, in different parts of the island, we present in this place, such remarks as admit of general application.
According to a report made to parliament by commissioners appointed to examine into the state of the Irish bogs, it appears that “ six sevenths of those bogs occupy a portion of the island, somewhat greater than one fourth of its whole superficial extent, included between a line drawn from Wicklow Head to Galway, and another drawn from Howth Head to Sligo; resembling in form a broad belt, stretched across the centre of the country, with its narrowest end nearest to the capital, and gradually extending in breadth as it approaches to the western ocean.' Exclusive of mountain bogs, and such as are under the extent of five hundred acres, the boys of Ireland are reported by the same commissioners to cover at least one million of acres.
The bogs of Ireland are usually described as being of two sorts, black and red. The immense mass of which they consist is applicable to two uses only; those of fuel and manure.
“ The black bog," observes Mr. Young, “ is generally very good. It is solid almost to the surface, and yields many ashes in burning. The red sort has usually a reddish substance, five or six feet deep from the surface, which holds water like a sponge, and yields no ashes in burning".* These bogs are generally situated far above
Tour in Ireland, &c. vol. ii. part. 2nd, p. 72. Mr. Young aptly describes the substance of the black bog, as being a solid, weighty mass, which cuts almost like butter, and, upon examination, appears to resemble rotten wood. Under the red bogs there is always a stratum, if not equally solid with the black bog, nearly so, and wbich makes as good fuel."