Page images

are five beds of hard penance there, round which the pilgrims go—the bed of Patrick, of Columbkille, of Brigid, of Adamnan, of Dabheog."* The lake is about six miles from north to south, and four miles from west to east. The Station Island is a narrow strip of rock, wholly occupied with buildings of the most unpretending character. It is about half a mile from the shore, and there is a ferry-boat, which pays a handsome sum to the lord of the soil for the exclusive privilege of taking the pilgrims to and from the island. The station is open only from the 1st of June to the 15th of August, the number of penitents each season varying from ten to fifteen thousand.

* Martyrology of Donegal, App. to Introd., xl. The Martyrology of Donegal, or, A Calendar of the Saints of Ireland, was published last year (1864) by the Irish Archæological and Celtic Society, Dublin. This work was compiled by Brother Michael O'Clery, chief of the celebrated antiquaries, known by the name of the Four Masters. The present beautiful edition contains the original text and a translation, the joint work of the Rev. J. H. Todd, T.C.D., and the Rev. H. Reeves, gentlemen to whom the Irish literature of our age is deeply indebted. The Martyrology was finished at the convent of Donegal on the 19th of April 1630. “ It is a compilation," writes Mr Todd, "made by a scholar peculiarly well qualified for the task ; who had access to all the original authorities then extant in the Irish language, the matter of which he has transferred either in whole or in part into the present work, quoting in alınost every instance the sources from which he drew his information.” (Ibid., p. xiii.) “ O'Clery was assisted by his companions in the great work of the Annals of the Four Masters. The work, therefore, possesses no small authority, as the compilation of scholars of the greatest eminence, who have condensed into its pages the substance of original records, some of them no longer extant, and all requiring the highest order of Celtic learning to read and interpret them correctly. It is, in fact, a manual of great practical utility, and may be considered as a synopsis of the particular branch of historical literature to which it relates." (Ibid., p. xxi.)

It has been justly observed by the writer of “Murray's Handbook," that it is foreign to the scope of such a work to describe the details of religious ceremonies. However, as it is there stated, on the authority of another, that the penitents are made to pass on their bare knees over hard and pointed rocks, the present writer, who has had the very best opportunities of knowing the exact truth in the matter, thinks it right to state that no such observance is practised on the island. The sum total of the austerities of the three days' “ retreat” at Lough Derg consists in fasting on bread and water, (which the pilgrims, by a beautiful fiction, call wine,) and keeping vigil for one whole night in the church. The essential work of the “ station” here is to withdraw from all temporal affairs, to make three days' spiritual recollection, ending in a confession.

From Pettigo there is a road direct to Donegal, but the tourist had better take the road to Ballintra, in order that he may have an opportunity of seeing the Pullens at Brownhall. Both roads traverse a wild and desolate highland moor, with only a small tarn here and there to break the dreary monotony. About fourteen miles from Pettigo, you arrive at

Brownhall, the residence of J. Hamilton, Esq., where the lover of scenery will find something to interest him. The chief object of interest is the Pullens. This is a deep ravine, darkly shaded with wood, through which a mountain torrent leaps joyously, then suddenly plunges through a cleft in the rock of from thirty to forty feet in depth, making here and there an acute angle, now disappearing under some cavernous arch, then reappearing beyond, and thus pursues its uneven way until about half a mile farther down, it comes out in placid stream, suddenly to lose itself again in a dark chasm some sixty feet deep, from which it emerges under a natural bridge, , and courses on in a straight line to Ballintra, whither the tourist will be sure quickly to follow. Here, at the Catholic chapel, a building solid and graceful, he joins our main route, about seven miles from Ballyshannon.


The road traverses for the first five or six miles a bare, uninteresting upland. About midway, the geologist will observe the striking development of the mountain limestone near Ballintra, where there is nothing to detain the tourist, save the Pullens at Brownhall, already noticed. Two miles farther on is Coxtown, the residence of A. Hamilton, Esq., beyond which you drop into the village of Laghy, where the scenery begins to be diversified with some bits of pretty landscape. Leaving on the left Belle Isle, the residence of A. H. Foster, Esq., and a little farther on, St Ernans, the seat of J. Hamilton, Esq., beautifully situated at the mouth of Donegal harbour, on an island connected by a causeway with the mainland, you arrive at


[Hotel : Dillon’s.] Distances.-Mountcharles, 4 miles; Killy begs, 17; Carrick, 24; Lough Eske, 4); Barnesmore Gap, 7; Stranorlar, 17 ; Strabane, 30 ; Glenties, 15; Ardara, 17}; Ballyshannon, 13; Sligo, 39.

The town, from which the county takes its name, occupies a beautiful situation at the head of the bay of the same name.

It consists of some 1550 inhabitants. The houses occupying the three sides of a central triangle, called the Diamond, with its outlets, are generally well built. As the harbour is for the most part shallow and beset with numerous shoals, the town is not important as a port, the shipping trade being confined almost exclusively to a corn trade carried on by A. MacAloone, Esq. “The

Protestant church is in the principal square, and has a pretty spire and a hideous body. A dissenting congregation have lately erected a chapel, which might be admired, had the builder not committed the unpardonable error of blocking up the best view of the old castle.” *

Donegal was incorporated into a borough by charter of James I., February 27, 1612, the corporation consisting of Portreeve, twelve free burgesses, and an unlimited number of freemen. It returned two members to the Irish Parliament till it was disfranchised by the Union, for which the Earl of Arran and Viscount Sudley took £15,000 as compensation. There is a sulphurous spa, but little frequented, in the neighbourhood.

But Donegal Dun-nan-Gal, the Fort of the Stranger—is classic ground for the antiquary. The tourist will pay a visit to the site of the Abbey, which is within five minutes' walk of the hotel. Its situation at the head of the bay is exquisitely beautiful. The long narrow harbour, placid as a lake, flanked on either side by grassy slopes, diversified with many-tinted woods, and here and there a steep incline green to the water's edge, all make up a landscape of surpassing loveliness. The remains of the old monastery are lamentably scanty.

* Murray

« PreviousContinue »