Clare County Library
Clare History
Home | Library Catalogue | Forums | Foto | Maps | Archaeology | Folklore | Genealogy | Museum | Search this Website | Copyright Notice | Visitors' Book | What's New
Translate this page into Arabic
Translate this page into Bulgarian
Translate this page into Croatian
Translate this page into Czech
Translate this page into Danish
Translate this page into Dutch
Translate this page into Finnish
Translate this page into French
Translate this page into German
Translate this page into Greek
Translate this page into Hindi
Translate this page into Italian
Translate this page into Norwegian
Translate this page into Polish
Translate this page into Portuguese
Translate this page into Romanian
Translate this page into Russian
Translate this page into Spanish
Translate this page into Swedish
As Gaeilge
Translate this page into Irish

Travels in County Clare 1534 - 1911
(extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh)

William Barry, A Walking Tour of Clare, 1864

William Whittaker Barry, well known English pedestrian, came to Ireland in the Autumn of 1864. His objective was to complete a circuit of the country on foot. He spent nearly ten weeks in Ireland, visited twenty out of the thirty-two counties and walked upwards of 1,500 miles. His book professes to give a strictly original account of Ireland as it appeared to an intelligent, well informed Englishman. He confines himself to those topics within his own observation and experience. Entering Clare by steamer from Galway he traversed the whole of the west coast from Ballyvaughan to Kilrush where he boarded the ferry for Tarbert. Unable to reach Lahinch in a single day’s walk, he was compelled to seek lodgings in Liscannor. He provides a very amusing account of the kind of lodgings a tourist might expect to find in a remote Clare seaside village in the 1860s. Barry appears to have been a lawyer by profession and was the author of several legal tracts including A Treatise on the Practice of Conveyancing (1865), and A Treatise on the Statuary Jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, (1872). He also penned a walking tour of Normandy in 1868. He died some years later while attempting to cross the Alps on foot.

Saturday, September 16, 1864. I then took a path which leads into a bye-road leading into the main road to Ballyvaughan. Shortly after reaching the main road there is a ruin to the right of an old castle or mansion. About two o’clock I met an old farmer in a cart, quite ‘drunk and incapable’. A friend came up on foot who was in the same condition, and assisted him. I asked a boy whether the men had been drinking potheen at Ballyvaughan. He looked at me with a knowing smile, and said there was none in the place, not a drop. ‘Ah!’ thought I, passing on, ‘you take me for a gauger, I see, my boy; no potheen in Ballyvaughan on market-day - a likely thing, very likely!’ On the left, before entering Ballyvaghan there are the ruins of apparently an old church. I pass though Ballyvaughan, a clean neat-looking kind of town with an inn. It was fair-day. Pigs, sheep, drapery, fruit, and salt fish, were the principal articles of merchandise. A good deal of Irish was being talked in the fair, and by two farmers on horseback on the road. I met a woman who said neither herself nor her husband could speak the native Irish, and they found themselves therefore at a disadvantage in doing business in the fair. One of her boys had picked up the language, which was of some assistance. . . .

Shortly before reaching [Lisdoonvarna] I entered a small cabin occupied by two old women. Only one bed in a recess, and under-neath a place for the chicken. There was a kind of apology for a chimney, but the smoke went out at the door. I sat down for a short time and had some talk with these old women. One of them said she should be quite contented if she could have this hovel entirely to herself. What a reflection on human ambition! This poor woman would be content to have as a home that which a fine gentleman would hardly think good enough to rest in for one hour.

Arrived at Lisdoonvarna I took up my quarters at Redy’s Hotel, to which I had been recommended by my kind medical friend at Kinvarra. It was late in the evening. I asked the waiter for some dinner. He replied, ‘I fear there is nothing.’ I said, ‘But you have a table d’hôte, I hear, at four o’clock.’ ‘Ah! yes; but the things are all consumed by this time,’ he rejoined with a smile. However, though the waiter promised nothing, he produced some very good salmon and a joint of meat. . . .

Sunday, September 17, 1864. After breakfast I sailed forth in my slippers to see the spas, and my object being observed by a respectable Irishman, one of the visitors to the place, he very civilly offered to be my guide to them. We saw three springs, one sulphur, another magnesia, and the other iron. I tasted them all, and neither of the waters was particularly nauseous. We then went on to a place below the site of the small Protestant church, and difficult to find, so that my friend’s guidance was of real assistance. As he led me on, in a way to prevent getting wet, he said, ‘See how careful I am of you.’ The sight here is certainly a curious one. There are two springs close adjoining, one iron and the other sulphur. On our return walk I asked my friend what diseases these waters would cure? He replied, ‘Lor, sir, every disease under the sun.’ My faith in the spas, however, was somewhat shaken when my friend, who had been here drinking the waters for a month, excused himself from showing me the remaining spring, on the ground that the sulphur made him so weak that he felt too tired to walk any more at present. Of course I wished him good-bye, with thanks for what he had already kindly done, but still on leaving him I could not help reflecting, ‘Why, this is my morning stroll in slippers, simply, before taking a day’s journey, and yet this man, who looks strong and in the prime of life, is tired already. Can these waters, therefore, be very strengthening?’ The wells containing the springs are still left in their rude natural state, and only at the sulphur spring, being that apparently the one most usually taken, is there even an attendant with glasses. At the other places there is only a cup or glass for all comers. The remaining spring I did not see is of copper, and only used I believe for external applications. This spa is much frequented, and there has been a good season here this year, I am informed; but if it be wished to attract English visitors it is essential that the springs should have proper surroundings. An Englishman will never believe in the efficacy of a mineral water which is lathed out of a most primitive-looking well. It should be placed under cover of a splendid saloon, and be made to issue from the mouth of a nymph, a lion, or the like. . . .

Lisdoonvarna is prettily situated in a valley, and very secluded. I should be inclined to think that what does people good here is more the calm and quiet they enjoy, combined with freedom from care and pleasant company, than the efficacy of the springs. But what matter the cause, so the result is achieved. If there were no spas there would be no visitors. Certainly if the post could only be shut out, a person by a little aid of the imagination might fancy himself here in a kind of happy valley.

I left the spa at one o’clock. My first destination was to visit the castle of Ballynacken, near Mr O’Brien’s residence, about two miles from Lisdoonvarna. . . .

On arriving at Mr O’Brien’s grounds, and on ascending the hill, I was amused to find my progress disputed by a snarling little dog, apparently left behind by his companions to do fag duty while they took their constitutional. However, the little brute did me some service by bringing out a girl from the house, with the key of the tower of the castle. This I forthwith ascended, and enjoyed a good prospect from the summit of Galway Bay, the three islands of Arran, and inland of the surrounding country. I then descended, gained the road, and proceeded through the village of Killalough, where there are four hamlets, one called Fisherstreet, principally occupied by fishermen. Hereabouts I had some talk with a man about the Fenians. He had heard of a person being stopped the other day, on his way home at night from Galway Fair, and made to take the oath. He spoke also of a midshipman having written from the fleet to his mother, saying she must not be surprised if a Fenian army succeeded in landing on the Irish coast. . . .

It was now near nightfall. I had been much misinformed as to the distance by my good friends at the spa, and now felt in a rage with them. According to their information I could easily reach Lehinch, where there was a good hotel; but this place proved to be many miles further than they imagined. The country here is wild and desolate-looking, and did not hold out much promise of an inn of any kind. However, I was informed by a countryman that there was a small inn where I could get a bed at Liscannor, on the bay of that name some miles further on, so there was nothing to be done but to make for this place. I walk on several miles, and pass to the right a monument erected to the memory of Cornelius O’Brien, father of the present proprietor, G. O’Brien, whose residence, Birchfield House, is a little further on, being skirted by the road. It is now quite dark, and with difficulty I keep on my way. I arrived at Liscannor between seven and eight o’clock. I enquire for the inn kept by Mr and Mrs Consedine, to which I had been directed. It is a grocer’s, and general shop as well, which I enter, and ask the master whether I can have a bed. He replies, ‘I must ask the missis.’ Presently she enters from outside - a stout pleasant-looking woman - and I repeat the question, and she says I may have one. The servant shows me up into the coffee-room. It is in a slovenly condition, with the remains of a broken glass on the floor, showing that the room had been in request during the day. The broken pieces are picked up by the servant-woman, but presently a girl with naked feet appears, and I warn her of the débris, at which she is much obliged. . . .

There is but scant fare for dinner. I ask the servant to bring me some whisky-punch. She comes with a glass of it ready-made. I fear it is too strong, and that there may be more than a wine-glass of whisky.

‘Well,’ says the servant,’ I can’t say but there may be a little more; trust missis for being able to make a glass of punch.’ I ask her whether they have any potheen in the house. She says, ‘No; you see, as there is a constabulary next door, it wouldn’t do for the master to be having any on’t about.’ The whisky-punch is certainly strong, but well mixed and very good. At length, soon after ten o’clock I enter the bedroom; but, oh! ye powers, what a sight presents itself. The bed curtains and linen are literally swarming with the three classes of the insect world which so often rob the traveller of his rest. I ring the bell, and the chambermaid appears. ‘Cast thy bread on the waters, and it shall return after many days;’ but here, within an hour or two, the bread is returning. That care of her unprotected feet now evidently is enlisting this girl’s sympathies in my behalf. ‘Lor, sir! I have only been in the house three weeks, and never knew of this; bless my soul! what a sight!’ I asked her to fetch the other servant, which she proceeded to do. Meanwhile, the insect army, alarmed by the light, began to beat a retreat; but when the head servant appeared, a sufficient number still remained to satisfy her I could not sleep in that room to-night. So I said they must make me up a bed on the sofa and chairs. . . .

Monday, September 18, [1864]. I left Liscannor this morning before breakfast, starting at seven o’clock. There was a good deal of mist, so I could see nothing for a time. The road passes over O’Brien’s Bridge, near which are the remains of a castle, and then, by the sea across sandy and undulating mounds of grass-land to Lehinch, a small watering-place. I arrived here about eight o’clock, and breakfasted at the Royal Victoria Hotel, a good-sized and comfortable-looking inn. I met an Irish gentleman here, a clerk in Somerset House, out for his holidays, who had been spending part of his time at Lisdoonvarna, the waters of which he highly commended, and the rest of his holiday he was devoting to this place. This gentleman gave me some information, and on leaving he accompanied me to a lodging-house to learn the prices. The young woman who appeared said the rent for a lodge or house during the bathing season, containing two sitting and three or four bedrooms, was from six to eight pounds a month. The frequenters of English watering-places will be able to draw a comparison, and if I mistake not, very much in favour of the economy of seaside visits of Ireland. Lehinch is a pretty watering-place, with beautiful sands.

Having parted from my friend with thanks for his courtesy, but with some inward annoyance at his pencillings on my map, I left Lehinch at ten o’clock. The road winds round the shore, and presents a fine view of the bay and Hag’s Head, with Liscannor, Moher, and O’Connor Castles, and the white houses here and there on the opposite coast. . . .

The visiting part of Milltown Malbay is about a mile from the village, and consists of this hotel, and many lodgings and other houses overlooking the sea. The place is finely situated, with good sands.

I was apparently the only coffee-room guest at the Atlantic Hotel. I was civilly shown into a private room as it overlooked the sea, which the coffee-room does not, though there is a broad expanse of green lawn in front of it. I ordered some dinner, and in a short time appeared roast turkey and pudding. Altogether the Atlantic Hotel is one of the best inns I have yet visited in Ireland. I had here the only perfectly clean bed since that at the Railway Hotel, Galway. . . .

After dinner I sauntered about the grounds, watching the carting of potatoes and looking at the sea. There are some seats in a garden fronting the hotel, which forms an agreeable promenade.

On my way to-day I walked some distance with an old peasant man, and we engaged in conversation on the subject of the Fenians. He disapproved of the movement altogether, and thought it would bring about no good. He did not, however, seem to attach much danger to the conspiracy, and appeared to have full confidence in the power of the government to put it down. The old man said slowly and with emphasis that he had a long memory, but never knew a case of persons opposing the law but it was the worse for themselves in the end. . .

Tuesday, September 19, [1864]. I left Milltown Malbay this morning at half-past nine o’clock. The road winds round the bay, and then joins the high-road to Kilkee. From here a good view is obtained of the Milltown Malbay visiting part. The bay hotel and surrounding houses look well. Then on to the village of Quilty, with a row of thatched cottages by the sea, skirting a large field, and called Sea Field. Opposite is Mutton Island, with a castle or tower in the centre, and two islets to the north. Further on there is a good view of the sea with Milltown and the hills of Clare in the background. Near Quilty, to the right, there is a castle, apparently inhabited, and the village or hamlet of Kilmurry. Then the road proceeds for several miles through a flat but well-cultivated country until you come in view of some low but undulating hills, which serve to relieve a little the monotony of the journey. Then on the main road for some distance, when I took a cross-road to the right leading to the high-road to Doonbeg and Kilkee. . .

On a small bridge over a broad stream which the bye-road crosses there is the following estimate of its cost - ’This bridge was built by John Lynch for 128l., June 10, 1838.’ Whether this amount be little or much I know not, but certainly such records if generally given would convey some useful information to succeeding generations of the coast of labour at the time. Shortly after I reached the main road I fell in with a young farmer on horseback. He said Kilkee had been very full this season with the quality, but was now emptying, and partly on account of the Limerick races. He expressed surprise at my walking, and said be would offer me a seat on his pony, only it would not suffer any one to get up behind. A sensible animal!

I then pass through Doonbeg, and cross a bridge, over the river of the same name. Doonbeg is a poor little village, with no inn, and a small chapel. There are two square towers here, one in the village, and the other on the bank of the river before passing the bridge. Further on is Killard Church and the village or hamlet of Bealaha. Shortly after passing through this place I meet a young man, with a rod and a bundle of whiting which he had caught this morning, looking quite black with exposure to the sun. I asked him why he had not put some grass round them. He said he did not know; he could not get any. I am afraid this petty incident lets in a little light on the Irish character. This youth here, after toiling all the morning, is evidently too indolent to secure the fish he has caught from being spoilt.

Then on through several villages and well-cultivated land to Kilkee. About a mile from the town I meet three well-dressed young ladies, as sure harbingers of a watering-place as swallows of spring. . . .

The town consists of two or three back streets, but principally of fine rows of houses, extending round nearly the whole extent of the bay, forming as near as may be a semicircle. Towards the north part of the bay there are some good detached houses, and the best houses are in a row on the north or opposite side of the bay. Towards the south the headlands appear, and in the background a gentle range of undulating hills. The bay is magnificent, with a sandy shore, and shut in by the land with a bar, partly extending across the mouth, with the broad Atlantic beyond. Altogether, Kilkee is the most picturesque and pleasing watering-place I have yet seen in Ireland. It is situated in the south-west and is much frequented by the Limerick people, being so convenient of access for them. The way they come is by the steamboat down the Shannon to Kilrush, and from there to here by car. The distance from Milltown Malbay to Kilkee is about twenty miles. . . .

There are three principal hotels here, Moore’s, Warren’s, and the West End, all close together on the Esplanade. Moore’s I believe is the best. It certainly looks so. I ordered some dinner at the West End Hotel - anything that could be forthcoming. First came some fresh herrings - a good beginning; but then the dinner suddenly collapsed. Not a chop, steak, or bit of fresh meat of any kind could be got in the town; there was only some salt meat, which I declined. The waiter, however, with considerable naïveté, promised that I should have a chop in the morning. Fancy the hungry pedestrian having to wait until the next morning for his second course. . . .

Wednesday, September 20, 1864. I started at eleven o’clock in company of three young English gentlemen, who were doing their tour partly on foot, for Kilrush, distant about eight miles. The road passes through a dull-looking country, with a peep of the sea every now and then to the right. . . .

Kilrush is a small pleasant-looking town on the banks of the Shannon, as it reaches the sea. The principal streets are Henry Street and Frances Street. The Market-place Square is also a good part. There are two hotels, the Vandeleur Arms and Williams’s. I intended to cross the Shannon in a boat, wishing to proceed on from the opposite bank to Listowel, but after making many enquiries, and being directed from this place to that, the only chance of crossing, except on exorbitant terms, was by means of a hooker, a kind of fishing smack, the owners of which were regaling themselves in the town, and would not start until the turn of the tide in the evening, and until, I also opined, a good deal of whisky-punch had gone down the throats of the boatmen. So finding those near the harbour endeavouring to make a ‘plant’ of me, as they say in the vulgar tongue, I went on board the steamboat, just starting for Limerick, with the intention of using it as a ferry, and being put out at Tarbet, the first stopping-place, and on the Kerry side of the Shannon.

Extracts taken from William Barry, A Walking Tour Around Ireland in 1864 (London 1867), pp 188-214.


Sights and Scenes, 1859
Thomas Lacy


Disturbed Clare, 1880
Bernard Becker