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

Daniel Augustus Beaufort, Journey Through County Clare, August 1788

The Beaufort family was of Huguenot origin; one of the many Protestant families who fled to England in the early decades of the eighteenth century to avoid persecution in France. In 1746 Daniel Cornelius de Beaufort accompanied the Viceroy Lord Harrington to Ireland as chaplain. He was subsequently appointed rector of Navan, County Meath, with pastoral responsibility for Dublin’s large Huguenot community. His son, Daniel Augustus, was a gifted student with a versatile and enquiring mind; he entered Trinity College Dublin in 1756, gained a scholarship the following year, graduated B.A. in 1759 and M.A. in 1764. Daniel Augustus succeeded his father as rector of Navan in 1765. He travelled on the continent and in Britain and, being interested in most things, became an expert on many subjects. Because he found the diocesan boundaries of Ireland so inaccurate, he determined about 1785 to produce a new map of Ireland on a scale of six miles to an inch. This involved him in a considerable amount of research and travel. He toured the west and north of Ireland in 1787 in search of accurate topographical information, a journey of 1,320 miles. The following year he set forth again travelling the north, west and south of Ireland. It is this second tour which concerns us here, because in August 1788 the Rev Beaufort passed from Galway into County Clare. He was accompanied on the journey by two competent artists - his sons James and William. Regrettably, except for a plan and some rough sketches of Corcomroe Abbey, none of the drawings executed by the Beauforts in Clare appear to survive. Evidently the roads of the county were sufficiently improved by the 1780s to accommodate vehicular traffic, as the Beauforts were able to travel the length of the county in a horse drawn carriage. Beaufort also carried with him some recently published works of reference to which he refers: John Ferrar’s Directory of Limerick (Limerick 1769), Taylor and Skinner’s Maps of the Roads of Ireland (Dublin 1778), Mervyn Archdall’s Monasticon Hibernicum (Dublin 1786) and possibly also William Wilson’s The Post Chaise Companion (Dublin 1786). Beaufort’s Map of Ireland and Memoir of the same were published after much labour in 1792. However, his projected Grande Topography of Ireland, for which much of the information was collected in the tours of 1787-8, was never completed. That portion of his 1788 tour relating to County Clare is published here courtesy of Trinity College Dublin. Spelling has been modernised; names of persons and places remain unchanged.

August 2nd [1788]. Left Galway at 7 and passed through Oranmore. Good large cleared fields (interspersed with some rock) for about one mile. Old church as in Taylor and Skinner. See Tyrone house, large and new but very bleak and too high though some low woods about it.

Claranbridge a very small village with an inn - omitted by Taylor and Skinner. Hereabouts there is much fine corn among the rocks.

Passed Kilcolgan, old castle and church but no village, only two or 3 cabins. Just above the bridge the river from Cragwell and Rahassan (about one mile off) rises out of the ground. Here we quit the Gort road and turn to the right and at ½ past ten reach Kinvarra a small village with a ruined church (not marked in any map). Just near it is Dunguerrin Castle, perched on a quay over a small bay. Under this castle we saw (it being low water) 3 or 4 great streams issue from the rocks, much below high water mark on the strand, being the rivers of Gort and which disembogues by a subterranious passage here most curiously. James drew the castle for me.

Kinvarra is at south end of bay. The church 60 by 27 feet in clear, had only a small spike-hole east window and near the altar a small one on the south side - no other. This village is frequented by boatmen. The inn kept by Mr and Mrs Sille, where we had a good breakfast and afterwards she took me for a doctor and consulted me but I declined prescribing. The whole village belongs to Mr Gregory and is distant 14 miles from Galway, 14 from Loughrea, 12 from Corrofin (computed) and 7 from Gort. Tithes set at 7 and 4 and twenty shillings for 100 sheep, none for hay. Of this parish Mr Upton had 2 quarters, bishop one and vicar Mr Ficher 1, and of 8 others united to it and Kilcolgan.

Three miles farther enter Clare county over Curranroo bridge, built across a small creek now dry and rocky, the tide being out. There [are] a few neat whitewashed cabins here. From Kilcolgan here the whole country is covered with grit, stones and rock, worse if possible than Arabia Petrea and continues the same into Clare.

We soon ascend a long steep mountain between two high summits, quite covered with rock and loose stones, yet among them were many sheep feeding. From hence have a distinct view of Galway across the bay. On the summits of these rocky moores they say that there is good grassy plains.

About 1½ mile from this abbey [Corcumroe] on the steep side of the hill 4 or 5 hundred yards above the sea is the clear and plentiful well of Rose Keilly, shaded by an old thorn. Accessible but by a narrow path on the hill by which cattle go and drink and so pass on in a string never attempting to turn about and return.

From this summit by a gradual descent into a valley with good grass among the rocks and at our right hand on the slope see the ancient abbey of Corcomroe in a field without a way to it. The horses were taken off and turned to grass and we walked onto the ruin which is very mean architecture. There were side aisles to the nave but that on the north is now quite down and the arches on both sides walled up. The choir was very dark only one small window at south end. The chancel indeed is a small chapel, on each side are screened off by handsome pillars and arches of which William made a drawing. This chancel is walled up by a rude modern wall, with an open door, up to the springing of the arches. Inside are two large square tombs, 2 ornamented ones in the walls and in a deep niche a recumbent figure of a chieftain of the O’Briens called in this country Chraghool na Seuderny which upon Archdale relating that he was a king of Thomond interred in 1267. James designed the figure and also some elegant capitals formed by rows of descending tulips or rather hyacinths or lily of the valley bells. Some pillars have no capitals. The east window is triple but very narrow in the spike-hole stile. No inscription anywhere. The choir is separated from the aisle by a wall 4½ feet thick with a very small door in the middle 3½ feet by 7 and from that wall arises a very low steeple 10 feet long by 6 broad only. N.B. No door in the middle. The detached buildings seem to have been extensive and numerous.

We left this abbey at half past 4 being told that we had only 8 miles of excellent road to go and being disappointed of a reception at Mr Skerrit’s to whom we had sent a letter of introduction from Mr R. Marsh, was not at home. We saw his house at a distance behind us as we went on. On the west side of the mountain over Puldhuda bay famous for the best Burrin oysters.

The road descends for 3½ miles, very good but the grass on it points out how little it is frequented. From thence the road becomes hilly and in one place skirts a deep precipice. The whole country is rocky and desolate but yet we saw many castles and one tree.

Passed by Croofield church, a ruin on our right. Near it we met Mr Skerrit returning home, who pressed us very politely to turn back but we persevered and soon after decoyed by a good road on the right we omitted keeping the left hand road and soon got into a lane of the most horrible rocks that [the] chaise was ever dragged over. At last we met a man and one that spoke English too, a rarity here, who told us we were but between high stone walls. We could not turn about, however he told us that by going [on] we should fall into the Kilfenora road. We took his advice, the road mended and passing by the castle of Lemenagh turned into the great road to Corrofin. Lemenagh was the residence of Sir Lucius O’Brien’s ancestors and was taken by General Ludlow who slew Conor O’Brien in the action, father of Sir Donough of whom the people talk hereabouts as a great man. Lemenagh they tell us signifies Horseleap, about it the grass is excellent and the land rich though rocky. All the rocks in Clare are limestone, those in Galway whin and grit.

From hence we drove onto Corrofin through a vale of mixed grounds, fine, fertile, rocky, hilly and well watered by the lake of Inchiquin on the banks of which are the seats of Mr Burton, who is planting all the hills with oak; and the ruined castle of Inchiquin the ancient residence of the earls. Burton lately purchased the estate from Lord Inchiquin.

Round towers. Upon arriving I wrote a letter to Mr E. Burton for information and in the hope of some civilities. In the last I was disappointed but he informed me that Kilfenora was not worth seeing. That Killnaboy was dedicated to Saint Necaron and mentions the round tower there, that at Dysart and one at Drumcliffe with some directions for an Ogam inscription.

By the roadside on the left stands the ruined church of Killnaboy and on the north west side of it the butt of a round tower. It was ½ past 9 when we reached Corrofin, a poor small market town with a neat church, but a wretched carrier’s inn; the parlour clay floor still damp. But the good landlady soon made us a fire and got us excellent mutton chops and 2 spatchcocks with good new potatoes. So we supped heartily, lay in our clothes and slept very well after a fasting and fatiguing day’s work and having been out during all the great heat.

August 3rd [1788]. Rose very early and walked about this little town, which is wholly the property of Sir Lucius O’Brien. There are about it some trees and some good land. In the room over the market house Lucius O’Brien has for some years encouraged the spinning and weaving of woollen goods. Met here Mr Hickman a very old gentleman, uncle to Sir Lucius and father to Lady Charlemont and Mrs E. O’Brien. He lodges here for the sake of the fishing, the Lough of Inchiquin being famous and that of Tydan still more so for the quantity, excellence and size of their trout. They are commonly taken of 6 and 7 and sometimes even of 12 lbs. weight. He represents this as the cheapest county in Ireland to live in. Fish is so exc[eptionally] plenty from its extensive coasts and numerous lakes (about 70), wild and water fowl in equal abundance, meat and tame fowl good and plenty.

He told us of a remarkable cave south west of Innistymond, called Puhl-a-Thydane where the sea roars in a most tremendous manner.

The country hack horses are called staggeens, 2 and 3 year old heifers bulsheens.

At 7 we set out for Ennis through a fertile vale interspersed with rocks but very thinly adorned with trees. It improved however as we advanced and we went through a very fine country before we came to Ennis. The roads were excellent the whole way. On the right of road see Dromore (see Skinner and Taylor) passed by an old church of Ruan they said with a large modern tomb and monument at the east end. Near Nutfield is an extensive turlough, partly rocky and very much indented, marked by Skinner and Taylor as water erroneously but connected with the river Fergus. Across a small lake had a full view of the ruins of Drumcliffe with its lofty round tower.

The road from Corrofin to Ennis
The road from Corrofin to Ennis.
Taken from Taylor and Skinner Maps of the roads of Ireland (1783).

Our entrance into Ennis was through a very long straggling mean suburb, from which instead of going over the great bridge, up to which large boats are brought with the tide, we turned to the right along a new excellent road by the side of the river, having on the opposite side several neat looking places and the school house, large well planted and elegant, and on the other side of the river a neat place of the Pattersons, with iron gates on the town side and just at the foot of a very handsome stone bridge and opposite to which stands the west end of the church; altogether forming a very English scene. The church now used was the aisle of the old one so that the east end is a ruin as well as the transepts, two very fine windows of which appears from the bridge and make the scene very picturesque, many trees being interspersed. Had it not been Sunday we should have taken a view of it.

The town is large and very populous, but streets crowed and narrow, many good houses have an air of comfort and opulence. The serge manufacture is carried on with spirit here. The inn, Mrs Loughlin’s, is most horribly situated in a narrow lane through which one must walk, is dark, dirty and ill attended. Here for a cloacina they have across the end of a little yard a board with round hole and a tub thrust under it and drawn out when full, but now omitted cleaning, for its appearance and smell were odious in the extreme. After paying very dear for a bad breakfast, dressed and went to church, where Mr Weldon the curate gave us a very sleepy sermon. The church is pretty large but gloomy, owing to a gallery on each side lately erected and not quite finished. This supposes a large congregation but they are not very polite, for they let us stand in the aisle full ten minutes without offering a pew. No sexton and the clerk sent this morning to jail for robbery but he got out again to officiate.

Immediately after church we set out and passed through Clare, a small town at the confluence of the Shannon and Fergus over which there is a good bridge and large vessels at its quay. Here is a castle now converted into a barrack for two companies who march to church to Ennis. Half way between these two towns are the ruins of Clare Abbey. The country here is rich and good and full of gentlemen’s seats: Morriesk, Mr McNamara’s, which we saw at a distance, a Major Grant’s which we passed by are said to be very good and pretty places. But the largest in this country is Dromoland the seat of Sir Lucius O’Brien. Just before we came to it we crossed on a high bridge a little river with deep muddy banks - the Wye in miniature. At the gate of Dromoland, we applied for leave to drive through the grounds which the porter told us every gentleman was welcome to do. So we went on by a pretty lake and then turned short by the offices, not to be seen, and were passed them a good way and making out of the avenue as fast as we could, when a man on horseback overtook us, whom we were striving to avoid and determined to refuse if he came with an invitation. But when we found it was Sir Lucius O’Brien himself, such a hospitable exertion was not to be refused - ergo - we turned to the antique mansion and spent a very pleasant day.

A large old house not regular and only part of a vast design, intended to connect with a castle, since pulled down, standing between terraces with gravel walks, grassy smooth slopes and distant objects seen through vistas in front. In the rear commanding a small lake, with fine woods overhanging a fine rising ground full of haycocks beyond it. The house covered with jasmine, a great aloe in a tub at the front and many very beautiful trees make this old fashioned place cheerful as well as magnificent.

In the house are several old family pictures of the O’Briens and some better ones of all the Clarendon family, from whom Sir Lucius is descended by the women. In a long tiled gallery full of maps and stags’ horns and other such things is a very curious massy table of some kind of mahogany, with four lions for legs and in the middle Hope on one side and Charity on the other for supporters, all rudely carved. This table was taken out of one of the ships of the armada wrecked on this coast 200 years ago and can be lengthened at both ends, in an uncommon manner, by drawing out two half leaves which are under it and the great upper leaf falling in between them which keeps all level and fast. Here we saw also an ancient sword which was in the hand of his ancestor Conor O’Brien when slain by General Ludlow.

Sir Lucius cultivates hemp and lucerne but R. W. had not time to stay for us to see this farm tomorrow.

Lady O’Brien is a very pleasant and very affable woman, has been very handsome, talks a good deal and was very attentive to me. Offered to write to Mr Pelham the painter and surveyor to meet me at Killarny. She showed us many miniatures of her father’s and uncle’s and of other paintings. She showed me Pelham’s original drawing of the County Clare. In short they were as civil as possible and pressed us to stay another day. They have eleven very fine children. Here are also two of his late brother’s Edward, James and Harriett: the boy a most beautiful intriguing face and seemingly very industrious to be informed, the girl handsome but, I think, not quite so pleasing in her manner as Nichola, Miss O’Brien’s name. But all these young people extremely well behaved and very attentive and civil to William.

The dinner was plain and plenty. We drank full enough, had coffee and a slight supper and at ½ past eleven retired to rest. This whole day has been intensely hot.

August 4th [1788]. At 7 we took leave of the Baronet, for he was up, and passed through Ardsallas, a very small village where a great fair is held, to Quin where a few scattered houses form a little hamlet.

The abbey of Quin stands on a bank on the east side of a small river, which we passed yesterday, and makes a grand picturesque object. The west door is square on top and the ascent to it up several steps, 8 or 10, which are not quite destroyed, adds to the dignity of its appearance. The west aisle is 56 [feet] long by 23 wide. The steeple 15 [feet] square raised on four arches 7 feet 9 inches wide, and very lofty, at least 35 feet. In the choir over the stone arch of a tomb, are distinct remains of a large crucifix and other figures in stucco. On the south side there is a chapel called McNamara’s, well built of cut stone 39 feet long and 24½ wide, arch that breadth in the south wall of church. In this are 4 windows one at south end, one at west but not central and 2 at east side regular and a niche between them. There were several detached buildings to this abbey but at the east end are two circular projections which look like the stumps of castles, the north one however seems to have been a dove cote, the south is more levelled.

William and James each made a handsome drawing of this abbey, while they were at work we proceeded to Sixmilebridge to breakfast, passing by a good inn on the road called the Coach and Horses. Here having occasion to look into the Monasticon - missed it - as well as Ferrar, so James was obliged to go back to Dromoland for it, after his drawing was finished.

In the way saw some rich grounds but much rock and few trees. The abbey belongs to Mr McNamara. The village to Sir Lucius and the opposite side of the river, where stands the ruined parish church, is Lord Pery’s.

Sixmilebridge is a small village with a market house on the east side of the river, belonging to Mr Ivers. The west side, where our inn was, is Sir Lucius O’Brien’s - (a church here).

Near this we saw a bleach green and on our road to Limerick, see at some distance, Bunratty Castle, the seat of [the] earls of Thomond, close to both rivers. Pass on our right the church of Cloghan. Overtake a young lady with a broken brace, repair her calnole and go on in. From the high ground over which the road goes, a noble view of Shannon and of Carrick-a-gunnel on the opposite side. Meelick church which we pass on our left about 3 miles from Limerick (see Wilson) seems a handsome one.

Limerick is scarce seen till we come within ½ a mile of it, has but one old tower to St Mary’s, no spires to set it off. Thomond bridge, the castle and the Shannon make a grand appearance. The streets are narrow but flagged on the sides, excessively crowded and full of shops.

We stopped opposite the exchange at a Widow Murphy’s, but found the accommodation so bad, that we went on to Taylor’s new inn in the new town and found that very good.

Taken from Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 4029. Courtesy of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

Public Institutions of County Clare, 1788
John Howard


A Tour of West Clare, 1791
Charles Bowden