The Emerald Isle

CHAPTER FIVE THE SOUTHWEST Wild Ireland “May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.” —Irish Blessing T he coastlines of Cork and Kerry, at Ireland’s southwestern corner, reach out into the Atlantic in a series of jagged-edged peninsulas, all with islands at their tips, separated by long, wind- and sea-swept bays, inlets and river estuaries. Ranges of hills and mountains form barriers down the peninsulas, including the Caha Mountains on the Beara Peninsula, shared by Cork and Kerry; Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, with Ireland’s highest peaks, on the Iveragh Peninsula; and the Slieve Mish Mountains, which dominate the eastern end of the Dingle Peninsula. Further inland, the Boggeragh Mountains, with their scatterings of ring forts, standing stone circles and other prehistoric remains, separate the southern part of Cork, Ireland’s largest county, from its northwestern corner, being a remote, thinly populated area watered by the upper reaches of the Blackwater River. Despite the region’s relatively easy access, by sea at least, to and from Europe – a fact recognized by invading Vikings and Anglo-Normans a thousand years and more ago, by Christian missionaries before that, and by such supporters of Irish rebellion as the Spanish and the French much later on – this part of Ireland was for many centuries a remote area, far removed from the influences of sophisticated society and intrusive government. One result of this was the survival of the Irish language in the far west, long after it had either been suppressed or simply fallen out of use in favor of English elsewhere in the OPPOSITE: The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow pass between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain in County Kerry. LEFT: The Fastnet Rock is located 8 miles (13km) from County Cork. It is know as "Ireland’s Teardrop,” because it was the last part of Ireland that 19th century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed to North America. OVERLEAF: Lough Acoose is a freshwater lake in the southwest of Ireland. It is located on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry near the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. 180