AN 18th CENTURY ARTIST & AN ERRANT WIFE

– oakwoods, Upper Lake & autumn colour

The southern end of Killarney’s Upper Lake and the cloud-capped McGillicuddy Reeks – photographed from the edge of Derricunnihy oakwoods

Last Sunday the light was what impressed the French family who were visiting Ireland for the first time.

Over these past weeks deciduous woodland have been showing ever more colourful shades from luminous yellow to the deepest reds, oranges and browns.  After the Muckross and Dinis circular walk and Ross Island we were now in Derricunnihy, the most extensive natural oak woodland in Ireland.

Green, through yellow to brown .. the rich canopy of oak leaf colour

Half an hour or more under tall oaks there were flashes of colour, added to by the understudy of holly’s heavy crop of rich red berries. Along the way we passed the tumbling waters of the Derricunnihy Cascade.

McCarthy’s, Ronayne’s & Eagle Islands on the Upper Lake with the sun kissed, cloud-capped Purple mountain & the McGilllicuddy Reeks – the Eagles’ Nest hill to the right

This wide panorama of lake and mountain is well worth the scramble to the top of the first rough outcrop immediately after leaving the oakwoods.

Imagine the author of a book on algebra fishing from the headland of his idyllic island retreat in the 18th century.  An etching in an 18th century guide shows Philip Ronayne’s black servant blowing his bugle as the boats on the Killarney day trip passed. There are more questions than answers.

The sun brings up the autumn browns of grasses, heather and on the island trees along the southern shore of the Upper Lake & looming in the background the Eagle’s nest (left/west) and Torc Mountain

This view is now seldom featured.  Some 230 years ago a higher version of the same view was painted from the hill immediately south.  The artist was Jonathan Fisher whose paintings and prints played a major part in establishing Killarney as a holiday resort.

Perhaps it was these pictures that made the Upper Lake one of the three most popular places to visit in Killarney in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  The other two were Innisfallen Island and O’Sullivan’s Cascade.

The pathway developed through this marsh ground has made it accessible and has opened up one of the finest and most varied day walks in Killarney.

The impressionist reflection of Autumn colour in a pool on the Gearhameen River

Pleasantly basking in warm Autumnal sunshine while we enjoyed refreshments at Lord Brandon’s Cottage it is hard to imagine this was a place of detention for an errant wife of wealthy stock!

After crossing the fine stone bridge over the Gearhameen River we followed the water up stream.

Great beech trees and oaks surround a small meadow

This area along the low-lying last stages before the Gearhameen enters the Upper Lake has a micro climate that allows great oak and beech to thrive here.

In the coming weeks and months new-born lambs will run and jump in these sheltered meadows.

The rich regal colouring of oak and silver birch … here the Gearhameen waters begin to cascade … and the bare mountain in the background

It is hard to imagine that a few hundred yards beyond this lush woodland scene the countryside is bare, rocky, harsh.

Normally from here we walk on through the Black Valley and the sheer-walled, multi-laked Gap of Dunloe but today because of a shortage of daylight – and transport at the far end – we retrace our steps.

– Frank Lewis

for more information or to book a stay at our self-catering holiday accommodation, Gallan Eile …

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