View of headland named Doonminulla or Doonminalla, in the townland of Carrownaglogh, near Portacloy, Co. Mayo.
|Dimensions||7.5 cm x 3.4 cm|
|Published / created||1841|
|Travel Account||Sketches in Erris and Tyrawly|
|Print or manuscript|
|Location of image in copy||p. 302|
|Source copy||National Library of Ireland Ir 914123 o 2|
This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
|Rights||Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland|
Related text from travel account
|We now entered the deep little bight of Portnacloy; a good place of shelter for boats, and which is, in fact, the mouth of a glen that cuts the mountains here at right angles to the sea, and sends down the drainage of a few narrow valleys to the ocean. Here we changed our boat and crew again, and set out for the promontory and cave of Doonminalla.
The reader of this little volume must be aware that I had visited this cave on a former occasion, and under circumstances very different indeed from the present; it was then in the very worst period of the most inclement autumn that has been remembered in Ireland; and by the fortuitous circumstance of the wind blowing off the land, I was enabled, even in stormy weather, to get an entrance into this cave, whose accessibility had been denied to many that have sought it, and that for months together. I was now privileged to visit it again, under the most favourable circumstances, and I am glad that I was able to see the whole scene under such different aspects. Now the entrance was effected without any difficulty, in the midst of calm and sunshine, and we had an opportunity of admiring in this great cavity, the magnificent contrast of light and shade and the soft harmonious sigh of the sea, as it breathed out its gentleness along the distant recesses of this hall of Neptune: there was now nothing within that was alarming or repulsive. On a former occasion, the cormorant, driven in from the foaming [p. 300] sea, despairing of its supper, was flapping its dark wing, and uttering its uncouth shriek as our boat scared it from where it stood brooding. Now the nasty bird was far away, fishing: no sound was heard to break upon the ocean murmur, but the cooing of the pigeon, as it courted its mate on the ledges of the lofty dome. And then, what a look out! If ever any one wishes to look forth upon a glorious prospect, let him betake himself to a cave, stand back far from its entrance, and then observe. I wish I had some Turner with me now, not a mere draughtsman — black lead won't do, I must have a colourist, — I must have one who can catch tints, and make the varying bloom and blushes of nature his own. What a glorious picture he might here create. The interior cavern with all its ledges, recesses, and buttresses, relieved or shaded, its swelling dome decorated with the wild fretwork and fantastic tracery of nature, coloured with ochres, lichens, and marine parasites, and these moreover whitened and yellowed, and made to look similar in colour and form by the absence of light; here sparkles of crystal, there white masses of quartz rock; even the very exuviae of the sea birds as they stained the strata, adding to the variety, and making a portion of the harmonious keeping of this great visible obscure; and then to look out from under the distant dark arch, it cutting on the serene azure of the sunny sky, the streak of the evening sun, a hue of molten silver on the green ocean, the magnificent Stags of Broad-haven, seven in number, seen just at hand, the cavern acting as a sort of picture tube to bring them near and add to their distinctness. See, how they rise like [p. 301] cones from the water; the tops of marine mountains similar to the reeks of McGillicuddy at Killarney, or the pins of Benabola in Connemara, all so like and yet so different, all exposing their manifold and contrasted stratifications as they rise in different inclination from the sea level, here a white line of milk quartz, there a black streak of shale or basalt.
There are no sea rocks I have ever seen, and I believe I have seen all around England, Ireland, and a great part of Scotland, to equal in beauty of form, elevation, and singularity of grouping, the Stags of Broad-haven. And turn your boat a little to the right side of the cave, and you will catch a view of Kid Island, very elevated and varied in its outline, and you may, on this rarely frequented and dangerous sea, observe the sun just sparkling on the rigging of a vessel so far off that its hull is down, and she knows she has no business, no not in serene weather, near this iron bound coast. But enough of the Cave of Doonminalla. I have seen it in weather rough and smooth, and comparing it with every other sea-worn cavern, it is decidedly the grandest, because in height, breadth, and capacity, it is more like the dome of a great temple.*
Leaving the cave, we had time to look about the exterior of this great headland, which, as its name, Doonminalla denotes, is a natural fortress that might be made even more impregnable than Gibraltar, and [p. 302] no doubt it was used as a retreat in old times, — a refuge and a rallying point for the Vikingyr, or Sea Kings. In the year 1798, a Protestant gentleman, holding property in Erris, and fearing that he was obnoxious to the people, retreated to this promontory [image] which is accessible only at a single spot, and by a single person at a time ; and he not to say climbed, but scaled, what from below, appears a perpendicular precipice. Up here he lifted his family; up here he hoisted some furniture and utensils; he made himself a sort of boolie or sheeling, under the shelter of a rock, and here he remained for upwards of six weeks, (it was well for him that the weather of that year was so invariably fine,) a poor Roman Catholic schoolmaster, who was his fosterer, coming occasionally to him with provisions and news, and watching over his safety with all the devotedness that has so often marked that connection, almost peculiar to Ireland, not of blood, but of the human bosom.
This headland, besides being excavated by the large opening which I have just now attempted to describe, has more caverns, all which, it is probable, may in [p. 303] process of time be united. There is one called "The Kitchen," at the back of the "Grand Parlour," with which it is said there is already a communication. Having doubled this headland, being desirous to ascend Benwee, the highest precipice that overhangs the ocean here, and after having taken our views from the sea-level, now see what a thousand feet higher would do for us. We pushed into a cove surrounded on all sides but one by precipices, and, dismissing our boat's crew to return to Portnacloy, undertook to ascend the cliffs, — and a pretty ascent it was, on a day the most broiling of any that had shone on Ireland for two years.
[footnote, p. 301] * The annexed wood-cut of Doonminalla promontory is taken from a rough pencil sketch, made while approaching it. All practical sketchers must be aware of the difficulty of drawing any thing well while in a row-boat in rapid motion. [pp. 299-303]