Travellers’ Accounts of Touring in Enniskerry (Archive Month #1)

There’s a long tradition of travellers writing accounts of passing through Enniskerry and Tinnehinch, (usually) writing about the beauty of the area. In the early stages of the book, I used some of these accounts to build a picture of what the village was like in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. There are many more accounts that I didn’t explicitly mention, and I list below some more, in chronological order, with relevant details and/or extracts I noted on reading them.

I can whole-heartedly recommend C. J. Woods book “Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians” which is a really excellent read and very informative on using these accounts in local history studies. I think it was there that I saw an interesting comment about the occurrence of plagiarism from one book to another (i.e. that the writer never visited some places at all!), and there is a certain …rhythm…. to the comments about Powerscourt Waterfall! The books themselves are available in the National Library or occasionally on Google Books. The library catalogue usually provides a link to Google Books if available there.

A tour in Ireland in 1775 with a map and a view of the Salmon Leap at Ballyshannon. Richard Twiss. London: Robson, 1776.

Brief mention of Powerscourt Waterfall, with a discussion on how it compares with others internationally.

Letters written from Leverpoole, Chester, Corke, the Lake of Killarney, Dublin, Tunbridge Wells, Bath, Samuel Derrick, London: Davis & Reymers, 1767, Letter XIX, Oct 28, 1760.

Extract from pp 131-132

As to my lord’s house [Powerscourt], I must say that when I compare its situation with many others, within a mile or two, equally commodious, and infinitely more delightful, I am sorry for the late lord’s choice, and am apt to believe the present noble proprietor sympathises in my feeling. The hall is, besides, a great deal too low, considering its breadth and overcrowded with stucco and carving. The Egyptian hall is a noble room; but the walls are out of repair, and the floor is too slippery as to render it useless.

A tour through Ireland, by Charles Topham Bowden. Dublin: Corbet, 1791.

  • Passing referenct to Powerscourt and dining with Grattan at Tinnehinch. Comments on Grattan, his wife and compares Powerscourt Waterfall to Poulaphoca (not favourably).

A trip through part of the County of Wicklow in July, 1791, Walkers’ Hibernian Magazine, May 1793, 445-8.

Page 447: refers to “superstituous tradition, related by bigoted vulgar” about Lover’s Leap:

A lady who conceived an inordinate passion for an obdurate lover, her affections not having the smallest influence on the inflexible Stephon, she hoped at last to procure by artifice what she had in vain endeavoured to effect by specious insinuations. With this intention, he was conducted to this stupenduous precipice, then told of her determined resolution of leaoing down in case of non-compliance; his firm perseverance at length irritated her to take this leap, the result of which must be too obvious to every reader to enquire an account of.

page 447 refers to “Burnt Rock, another immense precipice which commands a bold prospect of Lord Powerscourt’s beautiful seat”

At a little distance you come to the Moss-House, which is erected on another stupenduous cliff of a rock, built in form of a semicircle with an arched covering projecting over it like a canopy, artifcially stuck with moss; there are seats placed around, as rests for the jaded (though delighted!) traveller

In an oblique direction, under this Moss-House, is a cave of a conical form, called Lord Kerry’s cave, the basis of which is about nine feet in circumference, and ends in a spiral form, with a small aperature at the top.

page 448, refers to Enniskerry and Tinnehinch

I aagreeably regaled with a part of a cold shoulder of mutton &c. At Tinnehinch, the right hon. Henry Grattan has an elegant seat, which was formerly an inn, and purchased by Mr. Grattan some years ago. From this, I passed on to Enniskerry, a small village, near which on the direct road to Dublin, is a remarkable charm, called the Scalp.

The Stranger in Ireland; or a tour in the southern and western parts of that country in the year 1805, John Carr, Esq. London: Phillips, 1806.Contains several images of varying quality

  • Scalp, p139
  • Entrance to the Dargle from St. Valori, the seat of J. C. Walker (referred to as W. C Walker in the text)
  • Powerscourt and Tinnehinch houses, with little other detail.

Describes arriving in Enniskerry:

As we descended [from Scalp] to the beautiful village of Inniskerry, on one side the eye reposed upon rich meadows; on the other, a slope of trees oresented a compact shade. Before us, as the road, enlivened by passing peasants, turned over a picturesque bridge, a neat farm-house presented itself; and a village school, standing in the bottom of the valley, just peeped with its upper windows above the level: whilst a hill, lightly clothed with young wood, extended a rich scene behind.

(Trees in last sentence are described as Auburn. )

Detailed visit to Grattan and brief outline of visit to Powerscourt are described.

A tour in Ireland in 1813 & 1814, By an Englishman. Dublin: Gough, 1817.

  • Page 182 – reference to Enniskerry, written in 1813/1814: “we enter that county [Wicklow] at the beautiful village of Enniskerry.”
  • Contains a lot of detail on the natural beauty of the setting (oak trees predominant, rivers, precipices etc but no more mention of the built environment).

CJ Woods argues that the author is John Alexander Staples, not John Gough.

Narrative of a residence in Ireland during the summer of 1814 and that of 1815, Anne Plumptre, London: Colburn, 1815.

Brief reference to Enniskerry (p 214)

…the village of Enniskerry which stands very picturesquely upon the slope of a steep hill. It is seen to most advantage coming down the hill on the other side from the Scalp the view of it is then remarkably pretty. It is one of the neatest villages to be seen in Ireland. Above the road coming down from the Scalp side are lofty sand banks things not often to be seen in this country.

Has two plates of Scalp, looking east (little detail, one shows a few cottages, another shows a horse and trap) P187, 188.

Ireland in 1834: a journey throughout Ireland, during the spring, summer, and autumn of 1834, Henry D Inglis, London: Whittaker, 1834.

Extract about visiting Wicklow, seeing Powerscourt Waterfall and like other authors being a little disappointed (see Woods ref 37). Passing comments to Enniskerry’s beauty and starting point for tourist in Wicklow. Some comments about the Irish Jaunting Car.

I left Dublin in the afternoon for Inniskerry a little village about nine miles from Dublin on the borders of the county of Wicklow and arrived there about dusk after a drive through an agreeable country fertile and well wooded for several miles after leaving Dublin but of a wilder character as it approached the mountains It would be no difficult matter to fill a chapter with descriptive sketches of the county of Wicklow and Inniskerry the village at which I have now arrived is always the first head quarters of the Wicklow tourist. But I have no intention of filling any great space in these volumes with descriptions of scenery and where I make an exception to this rule it will be in favour of places less likely to be known to the reader than the Dargle the Devil’s Glyn Powerscourt and the Seven Churches It is certainly a great advantage that which is possessed by the inhabitants of Dublin of being able during a three days tour to see so sweet an union of the beautiful and the picturesque as many parts of Wicklow present and even to form a conception of the still higher attractions of mountain scenery It is true everything here is en petit but it is a beautiful minuteness. From my head quarters at Inniskerry which by the bye is a clean and prettily situated little village I visited the Glen of the Downs the Dargle and Powerscourt whose waterfall so much extolled in the Guide books pleased me less than the fine vegetation and magnificent timber on the domain through which the road is constructed and on the evening after my arrival at Inniskerry I took my seat in company with five other persons on a public car which plies between that village and another called Roundwood about nine miles distant.

Comments about being beside a clergyman who gave out about Catholic tenantry: [written in Avoca]

It chanced that I was seated next to the Protestant clergyman of an adjoining parish and we soon got into conversation He told me he was a considerable landowner as well as a clergyman and spoke strongly of the discomfort of having a Catholic tenantry about him which however he was doing his best to rid himself of I was unfortunate in this first specimen of the country clergy I had met I told him I thought he was fortunate in having a tenantry at all and so as they paid their rents it seemed a matter of comparatively little importance of what religion they were and notwithstanding the little sympathy which I evinced we continued pretty good friends as far as Roundwood. The country between Inniskerry and Roundwood is very varied in its aspect for several miles the road runs through the Powerscourt domain but afterwards through a wild and uninteresting country but evidently under improvement. I noticed more than one substantial farmhouse newly built or in course of building.

A Three Days’ Ramble in the County of Wicklow, The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 2, No. 82 (Jan. 25, 1834), pp. 233-238

Another journal travel account, of interest as it contains a detailed description of the Waterfall, Dargle Valley, Lovers’ Leap in a manner that would make Fáilte Ireland blush. There is also a sketch of the waterfall and the Moss House. Regarding the latter:

Arrived at this part of the Dargle-the rural traveller almost enclosed in wood, on the right hand side, feasts his eyes by looking between some low oaks growing on the opposite bank of the river; through the foliage, edging the verdant scenery, the summer sky is occasionally seen : this appearance, added to a delightful elegance in the contour of the hills, has a most agreeable effect. Winding his way down to a rustic covered bench, called the Moss-House, situate on a bold and projecting rocky point, the admirer of nature is presented with a charming view.

Moss House on the Dargle, from the Dublin Penny Journal, "by our intelligent correspondent, B". Click to enlarge.

A Scottish Whig in Ireland, 1835 – 1838 the Irish Journals of Robert Graham of Redgorton. Ed. Henry Heaney. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999.

28th May, 1835

  • Mentions Scalp, as “much thought of here, which is merely a narrow and rugged defile thro’ which the road passes… is an isolated feature in a tamer country” (compared to Scotland).
  • Describes entrance to Dargle, part of the private grounds of Powerscourt. “At the gate, there is a small place for entertainment of the visitor and it was overflowing and the roadside had the appearance of a fair with cars, carriages, crowds of pedestrians, and music. It is a very narrow glen, having its steep banks covered in oak (and a little holly).”
  • Describes Powerscourt House “a large ugly house, with a good deal of dressed ground, but in the absence of the proprietor, not kept in the best order. As he is expected home, the house is undergoing a thorough repair and is in great disorder, and they were very unwilling to show it.”
  • Describes the setting of Enniskerry: “The situation of Enniskerry is naturally beautiful, on the banks of the Bray, which are steepish and totally ornamented with young plantations. The houses have been latterly restored or built of new, so that it has a most clean and picturesque appearance.

2 June 1835; En route to Powerscourt Waterfall from “Kallery Church”:

  • “I examined some of the smallest cabins which we passed on the way. They are smaller than any thing that can be noticed with us as a human residence, but not so uncomfortable as I expected. I saw much worse in the county of Dublin, but everything within the verge of the Powerscourt domain is changing its natural character very fast and the smallest establishments are comfortably and nicely restored.
  • Regarding Powerscourt Waterfall: “There is a very pretty little sward with healthy thriving oaks surrounding a cottage establishment for tea drinkings and for the family just adjoining.”

Miseries and beauties of Ireland, Jonathon Binns, London: Longman, 1837 (Volume 1)

  • Mentions travel to Powerscourt, through Enniskerry (“a pretty village on the Dargle river”).
  • Comments on poor work ethic of irish labourers on approach to Enniskerry and states that “The spiritless inactivity of the Irish labourer may also be attributed to the very small wages he receives as well as to the inevitable consequence of small wages the miserable food on which he subsists in many instances it is barely sufficient to support his wretched life”
  • Visits Powerscourt Waterfall, Tinnehinch, Lover’s Leap and enjoys all.

Excursions in Ireland in 1844 and 1850 with a visit to the late Daniel O’Connell, Catherine M O’Connell, London: Bentley, 1852.

Visits Dargle and describes the setting:

…enjoying the coolness of its shade, the more adventurous amongst us climbing down the steep sides to catch new views of the noisy river

Visits Powerscourt Waterfall, and describes the setting and a visit to a peasant’s house (this visit was on the eve of the Famine):

…through the most picturesque country, admirable in its native beauty but far more so in the rural comfort of its little homesteads, save for the mountains we would fancy ourselves among the ‘cottage houses’ of southern England. There was no appearance of poverty, and all around, from the woman knitting by her cabin-door, to the strong looking workmen so diligently earthing their field of early potatoes, showed their contentment of industry, which I have vainly sought in other parts of Ireland…

We enter one cottage, and its pretty exterior covered with woodbine, roses and ivy, correspond with the neatness within; the only inmate received us with a ready smile, and dusting the straw-bottomed chairs asked us to be seated; she looked a picture of cheerful happiness she acknowledged she felt; her husband had plenty of work, was ‘a dacent, quiet boy’, her children were at school, and they had a good lease of their ‘little place’. She brought a cup of milk for an English lady of our party, and stoutly refused any remuneration telling us with a tact which I gave her great credit for, that she had a sister in London married to an Englishman, and that ‘his people were very kind to Mary’…

The path to this cottage was through pretty garden, abundance of common flowers blooming in the borders, and the little gate in an un-Irish style, in good repair. There was no poverty here, the flowers plainly said so.

Angleterre, Ecosse, Irlande: voyage pittoresque, Louis Enault. Paris: Morizot, 1859

Reference to picturesque setting of Enniskerry:

Les courriers de milord envoyés dès la veille nous avaient fait préparer dans la meilleure auberge d Enniskerry un déjeuner confortable qui nous permit d admirer jusqu au soir les beautés de la nature sans distraction d estomac Enniskerry est un véritable village suisse il n y manque que les Suissesses quelques chalets et deux ou trois vachers pour sonner le ranz sur un alp horn Situé à mi côte sur une montagne dont les grands bois sont entrecoupés çà et là de pâturages Enniskerry domine le scalp dont les cimes touffues ondoient à ses pieds comme un océan de verdure

which Google translates as:

The letters of Lord sent the day before we had to prepare in the best hostel in Enniskerry a comfortable breakfast which allowed us to enjoy until the evening of the beauties of nature without distraction from stomach Enniskerry is a real Swiss village that he lacks neither the Swiss few cottages and two or three cowboys to sound the Ranz on alp horn Located half a mountain side on which the big woods are interspersed here and there Enniskerry pasture dominates the scalp with crowns at his feet thick undulate like a sea of green.

So there!


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