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    As we ride along we skirt on the right hand a pleasant pastoral country, rising to a gentle but respectable height, while on the left, the sombre shadows of the Silvermines form a barrier that is broken now and then by gaps, and diversified here and there with shrubby hillocks and dales, until it gradually opens out into a pretty valley, at the bottom of which the rail runs now. This is Birdhill and, our road lying to the right, we are shut out for the nonce from the view of our picturesque surroundings, until we are brought face to face with the dark blue range of the Keeper. And so we travel up hill and down dale in the blithest fashion until we come out on the banks of the Shannon, and a charming landscape opens before us. Indeed we might say that from this point the country is unsurpassed in beauty. The river making a wide detour and throwing both its banks into the foreground, is spanned by an ancient bridge of many arches, crowned by the turreted steeple of its venerable cathedral, while a purple mountain range forming an impressive background, and the romantic groves and waters of Lough Derg stretching far away into the distance, add to the attractiveness of the picture.
    Arriving at the village of Ballina, the ancient Bel-an-atha, or town on the ford, we cross the great stone bridge that leads us to the town over against us, which is no less than the historic Killaloe, one of the most ancient in Ireland, principally known now-a-days as the Paradise of Anglers.

    FR Montgomery Hitchcock, 1906

    Detail from the Bowen map of Ireland, 1747.
    Above: detail from the Bowen map of Ireland, 1747.
    Map © Cartography Associates, from the Rumsey Collection.

    Left: detail from satellite photo (click for larger version).

    Charon (MIT Project) 1989, James Coleman ©