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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

From Pettigoe, ‘the honestest little town in all the North,’ which snugly nestles between three of those low, round, fertile hills so characteristic of Ulster scenery, the road runs nearly due north, for four miles, to Lough Derg. We started from the village early, and walked to the lake. As you advance into Donegal, the land looks colder and more barren, the houses grow less frequent, cultivation is confined to scanty patches of potatoes and oats that seemed in no hurry to ripen, even in mid-September. A little further on there are no houses to be seen, and moorland hills rise threateningly in advance, as if to bar the traveller’s further progress. You have, however, all the way the companionship of a turbulent and tortuous stream, that plays some curious pranks in its downward journey from its home in the mountains—now running along the road, two or three times crossing it, then receding and disappearing, only to show its noisy and turbid waters a few moments afterwards.

From the hill’s crest the entire lake bursts at once upon the view; and a dreary and desolate expanse of water it is, about thirteen miles in circumference, containing 2,140 statute acres. The encircling hills are heathy and barren, rising from 400 to 700 feet above the level of the lake. On the north-east, the superfluous waters force their way through a narrow gorge to join the River Foyle. The hills near the lake are in reality the boundary line between the watershed of northern and southern Ulster. Lough Derg itself supplies the head water of the Foyle, while the stream at our feet flows down to the Erne valley to join the sea at Bally-shannon. The basin of the lake is a huge quarry of the metamorphic rock known as mica slate, or schist, upheaved in ages azoic by some fiery agent, so that the stratification is now almost perpendicular to the surface. It crops up all round the shore, and through the lake into numerous rocky islets and hidden reefs, whose projecting points are sharp as iron spikes, and render the navigation of the lake a matter of great caution.

There is no grandeur in the surrounding scenery; everywhere is the same wilderness of heather, the same dreary moorland hills—no variety in their outline, no steep cliff or bold escarpment to vary the scene, not even a single patch of green to relieve the eye, except in one corner where there is a small, paralysed plantation of stunted Scotch firs. Not a living thing was to be seen when we visited the place—neither man nor beast nor game on the mountains, nor bird on the lake. We were, however, told afterwards that hares and moor-fowl do contrive to live there, and a certain kind of small mountain sheep with long horns and black faces, a leg of whose mutton a hungry man might easily dispose of at a single meal. So much for the fauna. There was no flora except moss and heather. In fact, nature here clothes herself in sackcloth and ashes; the very aspect of the place induces solemn thought, and makes it meetest shrine for penance. It seemed to us, too, that the bare, whitewashed houses on the ‘Station Island’ were somewhat out of tone with nature’s wild surroundings. Seeing no person to apply to, and unwilling to return with our task unaccomplished, we resolved to try and reach the island ourselves in a boat which we found on the shore. We had nearly succeeded, when the freshening breeze compelled us to desist, and we were very glad to find rest and shelter under the lea of a kind of insular promontory, connected with the shore by a narrow ford, where, fortunately, we were discovered by the owners of the boat, who rowed us up to the island in the teeth of a very stiff wind.






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