The Devil’s Punch-Bowl

The Devil’s Punch-Bowl. Illustrated London News 15 (4 August July 1849): 68. Click on image to enlarge it.

“Mangerton is a large and somewhat unshapely mountain, the ascent of which is usually made by tourists to the Lakes: firstly, because its summit commands a very extensive prospect; and secondly, because, at a short distance from the top, a crater-like hollow on its side receives the waters of the hill, and collects them into a receptacle famous all over the world for its odd name of the “Devil's Punch-bowl.” The ascent commences at Cloghreen, a village about four miles from the Victoria Hotel. . . .Let me, however, advise no one to make the ascent unless he has visited the Abbey of Mucross, at the foot of the hill. It is one of the “lions” of the Lakes; and to the lover of antiquity the finest lion of them all.

Mucross is a scene of quiet and seclusion; and in all parts of the world that I have visited the mountain tops are as quiet and secluded, and a great deal more so, than the most solemn ruin that was ever appropriated for a burial-place. Not so Mangerton and the Devil's Punch-bowl. The tourist is not allowed to be alone, from the moment that he sets his own foot, or that of his pony, upon the winding way that leads, for a distance of two or three miles, to the summit. A bevy of lasses—many of them good-looking—and all most pertinacious and importunate, follow him to the very top of the mountain, soliciting him to partake of goat's milk and whiskey. Their numbers vary according to the different parties that may be on the mountain together. If there be but, one party, the whole squad, to the number of thirty or forty, fasten themselves upon it—running up the hill side with great agility, and now and then helping themselves up the difficult places by holding on at the tails of the ponies. The sketch of our Artist will help to give your readers some idea of the scene.

Standing upon the brow of Mangerton the traveller looks over the confused masses of mountain that compose Macgillicuddy's Reeks, tossed and heaved together in sublime disorder. Beneath him are the Lakes of Killarney, glittering in the sun in all their beauty and variety. Further on is the Bay of Castlemaine, an arm of the sea, and the dark, steep, eagle-haunted mountains of Dingle. Still further in the hazy distance roll the waters of the wide Atlantic. Turning his gaze on the other side, he sees, half-way down the mountain, the lake or tarn of Lough Kittane, famous for the abundance and excellence of its trout; and, far beneath, the level and garden-like counties of Cork and Tiprary, with the Galtee Hills on the extreme verge of the horizon.

Having admired these magnificent and very different panoramas, let him turn his eyes towards the hollow in which the Punch-bowl spreads its black and deep waters. He will never forget the wildness and beauty of the scene. The rocks rise abruptly from the edge of the water; and, were there no whiskey wenches chattering and clamouring to mar the effect of the scene, the mind would be strongly impressed with emotions of grandeur, magnificence, and awe. The Punch-bowl is not of any very great extent. No lakes at such a height above the level of the sea are large. It owes all its fame to its accessories of rock and mountain, the gloomy barrenness of its shores, the black hue of its waters, its singular name, and its situation almost at the top of a very considerable mountain. There are no fish in its waters, and it is too cold and deep to tempt the traveller to dip into it, although it is recorded that the celebrated Charles James Fox swam across it one hot summer's day (67).”

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“Excursion to Killarney.” Illustrated London News 15 (4 August 1849): 68. Hathi Trust online version of a copy of the Illustrated London News in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 22 June 2021.

Last modified 22 June 2021