Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Natural History of Ireland (Author: Gerard Boate)

chapter 4

Quality and Fashion of the Irish Coast or Shores, Item, A brief Description of the principal Promontories or Heads of Ireland.

Of the low and strandy Shores of Ireland.

THE Irish coast is not every where alike; but of several sorts: in some places the land along the sea is low and flat, having a broad sandy strand, with a row of sandy hills, the which doth part the land from the strand, in the same manner as it is upon all the coast of Holland and Flanders (where these kind of hills are called Duynen or Downs) only with this difference, that they are not so large nor high, as in the Low Countries, and that the rows of them take up but a little space in breadth. This kind of strand is in most parts of Fingall (being a portion of the county of Dublin northwards towards Tredagh, and a good way beyond that, and elsewhere.) In other places lye no downs or sandy hills, nor any other heights, betwixt the strand and the land, it being only defended from the overflowing of the sea by an unsensible rising.

Of the high and hilly Shores of Ireland.

IN other places the land is high and hilly on the sea side; part whereof doth descend by degrees towards the sea, having a strand below, but elsewhere the land is high and steep, being washed underneath by the deep sea, so as ships of great burthen may sail close by it, the which may be observed not only in the heads or capes, the most part whereof are thus fashioned, but in many other places, and in great extents of the coasts. For as concerning the saying of Giraldus, that Ireland every where upon the coast is very low, Est per omnia sui latera marinaque littora terra valde demissa, that is evidently repugnant to the truth. Some of these high shores are bare naked rocks, covered with very little or no earth, so as scarce any thing groweth upon them but dry grass and heath, others are stony within, but have at the top a reasonable deep mould, and all over cloathed with good grass, some of them being so exceeding steep towards the sea side, that it is impossible for man or beast


being come to the further end, to go one step further, without falling down and being lost. So as it hath happened, that cattle and sheep feeding in those places, when they were come to the top, and following the grass, suddenly tumbled down, falling headlong into the sea, or upon the hard sharp rocks standing at the bottom.

Capes on the east side of Ireland.

THE heads or capes of Ireland are in great number, and many of them very observable, to the great commodity of the sea-faring men. In the south easterliest point of Ireland is the cape of Greenore, five or six miles to the south of the bay of Wexford, being not very high, but steep, and flat at the top and three or four miles to the south west from it is the point of Carnesore.

Betwixt Wexford and Dublin there be five heads: that of Glascarick, which the Dutch mariners call the Blew point, and the Steep point, twelve miles to the north of the bay of Wexford, being of no great height. That of Glaskermen or Arklow being well near at the same distance from the head of Glascarick, as that is from the bar of Wexford. Missen head, some nine or ten miles further to the north. The head of Wicklow, six miles beyond Missen head, being steep and rocky, divided at the top into two little hillocks. And the fifth and last of all, that of Bray, about fifteen miles beyond Wicklow, and five or six miles to the south of the bay of Dublin, being a great and high cape, shooting a good way into the sea, and so steep, that it is ten fathoms deep there close under the land.

On the north side of Dublin bay is the head of Hoath, a great high mountain, three or four miles compass in the bottom; having the sea on all sides, except the west side, where with a long narrow neck it is joined to the land, which neck being low ground, one may from either side see the sea over it, so that afar off it seemeth as is it were an island. This head may be seen a great way off at sea, for even upon the land one may very perfectly see it, not only upon the key of Dublin which is six miles from thence, but nine or ten miles further westward.

Upon all the coast from the head of Hoath to Dundrum, being about the space of 60 miles, is none considerable. But some miles beyond Dundrum, and three or four miles at this side the haven of Ardglass, is St. John's point, a head and foreland which shooteth a good way into the sea.

The next head beyond St. John's, is the point at the north side of the haven of Strangford, which the Dutch mariners by a notable mistake call the point of Ardglass.

All these capes lye on the east side of Ireland, whose utmost point northward is the promontory of Fair-foreland.


Capes on the north side of Ireland.

ABOUT fifty miles to the west of Fair-foreland, and well near the middle of the north coast, is the head of Eniston, which with the land next adjoyning lieth much more northward, and runneth further out into the sea than any other land upon this coast, being of a great height, so as it may easily be known by any that once have seen it.

Some forty miles more westward beyond this promontory lieth the cape which is known by the name of Horn head, being a hill with two hommocks at the top, in fashion somewhat like unto two horns, from whence it hath received its denomination.

Capes on the west side of Ireland.

Upon the west side of the Irish coast are four principal heads, viz. Telling head, lying about thirty miles to the south west of the Isles of Aran, the which are situated over against the north westerliest point of Ireland. Achil head, some miles to the south of Broad-haven, being not on the main, but in an island. Slime head, which by the seafaring men is called Twelve-pence, because the land sheweth it self in twelve round hommocks, being situated well near in the middle of the west coast, and Lupis head, which is the northern point of the haven of Limerick.

As for the other heads upon the same west side, namely those three betwixt the haven of Slego and Broad-haven, by the Irish pilots called Can Moyn, Can Killala, and Can Jores, (Can in Irish betokeneth a head in all sorts of significations) Renilira and Clegin, between Achil head, and Slime head (which last the Irish call Can Leme) Brain and Calew, situated to the south of the bay of Galloway; and Can Sanan, being the south point of the bay of Limerick, those are less considerable.

Heads on the southern coasts of Ireland.

UPON the south west side of Ireland, the principal heads are cape Dorses (situated in an island of the same name, betwixt the two great bays of Maire and Bantry) and Missen head, situated betwixt the bays of Bantry and Baltimore, being the same, in Camden's opinion, which Ptolomy calleth Notium, that is southern, it being the most southerly point of all Ireland.


Upon the south east side is the head of Clare, standing in an island on the east side of the bay of Baltimore; and a great way from thence, the old head of Kinsale, called cape Velho by the Dutch mariners; which head, to those that come sailing along the land afar off, seemeth to be an island, being a point which shooteth a great way into the sea, whose utmost, or most southerly end is very high and steep.

Upon the same side standeth the head of Ardmore, which runneth a great way into the sea from the land on both sides, and because of its height may be seen many miles off.