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The Mountains of Ireland

The Mountains of Ireland, by D. D. C. Pochin Mould. 156 pages, 48 photographs and 1 map. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1955. Price, 21 s.

Climbers who insist on having their mountains lofty and glacier-hung will view the subject of this book with a scornful eye. Webster’s bald definition, "Any part of a land mass which projects conspicuously above its surroundings,” would satisfy few mountain lovers, who each has his own more subtle interpretation of "mountain.” We know that there is a character, independent of elevation, to be found in true mountains, an essence, not to be constrained, that speaks to every mountaineer. Though of these Irish summits the highest is but 3,414 feet, and many are below 2,000, it is clear from text and pictures that here is real mountain country, wild, striking, and varied.

Around the rim of the island rise these eight mountain groups, diverse in formation and verdure but alike in their nearness to the sea. Here is some rock-climbing and much fine tramping terrain, though the old forests are largely gone, and bare rock or flowered turf form the track. Their story is told with insight and enthusiasm by a climber who is also geologist and archeologist. An unusual feature of these regions is the frequency of relics of man: Megalithic cairns, prehistoric forts, Celtic church sites, and reminders of the troubled times of Ireland. This history is vividly woven into the tale of the modem landscape.

A study of the numerous photographs shows a striking similarity to the New England scene ; almost every view has its local counterpart—it may be in the Berkshires, the White or Green Mountains, or the Camden hills.

But the story proves this likeness to be illusory. The differences appear not only in the lower elevations, but more saliently in the cultivation of the valleys, man’s marks on the heights, the pervading presence of the sea, the types and profusion of flowers, and especially in the absence of forest cover. The place names are strange and meaningful (some clue to their pronunciation would have pleased the American reader).

By no means a stark guidebook, The Mountains of Ireland is, nevertheless, informative as well as pictorially graphic. The author knows all phases of her subject. Her general descriptions of history and location are supplemented by accounts of actual trips she has made over the highlands during which an observant and appreciative eye has noted details of route and beauties of scene for a skilled pen to record. Aided by the map showing the whereabouts of the several groups—clear but on too small a scale for trails or roads—it would be no difficult matter to retrace her steps, and surely a delightful one.

On completing this book, the reader will be convinced that Ireland’s mountains present a convenient region, unfrequented and full of charm, most rewarding to visit, not, perhaps, when one is full of vigor and ambition, but for the times when leisurely hill tramping seems an appealing recreation. Marjorie Hurd