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    Lough Derg is one of the gloomiest and most inhospitable districts in Ireland: but, fortunately, it grew pleasanter and the sky became blue, but a strong breeze rippled the waters, which glistened like steel in the sunlight. The shores, along which we passed were hilly and only scantily covered with brushwood; the rest was naked and greenish-grey in colour.
    "Take up the glass and tell me what ruins you can see."
    "I see," I began, "a round tower close to the lake. It stands perfect and erect, looking down over the black gloomy water, and by it stands a ruined wall half covered with ivy and creepers, while round it are graves."
    "The crumbling walls," the bishop explained, "are the remains of the Seven Churches, which Brian Boroo is said to have restored here after the Danes had destroyed them in 834. But the work of human hands does not endure. Time has destroyed them, and the ruins lie there. Now look to the left of the Seven Churches, for a clump of bushes."
    "I have found it, your eminence."
    "Under those bushes is the cave, which is still called St. Patrick's Purgatory, and regarded as holy. The story goes that St. Patrick implored the Lord to remove the entrance to purgatory to Ireland, so that the then un-believing inhabitants might be convinced of the immortality of the soul and the tortures which await the godless on the threshold between time and eternity."

    Julius Rodenberg, 1861

    Detail from Rocque map of Ireland, 1790.
    Above: detail from Rocque map of Ireland, 1790.
    Map © Cartography Associates, from the Rumsey Collection.

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

    Charon (MIT Project) 1989, James Coleman ©