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    When a country is lifted above the sea, as a plateau or as a mass of folded hills, the weather works away at it, the water gathers along certain weaker places, and streams run on its surface in valleys which become deeper as time goes on.
    The Shannon rises in the water condensed on the high moors of Cuilcagh, nearly 2,000 feet above the sea, and drops 1,800 feet to Lough Allen, among gloomy hills. When it runs out of the lake, it wanders among drumlins away into the limestone plain.
    The fine wide water of Lough Ree sends the Shannon on its course as a noble river at Athlone. Then comes a winding stretch down to Portumna, with frequent grassy islands. The Suck, which rises far north near Castlereagh, and runs down parallel with the Shannon, comes in above Banagher, and adds a great flow of water from the plains of Galway. The Shannon valley at Portumna, between Slieve Aughty and Slieve Bloom, has a width of forty miles. In Lough Derg we find the remains of the older and narrower valley, for the river has not been able to sweep away the Old Red Sandstone and slate on either side. At Killaloe there is a picturesque passage through the hills.
    The drop to Limerick is fairly steep, producing the foaming rapids of Castleconnell, which prevent the steamers that run from Banagher from coming farther south than Killaloe. At Limerick we reach the drowned part of the valley.

    Grenville AJ Cole, 1914

    Detail from the Lizars map of Ireland, 1831.
    Above: detail from the Lizars map of Ireland, 1831.
    Map © Cartography Associates, from the Rumsey Collection.

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

    Charon (MIT Project) 1989, James Coleman ©