Paul Swift continues his series on the Rivers of Ireland
The river Aille rises on the slopes of Slieve Elva in the Burren, County Clare, and flows through the small town of Lisdoonvarna and the village of Doolin before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean close to the Cliffs of Moher.
In Lisdoonvarna the Aille is joined by the river Gowlaun and Kilmoon stream. Flowing through Lisdoonvarna, it gives rise to sulphur, iron, and magnesium wells there. In summer, the river often disappears into the limestone cave system in Doolin.
Were the Aille and Gowlaun rivers meet in Lisdoonvarna is where the sulphur springs were discovered in the early 1700s. They were discovered by a man out hunting who observed the strong smell of rotten eggs. Analysis of the water as far back as 1713 (over 300 years ago) indicated that the waters contained large quantities of sulphur and iron.
The first bath house was built here in 1875 and just three years later in 1878 over 5,000 visitors were recorded. The existing bath house was built between 1939 and 1945.
Near the bathhouses on the north bank of the river can be found ‘the Pavilion’. It was built in 1913 at a cost of £1114. Steel from Harland and Wolff in Belfast was used in its construction. It had seating for a 1,000 people. During his election campaign in July 1917 Eamon de Valera addressed 3,000 people in the Pavilion. Today the pavilion is used as a centre for various activities.
As the river leaves Lisdoonvarna it is met by the Kilmoon stream. This area is deep and has descending steps were the ‘Twin Wells’ are located. Discovered in the mid-1700s, these wells are a source of chalybeate and magnesia and unusually the two separate wells spring from the same rock. Due to the popularity of the wells in the 1800s, steps were made down from the road above in 1870. An attendant working at the Twin Wells in 1908 earned 10 shillings (60 cent) a week.
The river continues to flow west and on the outskirts of Lisdoonvarna can be found an amazing structure known as the Spectacle Bridge. This is one of the most unusual bridges in Ireland. Clare County Surveyor John Hill designed the bridge around 1850. It is located across a deep gorge on the Lisdoonvarna to Ennistymon Road.