I didn't intend to pick up another book by Somerville and Ross so soon, but the two books I tried after finishing The Real Charlotte were completely unsatisfactory and went quickly into the library donation bag. I've had this book in mind for a while, because several people have mentioned finding copies, and because I felt I didn't do it justice the first time I read it. I didn't even write about it then, because I found it a bit flat.
I think I must have been having a bad reading day at the time, because reading it now was a delight. I laughed out loud more than once, at the adventures of the cousins and also at the narrator's sly asides.
We crossed Cork on an outside-car; and here, no doubt, we should enter on a description of its perils which would convulse and alarm English readers in the old, old way; but we may as well own at once that we know all about outside-cars; we believe we went to be christened on an outside-car, and we did not hold on even then - we certainly have not done so since.
Like their book In the Vine Country, this began as a series of articles for The Ladies' Pictorial. (It was published in book form in 1893.) This time, rather than traveling to France, they would explore Violet Martin's home county of Connemara in the west of Ireland. With some difficulty, they hired a governess cart (like the ones you can see here) and a contrary jennet called Sibbie to pull it. Loaded up with Bath Oliver biscuits, cheese, and Borvil, they set off.
They spent their nights at small hotels, crowded with fishermen drawn to the many lakes and rivers running through Connemara. One of their last stops was on the Renvyle Peninsula on the Atlantic coast, where they stayed at the Renvyle House. Once part of a large estate, it was turned into a hotel by its owner, Caroline Blake, after the upheavals of the Land League movement (something I've just begun to learn about). Mrs. Blake was still running the hotel when Somerville and Ross stayed there, and she joined them for an afternoon of tea and conversation. I was following the cousins' trip via Google, looking at the different places where they stopped, and I couldn't help gasping when I found that Renvyle House is still open. Some of the photos that I found on-line look like the sketches in this book (which are based on Somerville's artwork). I am now going to start buying lottery tickets again, because I am determined that I too will drive through Connemara to stay at Renvyle House - just not in a governess cart.