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shudder down Elizabethan spines. Ireland, a country that sent a cold And with good reason. They were not welcome here. Ireland is a new challenge. For me though, in my journey It's the third and last stage William Camden's Britannia, across the pages of of the British Isles. the Elizabethan Encyclopaedia for me tracking down the places It's been a fascinating adventure his magnificent lost masterpiece. that Camden wrote about in the reality of Elizabethan life Britannia opens the window on and I can't wait to explore Ireland. diversity. But reading Camden, It's a country of wonderful of Ireland is a different one. I've been aware that the story and deprivation. It's a sad story full of war There's been a lot of hurt here. to subdue Ireland for years. Tudor monarchs unsuccessfully tried came to the throne in 1558, But once Elizabeth I the aim was to conquer and colonise. in Ireland, More English people would settle "Little Britain". and create what Camden called a land of milk and honey. The Irish were promised language, their Catholic faith In return for giving up their Gaelic they could enjoy all the benefits and their friendship with Spain, peaceful, civilised kingdom. of being part of Elizabeth's "No, thanks." Most of the Irish lords said, they got the Nine Years War. And in return for that was full of ravening beasts. The Queen said that Ireland It was a hell to govern, for a Spanish invasion of England. and a potential platform That seemed to sum it up. with his story of Ireland? So what was Camden trying to do prejudices of the Elizabethan court. In some ways he writes with all the you in no doubt how difficult When he describes the war he leaves the Irish, how different they were, the English found it to pacify and yet there's something else. to the Irish problem? Could there be an answer and landscape of Ireland that seemed What was it about the people to conspire against the English? English were thwarted at every turn. Camden set out to discover why the what he was looking for, So, did he find with Elizabethan Britain? or was Ireland irreconcilable from south to north, "This island is stretched out "not broader than it is long, or an egg. "but shaped in form of a lentil "On the east it had England, a troublous and tempestuous sea, "severed from it with "which is called the Irish Sea. the De Caledonian Sea." "On the north, De Caledonian Sea right now. Well, I'm on the the Straits of Moyle, Today it's called which separate the 20 or so miles of open water over there, the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, straight ahead. from the Antrim coast of Ulster Elizabethan Ireland is tied up The whole story of and this is the way they came. with Scottish immigrants the Scoti, Around 400 AD, the people of Ulster, had sailed the other way. of Britain and called it Scotland. They'd seized the northern part In the 13th century to return to Ireland, their descendants had started the fertile valleys of Antrim. attracted by they were arriving in droves. By the late 1500s, Can you turn that sheet there? That's good there, Gordon. very skilful sailors Would they have had to be over to Ulster in a boat like this? to sail from the Mull of Kintyre people who were used to the sea I would think it would have been and knew how to handle boats. and brought up on the sea the airline pilots of their day. I suppose they were between Scotland and Ireland? What are the problems sailing You've got to get the tides with you. The tides, really. Generally when they leave Scotland, down towards Rathlin, you would get the tide to sweep you would sweep you back up here again. then you'd let the tide turn and it if you knew what you were doing. It was effortless really, And if you didn't? in the wrong direction entirely! Well, you're gonna go was in chaos. Ireland in Camden's time English rule, such as it was, around Dublin known as the Pale. was largely confined to the area Elsewhere the Irish Lords, the English Crown, when they weren't rebelling against fought each other for territory. simply added to the anarchy, The new arrivals from Scotland hadn't come just to farm. not least because they as mercenaries. They'd come to fight They were known as galloglasses. the Irish word galloglaigh, The name comes from which means young foreign fighter. rebel Irish Lords fight the English. Galloglasses were offering to help together with James VI of Scotland For that reason, Elizabeth got to put a stop to it. It was hopeless. landed on this section of coast. In 1594 alone, 3,000 of them as well as fought, That said, mercenaries can be bought so there were times when the mercenaries would help the English put down the Irish. The truth was, the English could never be sure which side the Scots were on. An English governor described the situation as Babylonish confusion. And one of the most slippery of the newcomers was known appealingly as Sorley Boy. This is Dunluce Castle. It's a spectacular setting. Impregnable, on a cliff top, and gazing back across the sea towards Scotland. It's the ancestral home of one family of Scottish settlers, the MacDonnells. Sorley Boy MacDonnell seized it in 1565 and it's been in the same family ever since. Which is testimony to Sorley Boy's innate cleverness. Having rebelled against the Queen and lost, he repented. Legend has it, when he saw a painting of Elizabeth he flung away his sword, fell to his knees and pledged eternal allegiance, so she forgave him. The rebels were famous for their extravagant apologies. From Dunluce here, I'm going to head south to Loch Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. Then west to Connemara and the Isles of Aran, where Camden is sceptical about the fabled immortality of the islanders. Then I'll check out the mighty River Shannon before heading on down towards the treacherous south-west coast, where a Spanish army landed in 1601. Then it's east to the Wicklow Mountains, and finally I'm going to drop down to Dublin's fair city, the capital of Eire, and for Camden, the seat of civilisation in Ireland. OK, let's start with Ulster. "A large country, bespread with many and those very large lochs or lakes, "shaded with many and thick woods, "in some places fruitful, in others barren. "How be it fresh and green to see two in every place "and replenished with cattle." I'm following Britannia over land now to Loch Neagh. In 1594, the year the Nine Years War began, Ulster accounted for one fifth of Ireland. It had become ungovernable. As Camden puts it, "All of a garboil, full of wars and seditious troubles". Overland travel in Ulster could be very tricky, with bogs, hills and very poor roads. That's why the river route to the loch, the River Bann, was the chief means of access to the heart of the region. At 80 miles, it's the longest river in Northern Ireland. Camden says it has the clearest water in Europe, and that it's very good for salmon. It was also good for something else - rebels. "By reason of thick woods and unpassable bogs, "there is the safest place of refuge "for the Scottish islanders and the rebels, "and which the English felt who pursued Sorley Boy "whilst he lurked here." Nowadays the River Bann is a tranquil retreat for fishermen, but in Camden's time, the river, the woods and the surrounding hills were a hiding place for a wide variety of native creatures. Take a look at this map of the period, it just about said it all. Here's the River Bann flowing down between densely forested banks. The whole place is teeming with wildlife. Just look at these grinning rabbits, here's a crouching fox, a prancing deer, a stag, a mountain goat. And here are the wild Irish, strange hill folk gazing down on all that's going on below them. And that's how they were seen from England - foreign, different, somehow coping with a landscape the English found nigh-on impossible. Onward to Loch Neagh. The Irish devised all sorts of craft for negotiating their difficult landscape. The trees around the Bann, for instance, were a ready source of timber for the many fishing boats Camden observed on the loch. Hi, Holger. Hello. Nice to meet you. 'Holger Lonze started life in the mountains of Germany. 'He came here in the 90s, 'and since 2004 he's been building reconstructions of vessels 'that were used on Loch Neagh four centuries ago.' It's quite light, isn't it? It's very light, very light materials. OK, lift up about six inches. And put her down on your right. Right. OK, and slowly roll her over. Like a great big beetle! That's it. Whoa, look at that! There we are. How amazing. Ready to launch. Shall I push off a bit or not? You just get in, that should be fine. And watch, they're very...tippy. So if you step right in the middle... You were about to say unstable then, weren't you? Absolutely, that's why they're called currachs, the Irish word currach means unstable ground. You mean the boat itself takes its name from the word unstable? Exactly. 'Camden says that currachs were the poor man's boat 'because they were easily made from raw materials near at hand.' Holger, sitting in your currach, it looks rather like a medieval shopping basket! Yes, essentially it is a mesolithic shopping basket. Mesolithic, 8,000 or 9,000 years old? Yeah, around that time. Basically as soon as early man could manipulate hides. What type of wood is used in the boat? In this one it's just white deer, and the ribs are made of hazel rods. The wood is just tied to it with string. There's very little joinery actually involved, so you could build a boat like this easily in a week's time. So William Camden's description of the Irish using wicker vessels covered with hide is pretty accurate? It is, yes. They would have used the hides right until the 1820s when slowly the canvas and tar came in. So yes, his description is accurate, I would say. Now one thing I wanted to ask you is about these oars, Holger, because the oars are unusual. Very small blades and instead of conventional rowlocks, there's big slabs of wood with a hole bored in them. There's a long string of thought behind that. Because the currach is a keel-less craft, the boat can tip very easily if you hit a wave from the side, so you want to be all the time in control of the boat and be able to turn the boat into the wave. So if you're fishing you want to leave the oars hanging like that. But it can come back very quickly. So you can let go of them and they don't fall overboard. It's very suitable for an incompetent oarsman like me! The acceleration is unbelievable. With two people pulling in such a light-framed boat, it just skims across the surface of the water, doesn't it? Absolutely, you notice here you can surf these boats as well. I felt that, yeah! It's great fun. It's a real surge, isn't it? I'm just disembarking at one of the smaller islands on the loch, Coney Island. As a matter of fact, Irish rebels used to be executed here. But what I'm interested in is the life of the island before that, when Irish treasure trove was kept here by the family that most worried the English. Believe it or not this was a well. This gigantic beech marks the spot where a shaft used to plummet deep underground. A stash of gold had been hidden down the well for centuries, since Norman times. When the most powerful family in Ulster seized the island, they found the gold and used the well as their safe deposit box. That family was called O'Neill. 'Up until the 11th century, 'nearly every King of Ireland had been an O'Neill.' And although in the 1500s Ireland no longer had a king, the family still wielded enormous power. The leader of the clan - or sept, as clans were in Ireland - was called the O'Neill. Traditionally the O'Neill was crowned at Tullyhogue, an old Iron Age fort west of Loch Neagh. In Camden's time, the very last O'Neill came to power. He was unlike the majority of Gaelic lords. He was educated in England and spoke English. He understood English ways. His name was Hugh O'Neill. Hugh O'Neill was clever, imaginative and scheming. The O'Neill title had been banned because of their constant refusal to accept English rule. Hugh decided to demonstrate his loyalty by helping the English to crush the rebellion of an Irish lord in the south, Desmond. His reward was to be made Earl of Tyrone. Fired up by this new power, he took the O'Neill title and was inaugurated here in 1593. The real trouble for the English began that day. Just as with the slippery Sorley Boy, there was no trusting Hugh O'Neill. Within two years he'd switched sides and been declared a traitor. He no longer saw himself as a subject of Elizabeth I, but as a prince in his own right, free to forge alliances with his fellow Catholic prince, Philip II of Spain. Camden's comment in Britannia was that nowadays religion is always made the excuse for rebellion. Religion was only one of many differences separating the English and the Irish. As the English saw it, Irish society was unstable, involving loose marriages, women chiefs, the fostering out of children - all things unfamiliar in England. The Irish, for all their Catholic leanings, seemed scarcely Christian. Some of them even dressed like barbarians. This is John Speed's map of Ireland from the early 1600s. Up here is Dunluce Castle, where I landed. Here's Loch Neagh. But look at the left-hand margin, where Speed has depicted how the Irish dress. At the top are a gentleman and gentlewoman of Ireland, nobles who wouldn't look out of place on the Elizabethan streets of Westminster. But down on the bottom there are wild Irishmen and a wild Irishwoman. In England the laws on what you could and couldn't wear were strict, and they thought that to re-make Ireland in the English mould they'd have to impose rules. This is how Sir John Perret, the Lord Deputy, announced the regulations. 'The inhabitants of cities and corporate towns' 'shall wear no mantles, shorts, Irish coats or great shirts, 'nor suffer their hair to grow long to glibb, 'but to wear gowns, jerkins and some civil garments 'upon pain of ?100.' Trying to take away people's identities by destroying their traditions is always highly provocative. you only have to think of the row over Muslim headscarves today. Instead of winning the Irish over, it made them ever more hostile. In Ulster, there came a point when that anger erupted so violently that the English almost lost Ireland altogether. That was on 14th August 1598, at a place called Blackwater. And that is where I'm headed tomorrow.

New day. Blackwater is about 20 miles away, on the border of County Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill's territory. The Battle of Yellow Ford was a day-long Irish attack on English troops, who were led by Henry Bagenal and his deputy commanders Richard Percy and Thomas Wingfield. Britannia tells us the English were trying to cross three hills to bring supplies to 200 soldiers under siege at Blackwater Fort. "Through the singular valour of Thomas Williams, the Captain, "and of the band within, the place was manfully defended. "Who having suffered hunger, sharp fights and all extremities, "after they had eaten up their horses, "were driven to pluck up the weeds "growing among the stones for their food." 'O'Neill's plan to destroy Bagenal's army was nothing short of brilliant 'and to get an idea of how he used the lie of the land 'to entrap the English, I'm meeting historian Jim O'Neill.' 'This was no ordinary battle, no enemies facing each other. 'The Irish attacked the English on three sides.' What we're looking at is a 1598 drawing of the battlefield, what we call the survivors' map, drawn by someone in Bagenal's army. The same year as the battle? Yes. Which hill are we on now on the map? We're roughly here. So we're where the English standards are flying on this hill? Yeah. So Bagenal sets off, 8 o'clock in the morning, good early start, with 4,000 men in total, 300 cavalry. As they start going over this hilly ground, they come to the Callan River. Why didn't the English use the highway? O'Neill had prepared this battlefield very well. He'd had two months to prepare it, and what he'd done is plashed the undergrowth. What's plashing mean? You would cut the trees down but not so as to kill them. You'd intertwine the branches and the thorns. It's like 16th century barbed wire? Yes, with a 16th century minefield of trous de loup, spike pits, making sure that this road was completely cut off. That road runs along the foreground here? Along that hedge line there, where the current road is. So O'Neill completely blocked that. These are the Irish down in the bog? These are the Irish here. They used the forest and the woods for cover. They would have looked like that. Imagine puffs of smoke and flashes of light and incoming fire coming from that. But no-one was gonna move into that because, for the English, from experience, here be dragons and they weren't gonna move into that. Now Percy, being young and enthusiastic, starts pushing forward over this hill here, up to the hill we're standing on, and down towards the bog ford. The bog ford would just be the front here. Essentially it's an area of high ground crossing through the bog. That's how the battle gets its name, the Yellow Ford. A bog ford, and the yellow would be the water draining out of it. Yeah. Again, he pushed along here and on to the second hill. He gets sight of the famous trench. It was four to five feet wide and deep with a bank crested with thorns. But it wasn't defended and so Percy, the commander of the lead regiment, pushes across into the bog and up on to the third hill, and that's what we call hill three, which is up there, up here, this thin yellow line and two high trees. So was that the turning point for the English? That was the high water mark of their advance. O'Neill sends in his weapon against the pike men. These sword and buckler men are armed with large knives and small swords and shields. They get in under that packed defence and start slashing and cutting. Bagenal is on this side of the trench, sees the disintegration of Percy's regiment, and moves forward. When he raises his visor to get a better view of what's happening, he's shot in the head by an Irishman and falls dead off his horse. Wingfield has now taken charge, and reorganises the army for a retreat back to Armagh. But for some reason the commanders of the rear regiment disobey orders and re-assault across that trench. O'Neill, seeing this as a perfect opportunity, jumps in with both feet and sends in all his reserves, his infantry, his cavalry, and attacks these exposed troops. And how many Englishmen got back to Armagh? We know that 2,000 men made it back to Armagh. And we know that 300 of Bagenal's troops who were Irish deserted to O'Neill. So less than half the English survived? Pretty much half were left lying in the field. Well, I'm hitching a lift now and heading west. For Camden, the Blackwater defeat was recent and raw. "The Irish never enjoyed a greater overthrow," he says. And he puts the blame squarely on the un-skillfulness of the English commanders. Perhaps his loyalty to the Queen made it prudent not to acknowledge the genius of Hugh O'Neill. What's so interesting about the Irish sections of Britannia is that Camden can look beyond the violent conflict that raged through the last years of Elizabeth's reign. When he turns to the topography of Ireland, it's like the calm that descends after a storm. I've left troubled O'Neill territory now and crossed the border into Eire and County Leitrim. "Along the side of this county passeth Shannon, "the noblest river of all Ireland." This is Shannon Pot, traditionally the source of the Shannon. According to legend, the river owes its existence to the Salmon of Wisdom. The salmon got annoyed with Shannon, the granddaughter of the God of the Sea, and he deluged her with a river. The odd thing is that if you look around the edges of this pool, you can't see any visible water flowing into it. And that's because it's fed by underground streams. Now the fact is that since 1990 we've known that the real source of the Shannon isn't here at all. It's way over there in the mountains. Let's see if I can find it. The Shannon is the longest river in the British Isles, longer than the Thames. It runs for 241 miles to the sea in the south-west, and it rises close to what's called a sinkhole up here in the Cuilcagh Mountains. That means I'm back in Northern Ireland. What I'm looking for is the hole in the ground the potholers who discovered the source talk about. It's about 15 metres deep and there's a waterfall pouring into it. Should be easy. "The ancient river springeth out of fern hills "and forthwith cutting through the land southward, "one while overfloweth the banks and enlargeth himself into open pools, "and other whiles draws back again into narrow straits." Now this is interesting, this whole area is a limestone plateau, but it's wet under my feet. Very wet, it's a bog. Now, what's this? A trickle of running water. This whole bog is like a gigantic waterlogged sponge, but here and there are little dips where the water collects. I can hear running water down here, too. There's another little rivulet here. This is where the Shannon rises. No sinkhole or waterfall, those must be further downstream. 'The lie of the land suggests that where the trees and heather are 'could be the course of the old river, 'before it cuts down through the landscape. 'They may just take me to the sinkhole.' WATER RUNNING This sounds more like it. Now THAT is what I call a waterfall. Sinkholes always occur in the kind of limestone which is soluble. The river water dissolves it and creates large cavities underground. The Shannon starts up here and flows through a system of caves. Incredible! It's like a window into the underworld. What the pot-holers discovered nearly 20 years ago was that if they put a dye trace into the water here, it came out at Shannon Pot, so this is where the river goes underground for 16 kilometres. 1990 was at the height of the Troubles and it was a shock to the southern Irish to hear that the Shannon, the great river of Eire, originated in Northern Ireland. Yet further evidence of Camden's belief that nothing in Ireland is ever certain, ever to be taken for granted. 'Right, I'm leaving the Shannon for a while to head further west 'to County Roscommon, and one of the features of the Irish landscape 'that Camden cherished most.' For Camden, the monasteries had been great architectural glories and the monastic tradition, a unifying force in British life. In Britannia, he sees a valuable continuity linking Elizabeth's glorious Christian kingdom to centuries of Celtic Christianity in Ireland. He did accept, though, that some monastic communities hadn't been good. This is the glorious abbey of Clontuskert. As it happens, it was ripe for closure. The abbey was thoroughly corrupt. In 1473, the prior was accused of murder and of keeping mistresses. Nearly 70 years later Henry VIII shut it down. 'Camden was well aware that religion was a real force in Irish politics.' He knew that whilst Henry's radical reforms - including the dissolution of the monasteries - had disrupted the Catholic Church in Ireland, they had failed to impose Protestantism. Only half the monasteries had been dissolved and Catholic priests were being routinely hidden in the homes of the faithful. In 1580, Catholic missionaries began to arrive from the continent, set on bringing about a revival of Irish religion. In the long run, it led to a change of rebel strategy. The lords, led by Hugh O'Neill, would try to persuade Catholic Spain to help them drive out the Protestant English. Elizabeth I's usually tolerant attitude would be severely tested. Irish Christianity was only one of a number of beliefs in the supernatural that permeated Irish life. Sprinkling holy water was supposed to cure a sick child or a cow, and according to Camden, Irish women knelt before every new moon, to recite the lord's prayer. There is another way of looking at superstition. It might be an Irish strength - proof of creativity and a capacity to deal with hardship. I'm on my way to Inishmor, the largest of the Aran islands. When it comes to imagining the involvement of the other world in our daily lives, there's no better place. "Four islands called Aran make a barony, "and many a foolish fable goes of them, "as if they were the islands of the living, wherein none do die." The search for immortality was hardly something confined to the west of Ireland. The Elizabethan elite, Francis Bacon and Walter Raleigh among them, were busy trying to design their own elixirs of longer life. But here on the Aran islands, people's fortunes were said to be in the hands of fairies. I've arranged to meet story-teller Eddie Lenihan to find out more about them. What do you think Camden meant when he described this island as the land of eternal youth? I'd say he meant that to the west of this island was the land of Tir na nOg, the land of the young. In pre-Christian Ireland, you see, this notion of heaven up there, that we have, and hell down there - that didn't exist. To them, when you died, your soul followed the setting sun. OK. Therefore to the west. How do you think Camden, a schoolmaster far away in London, came to hear of the land of eternal youth? There was great coming and going between Ireland and England in the 16th and 17th centuries. I'm sure that that's where your man Camden must have heard the stories, because there were so many Irish in London at the time, and he had to hear stories like this, and he had to be curious about them, because they must have seemed outlandish on one hand, but he had heard the stories of the Greek equivalent and the Roman equivalent of the same thing. I still collect these stories. I meet people who still believe firmly in the fairies. What are fairies? They're, in Irish, "aos si". They're the people of the other world. By the way, most of the old people never called them the fairies. They had every kind of a sideways name for them - "The good people", "Them", "The Boys". One of the most frightening things I remember from an old man who told me he met them one night in a field that he knew where a fort had been demolished years before. He knew this wasn't a very good place but he wasn't afraid of the dark. You say a fort - was it an Iron Age fort, an earthwork? Yes, yes. He was walking home from a card play and just as he was going across this field, there they were, standing in front of him. He said they were about the size of a five-year-old child. They stepped back against the ridge and let him pass, and he was gone maybe three or four steps, when he felt this, "Ooph!", tug on his jacket. "Jeez", he said, he nearly got a heart attack. He thought maybe his jacket had got caught in a bush. He looked back and there they were, there they were staring at him and all he could do was, you know, he was a big man, lean out and pull for dear life against whatever was pulling him. He couldn't see and he thought he was there maybe four or five minutes, when all of a sudden a cock crew in a farmyard nearby, one of his neighbours. He had a short distance to go and immediately the cock crew, he was released and tumbled, tumbled down, and when he looked up... Gone. Nobody there. And I asked him afterwards, "How were they dressed?" "By god", he says. "I don't know." I took that to mean they were dressed just like us. That's what's frightening about the fairies. There could be one sitting beside you and you'd never know. That's frightening. Do you believe in fairies? I'd have to say that I keep a corner of my mind open, because I've been listening to these stories for 33 years, and I've met a lot of people who talk nonsense. But I've met a lot of people who don't talk nonsense, and people who are maybe very religious people, who have a belief in the fairies which doesn't contradict their belief at all in religion. I'm sure that that's what your Englishman of the 16th century must have found very unusual. Do you think the stories are meant to instruct people about the landscape, how to care for it? Absolutely right. I won't say they're preached, because that wasn't the point of them, but they gave people a solid basis for who they were, where they were, the landscape they belonged to, and if you don't take care of this landscape, you're gonna starve, you'll die. It won't be here. The striking thing about the Irish landscape is that it always appeared to be on the side of the rebels. Back on the mainland now, and hoping to rejoin the river Shannon at a place called Killaloo. "There stands a rock in the mid-channel of the river Shannon "from which water rusheth down a main with a great fall and noise. "And by standing thus in the way as a bar, "hindreth the river which, if it were cut down or a drain made about it, "the river were able to bring up vessels." Britannia clearly showed there was potential for river transport at Killaloo but it took until 1920 for the Shannon to be widened and deepened here and for that rock to be blasted out. This is John Speed's map of Ireland. I'm at Killaloo Bridge, so the great rock that Camden wrote about blocking the river was somewhere just here. But look at this - just downstream of Killaloo, Speed had the river narrowing into a single channel, whereas on a modern map it broadens into a long, thin loch, which eventually narrows again at a weir and splits into two channels, So what's all that about? Off we go. In the water, boys. Excellent... Pass that down when I'm in - that'll be great. Okey-doke, off we go. Thanks a lot. The Shannon should have played a key role in the infrastructure of 16th-century Ireland. But the rock at Killaloo rendered it unusable to English commanders wishing to move troops up and down the country. Trying to make Ireland work was frankly a thankless task. The governor, Henry Sidney, insisted that it could only be done if roads were built and if proper bridges crossed the rivers. They had, he said, an affect on morale. Roads and bridges were visible signs of civilisation. Even today in Afghanistan, people refer to territories of the Taliban as being "beyond the roads". Elizabeth I was simply not prepared to pay for the project, and that was the fatal flaw in the policy on Ireland. The war dragged on because the English lacked resources. As one commander commented, "Everything would be fine, "if you could feed your soldiers on air "and destroy castles with his breath." Just look at the size of that dam! It explains why the Shannon is so wide here. All the water's backed up behind that gigantic concrete wall. This must be where the river forks and it doesn't look like I can follow the old Shannon any further. I'm now in a canal, cut parallel with the old river. It's obviously much later than Camden, and far too late for those benighted army commanders. Suddenly, with the canal, ships could pass along the Shannon to and from Killaloo, but even then, it was hardly plain sailing. This is where the river supposedly drops 100 feet. You don't imagine rivers will alter all that much in just a few hundred years, but this one has changed out of all recognition. Camden would have been amazed by this - the concrete dam, the canal, this incredible boat lift are all part of a hydro-electric power scheme which once supplied electricity to the whole of Ireland. He always had an eye for the potential in natural resources but this would have beyond the wildest dreams of the most far-sighted Elizabethan. Britannia tells us that Ireland is shaped like an egg, so I'm heading for 'round the bottom of the egg on the left side, better known as County Kerry. "The county of Kerry, near unto the mouth of Shannon, "runneth forth like a little tongue into the sea, beaten on "with barking billows on both sides. "A country mounting aloft with woody, wild and solitary mountains, "between which there lie many valleys, "in some places garnished with cornfields, "in others beset also thick with woods. "It became of late a very sink of mischiefs, "and the common receptacle for rebels." This county was a perfect example of how the Irish made full use of their natural resources. Kerry gets more rain than any other part of Ireland. It was and is cattle country. They even have their own breed in these parts. As you can see, Kerry cattle are about half the size of normal cows and they're rare, very rare. Only 1,000 of them remain. They were known as the poor man's cow. They're hardy and very efficient at converting feed into milk. That milk, and the butter and cheese made from it, is the richest in Ireland. In Camden's day, the common form of cattle farming was nomadic. The herds played a vital part in feeding mobile rebel forces. Some of them were effectively tribes or villages on the move. It was a practice well-suited to Irish life, so the English tried to ban it. Kerry had had its own rebellion back in 1583. It was ruthlessly crushed by the English and led to the devastation of the region. 30,000 Irish perished in the six months afterwards, many from disease or starvation. The English had sown the seeds of further bloody conflict. The key to what happened next was Spain. There were long-standing connections between Spain and Ireland. It was a widely held belief amongst the Irish that they were descended from Spanish migrants. There's a Catholic connection through the monasteries and trade to Spain in hides and furs, timber and beef. The O'Neill and the Irish lords wanted military assistance from Spain and Ireland could be just the kind of platform the Spanish needed to mount an invasion of England. Spain had of course sent an armada against England before in 1588, the famous one, and it had been defeated. The Spanish were now understandably cautious about sending another but they did. The plan was to make a surprise attack. But how could that be achieved along such a treacherous coastline? The answer was fishing. "Between Bantry and Baltimore, a bay creek passing well-known "by reason of the abundance of herrings taken there, "whereunto resorteth every year a great fleet of Spaniards and Portugals, "even in the midst of winter, to fish for cods." As early as 1572, 600 Spanish ships were dropping their nets off the south west coast but fishing soon provided the opportunity for something else - spying. By the mid-1590s, there were regular sightings of Spaniards surveying and mapping the area but where could they possibly land? The original aim had been to sail north to Antrim where they could join up with Hugh O'Neill, but they knew how bad Irish weather could get. After the failure of the 1588 armada, they'd lost more ships in a storm off the west coast than they did to the English. So instead, they headed for the south coast. The harbour over there at Baltimore would have been the obvious place. It's very spacious and protected from the Atlantic by two massive headlands. But first, they had to spot the entrance. Out at sea, the coast can be unreadable. You wouldn't know where it was safe to go in. The Spanish ships were driven by the winds, which could be gale force. Get too close to the shore and you'd be driven on to those very unforgiving rocks. Bear in mind that we're in the late 1500s. It's a really interesting moment of climate change. The medieval warm period had ended and the little Ice Age had set in. Sea temperatures had dropped by a couple of degrees and the weather was a lot worse. Cooler temperatures meant more fog, more storms, and that would be all they needed(!) Having not gone in at Baltimore, the harbour the armada eventually chose was Kinsale. On the 21st of September 1601, the Spanish were spotted off the coast, heading direct for Kinsale. The new English lord lieutenant, Lord Mountjoy, was over 100 miles away. Hugh O'Neill and his Irish followers were up in Ulster. So, good news for the invaders that the English couldn't get here quickly. Less good that the Irish couldn't either. The Spanish landed a force of 3,500 at Kinsale and began fortifying the two headlands overlooking the harbour, as well as strategic points in the town like the church and the castle. To the 2,000 inhabitants of Kinsale, it was all a bit of a shock. This is the forgotten armada. But according to Britannia, the fate of Ireland hung in the balance. To find out how close a call it was, I've arranged to meet conflict archaeologist Damian Shiels. The battle here was pretty complicated, with an outcome that changed the course of Irish history, but how did it start? It was. It started when a fleet of Spanish ships came in through the mouth of Kinsale harbour. They'd sailed from Lisbon and were under the command of a man called Don Juan del Aguila. They sailed through into the harbour and took Kinsale town. But in addition, they took a castle that used to lie here where the fort is called Ringcurran Castle. Also, here, they took Castle Park fortress. On that headland over there? Just on the headland there. So about a month after the Spaniards came here, the English army marched down the Cork road and started to overlook the town. Maybe we should go and have a look at that. Sure. So the Spaniards arrived in Kinsale, and they quickly saw that it wasn't very defensible. In fact they called it the pit. Because it's low lying, on the water level? Absolutely. What the English had done, they had to pull every available troop that they had outside of Ulster to come here, because they realised this was going to be a decisive moment in Irish history. This was the point when Ireland would be won or lost. They started to build siege fortifications along this ridge line to overlook the Spaniards and they also set up batteries to pound them. The Irish arrived down in early December. They were supposed to link up with the Spaniards. The Spaniards were going to fight out of the town once the Irish reached this designated point. But Hugh O'Neill, who had been an absolutely military genius of a commander for many years - he knew where he wanted to fight the English on each occasion. But he obviously didn't feel confident this time because he pulled his troops back. The Irish retreat and they hold at a stream about a mile beyond that ridge line that we see there now, and then disaster strikes for them. They form up their units but the English discover a ford that the Irish hadn't noticed. They crossed the ford and their cavalry just come sweeping into the Irish formations and they tore them apart within minutes. The Irish retreated. The English cavalry followed them as far as they could, hacking them down, and with that the battle was lost. The Spanish lasted another couple of weeks then surrendered and went back to Spain. What did the battle of Kinsale mean for the course of Irish history? It had a fairly devastating affect. The opportunity was there for the first time for England to fully subdue Ireland - to impose their own methods and practices on it. And it led to, if you like, an erosion that over the course of the following century saw the Gaelic culture dissolve significantly. The Irish language was affected, bardic poetry was affected. Everything that we would see as being Gaelic Irish. If O'Neill had known about that ford and carried the day, what then? Things might have been very, very different then. It's unquestionable that if they had won, the English troops would have been ejected from the country. The extent to which the Spaniards would have followed up, and they probably would, you would have seen the Spanish garrisoning of Ireland and the use of Ireland as a platform to take England. There was a contemporary saying, that if you wanted to take England you had to take Ireland first. However, the English would have realised the Crown was at stake, so tens of thousands of English soldiers would certainly have flooded into Ireland in an effort to prevent that from happening. So, who knows? We could all be speaking Spanish instead of English! On to the final leg of my journey, heading for Dublin up through the Wicklow mountains. After the battle of Kinsale, even Hugh O'Neill realised the game was up. He surrendered to the English in Ulster on 24th March, 1603. Ironically Elizabeth I had died just six days earlier. Canny as ever, Hugh pleaded with the new king and secured a pardon. Four years later, he and several of the other rebel lords fled Ireland. It came to be known as the flight of the earls. They thought they would raise an army abroad and return to fight again. It never happened. As this wonderful journey across the pages of Britannia comes to an end, I realise it has taken me over 5,000 miles. By the time he put his final full-stop to his account of Ireland,