Roads improved Ireland, not only because of connecting outlying areas to the kingdom, which might so far have escaped such stringent attachment, but also because the very act of making a road improved the adjacent countryside. Thus the principal road from Abbeyfeale to Killarney in Co. Kerry was applauded not only for being ‘carried in direct

lines, over mountains, through bogs, and morrasses’ with ‘several stone bridges’, but also for being made ‘with deep cuts, or ditches on either side, for the carrying off the water’ which made ‘the land on both sides […] considerably drier than before’.5 Roads, today, are not generally interpreted as constructions of aesthetic ambition. Yet, in a period such as the early eighteenth century, concepts of in utile dolce ensured that the useful was also beautiful, and a well-made and well designed roadscape not only connected towns for their material, geographical and political benefit, but was also a practical and therefore beautiful form of improvement. Road design was also considered an intrinsic part of the wider landscape design and a new road axis could become the initial design move for all that followed. Such a landscape may still be found in the flat plain of north Kerry where the east-west axis of Lixnaw town’s main street, built as a dyke above the surrounding water-ridden landscape, became the deriving axis for a great constellation of roads, canals and avenues marching out from the central focus of the Earl of Fitzmaurice’s Court of Lixnaw (Figure 3.2). For a very lowlying landscape such as that of Lixnaw, the fixed level of the road became the datum for the rest of the estate’s design and in a terraced polder-inspired landscape, the landlord’s demesne was reinforced by raising its level ‘above the road’, while other less significant areas were defined as ‘lying below the road’.6 This hierarchy of relative level affected the valuation of such landscapes, and their perceived success or failure as improvements depended upon such hierarchies being rigorously maintained.