Ireland Photo Essay
January 16, 2017
Ireland enchanted me at every turn from the vibrant, bustling cities to the vast, untamed landscapes, from the friendly people to the charming animals. I think it's safe to say I've left a little of my heart there, and Ireland will be one of those places that calls me back time and again. Anyways, this blog is to show some of the highlights which I've haven't already written about in separate post (and if you want to read those ones, the pages are linked at the bottom). After this, I'll be moving on to other subjects until the next time I'm on the Emerald Isle.
The city of tribes, so named for the 14 clans that once ruled it, was recently been named as a European Capital of Culture for 2020, a title it will share with Rijeka, Croatia. Galway is well known for its artsy vibe, and as home of the Claddagh, the origins of the famous ring. Talented musicians perform in the streets and in pubs, so you can almost always hear great music while out exploring or pausing for a pint.
Kylemore Abbey and Connemara
I've already written about our day trip to Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park, so I won't add too much more here. For me, the draw to this area is the Connemara landscape - narrow roads with sheep strolling along the edges (I can't say shoulders since there really aren't any), windswept hills stretching onwards, and let's not forget those lovely Connemara ponies! Something about it all captures my imagination and as a landscape photographer, I could have easily spent the entire trip here!
Tucked along the coast of County Clare, this village made a great first impression on me when one of the first things we saw was a field of horses grazing. Doolin is a good base for lots of activities in the area, such as hiking the Cliffs of Moher, exploring the Burren, or taking a day trip to the Aran Islands. The weather here is wholehearted - when it rains, or the winds are blowing, then it is with 100% effort. That does make photography and video a bit more challenging, but it's great for learning! Just make sure you keep yourself and your gear dry. And once you're all done for the day, there are a few cozy pubs in town to retreat to for hearty food, good beer, and fantastic 'trad' or traditional music.
Cliffs of Moher
You can see the Cliffs of Moher looming in the distance from the main road to the Doolin pier. It's mesmerizing watching the waves crash along the rocky shores while cows sleep in seaside fields unconcerned by the wind. Nathanael and I hiked the 9km Coastal Walk trail from Doolin to the Visitor Centre, after seeing a group head that way on what was likely a guided walk. We made our way along a narrow footpath between exposed cliffs on our right and cows and horses in barbed wire fenced fields to our left. The wind pushed us along, (and inland), ocean spray soaked us, and the mud got the better of our shoes. The views were outstanding, and, having it mostly to ourselves was a treat (of course that changed once we reached the Visitor Centre). It's a day I won't soon forget, and would return in a heartbeat!
The smallest of the Aran Islands is also the closest to Doolin - it's about a half hour ferry ride away. Don't let its size fool you - there are several sites, like a castle, a shipwreck, and a lighthouse, that we either rushed for lack of time, or only saw from a distance. Although we had a rocky start to our day on Inisheer, I feel I need to make a return photography trip to do it justice. Actually, I'd probably return simply for sweet confections at Man of Aran Fudge (right near the ferry). Ok, ok, it'll be a return photography and fudge trip!
Continuing south down the west coast, we made our way to Killarney. This is definitely a tourist town, but once you get into Killarney National Park, you have more space to yourself. The contrast between here and Connemara National Park is clear, though both are photogenic. Killarney is not the rugged, windswept wild of the north, but looks like the Ireland of storybooks, lush and green, with forests bordering rolling hills.
We didn't drive the Ring of Kerry, hike Macgillycuddy's Reeks, or row boats on the lakes. With just two days, we spent an afternoon wandering through Muckross Abbey, and another pony trekking through the park. Horseback riding in Ireland? That was a dream come true for this horse lover! We trotted and cantered down bridle paths, through puddles, and passed cows and deer. The wild red deer that inhabit Killarney National Park were in rut, so we gave them a wide berth. Even so, a few of the bulls still called warnings, and we watched a couple smaller herds run across fields.
Once we dropped the car back at the airport, we spent the next few days exploring Dublin by foot and bus. There is a lot to see in this small city with tons of museums and historical sites. We were there one hundred years after the Easter Rising of 1916, and the city made extra efforts to remember and share this influential event in Irish history. For that reason, we went to Kilmainham Gaol - a place filled with grim history from the potato famine of the mid-19th century through the rebellion of 1916. I think anyone visiting Dublin needs to go here at least once to help their understanding of the history.
The rest of our days in Dublin were spent nerding out in the National Archaeology Museum and The Chester Beatty Library, wandering around Trinity College, touring the city by bus and foot, and chatting with locals over pints of Guinness at our neighbourhood pub.
Have you been to Ireland? What was your favourite place or experience?