Unspoiled Beauty

Lights

South west of Ireland has three major peninsulas – from south those are Beare, Iveragh and Dingle. While last two lays on county Kerry, Beara is split in half between county Cork and Kerry.

After visiting the Dingle twice and briefly Iveragh, I set for the least visited – Beara. As another long weekend in sight, managing extra day off from work amounted to four days holiday. After reaching Cork, it’s another 1.5 hour drive to reach Castletown-Bearehaven. One reason for visiting this part of Ireland was movie Ondine, which was filmed around these places, and featured some stunning shots.

So, after reaching Glengarriff, small village at the end of Bantry bay, I finally purchased long chased Wild Atlantic Way passport. It’s a little book, where one can collect stamps as travelling on Wild Atlantic Way.

Since it’s a bit late for visiting Bantry House, i set to another destination, which I found on map. It’s called shot Head, a small headland on way to Castletown-Bearehaven. At the end of the road I found small place where to set for evening and night. A short walk thru farm, with Shetland ponies led me to cliffs overlooking Bantry Bay , with view toward Beare Island and Sheep’s head peninsula on south.

The sun was setting down behind Hungry Hill, casting wonderful patches of light on hills.

It’s a bit windy at the edge of cliffs, but lovely sunset made it up. Also sea seems to be a bit rough, but that’s only good sign for photography.

As for last spot I choose a place near stone wall – in middle of sheep turds. The sacrifice of landscape photographer. But it was mostly rewarding.

Next morning I drove over to small bay, but as it was low tide the place wasn’t looking the best as it could, but nevertheless I managed some decent photos.

Afterwards I headed back to Glengarriff to visit Garinish Island. It was still early morning, so I had to wait for first ferry to depart. I recommend to anyone who plans to visit this little gem to get there early, as it’s not that big and with lots of tourist you will be robbed of the experience of peace and quiet this place can offer. As the ferry maked it’s way, we slowed down near seal island to get a chance for some photos of animals basking at rocks in sun.

Garinish Island is a small island just 15 minutes by boat away from Glengarriff. Sheltered in Bantry Bay, it was inhabited, it was turned into Italian style garden 100 years ago. Plants were brought, walls erected and house build. Once family home, now a tourist attraction.

 

Another tourist destination is Bantry House. Majestic house overlooking Bantry Bay, with beautifully decorated interior, collection of antiques all over the world, but mostly East and Asia. The garden’s main features are hundred steps (actually I counted 105), after climb one will be rewarded with great view over the house and bay beyond Garden is currently undergoing some renovation project, as it was neglected for long period and overgrown trees obscured view. The idea is to bring it back to original plans. I’m sure it will look spectacular.

After I’m finally heading back to peninsula, thru Glengarriff, Adrigole and arriving in Castletown-Bearhaven. For me only place of interest is McCarthy’s Bar – it’s a little different as on book cover, nevertheless after reading the book I could not miss to see this place. Pub serves also as a grocery shop, so after walking in you could be surprise to see tins of food and other household items. The actual bar is next room.

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Town itself is a busy fishing harbour, with little charm for me, on top of it there is Sea fair going on for whole weekend, which brought lot of attractions – stalls selling fake Hollister clothes, noisy fun fair. It might have charm for locals, not for me so I’m further up the road.

Finding nest destination was a bit challenge, but I long wanted to find it and visit. A beautiful movie Ondine was shot here, put the place bears no traces of any filming activity. Small secluded bay, serves also as a harbour for small fishing boats. I met some local and talked about random stuff for almost an hour. Unfortunately as the sun dropped down so did sea, water receded about 20-30 metres, exposing rocks and lot of seaweed.

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Looking for more spectacular settings for sunset to capture I drove over to near Dzogchen Beara Buddhist meditation centre. Place of beauty, peace and serenity, somehow it transferred little of charm from far Tibet to Ireland.

I met only few people, couple of girls on cycling trip around Beara, and a little kitty wandering around.

The next morning I woke up into gloomy, heavy and dark overcast sky – not ideal for any photography outside. So I wandered back into still sleeping town of Castletown-Bearhaven. Continuing back east, I reached Adrigole with sign to Healy Pass. One of the iconic driving roads it cross the mountains just at the borders of counties Cork and Kerry. Having driven over the Connorr Pass in Dingle, I have to say this is better – longer, with sweeping tight bends, climbing up and up and finally reaching small car park with shop. But look down into the valley and the scenery it’s just breathtaking. Tiny spaghetti of road bellow, looking at other drivers making their way.

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There is some noise coming from bellow and shortly a parade of vintage cars and tractors passes by. Following bikers from Belgium – five BMW’s GS. Actually I met a lot of bikers, and most of them on BMW’s – they must be that good or cheap.

Coming down to Lauragh I came to junction with a funny sign, which could be found only in Ireland. Those picture speak for themselves.

From there I drove down the valley towards Glanmore Lake. The fellow who I met day before recommended to visit this hidden and not too much known place. I was a rewarding detour – quiet lakeside, at one place fence with mare and colt. Only if the midgets were not savage.

Heading back to main road, I slowly drove west, with Kenmare River on my left, beautiful view across bay at Iveragh peninsula. Towards Allihies the road gets narrower and more bendy – even better than Healy Pass. At one point it seems to cut someone yard – the bikers got a little bit perplexed. From Allihies I turn further west towards Dursey Island. It’s only connection with mainland is a cable cart. But after arriving I’m greeted with smell of cheap fish and chips from van and full car park. Quickly turn around and escape. Back to Allihies, I search for rock formation along the cliffs that looks like a bowl. After a while I found it – but again receding low tide doesn’t do justice. Anyway, spectacular view.

I wandered around a bit, could not decide for final spot for sunset, eventually I settled on small cliffs. Sky was a bit dull, not much drama and light I wanted.

With that, little I knew those were final photos of whole trip. During night I heard rain drops pounding on roof of my car, and morning I woke up into heavy rain. With that, I packed myself, I headed back to civilisation. Driving on narrow roads of Beara in rain is not something I enjoy, so I’m only happy when I reach Cork and from there it’s motorway only. Still raining. Finally home.

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The sequel

It’s been a long time since I went for proper few days trip around Ireland. Being busy at work with combination of long and uninspiring winter weeks bound me to just handful shootings around Dublin.

So when June Bank holiday in sights, I was determined to get out for some new location. As I was making my plans, the memories of last trip to Dingle were still lasting in my mind. And plus the fact last time we didn’t get the best possible – for photographers, not holiday makers – weather I quickly decided to return to this magical place.

This time I went solo, so I just contact my friend with plans for new locations for dusk  and dawn photo shootings.

I left Dublin on Saturday mornings, made a good progress down the motorway and first stop at most peculiar place – Barack Obama Plaza. Located just outside motorway it’s a very busy petrol station with some restaurants. And small exhibition dedicated to Barack Obama visit to his ancestors village.

Leaving motorway behind, Saturday mid morning traffic turned heavy on single lane road, but eventually I left Tralee behind me and on my sight was Annascaul.

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Home village of my recent discovered hero Tom Crean. A great polar explorer, member of three major expeditions into South Pole, upon his return he opened small pub called South Pole Inn, which is still in thriving place.

Making my way through busy Dingle town, with bikers from nearby Killarney bike fest going for ride on Slea Head, I finally got to meet Jaro and with nice cup of tea in sunny garden we made plans for evening.

The plan was sunset at Clogher head, so I made my way towards destination. I stoped briefly at beach, discovered some nice details for next day.

 

With evening approaching we set at Clogher head, with Star Wars film set on opposite peninsula. It could make nice scenery, but it was being taken down. Sunset was rather uninspiring, we manage to get some decent location, but without any dramatic sky.

I stayed for night, hoped for better condition in morning. The sun was behind Brandon mountains, so it was high up in sky when it peek over mountains. Still, view at Sleeping Giant was rewarding.

 

 

I wanted to visit sit of Gallarus oratory, and on Jaro’s recommendation also Blasket Centre. Gallarus oratory is an early Christina church, made from slabs of stone without any bonding material.

Blasket centre is beautiful building right opposite the Great Blasket island. It covers history of people’s life on this remote location – even by Dingle standards. Also it was a arch of treasure for Irish language and unique storytelling. I highly recommend to everyone to dedicate time to visit this place.

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I returned to Dingle, visited town for some postcards, but it was so busy I left and paid visit to Michael an Barbara in their B&B. We chatted for a good while, with nice cup of tea started making plans for sunset photography shooting. It was quickly decide to go to Dunmore head, with view at Blasket Islands.Clouds promised a little bit more drama with setting sun and we weren’t let down.

We even met a fellow photographer from Limerick, who lived few years in our native country Slovakia, so we shared few life stories. It was a very windy evening, so I found shelter behind some rocks, from where I made few shots, With sun setting down, however I decides to change location and to my surprise when I left my shelter it was a calm evening. Sun was getting down behind Sleeping Giant. All the way from south to north appeared strange cigar shaped clouds. somehow reminiscence of beginning title sequence from Star Wars movies.

It was a beautiful and memorable evening. But it was also a long day, so quickly we made decision about morning location and into the deep sleep.

Morning was looking promising, we headed to Connor Pass, as the weather promised better conditions then on my last visit. And was I for treat – clouds lingering on tops of mountain range, with sun kissing slopes.

With light breeze we were even spared midgets attack, so we could fully immerse into beauty that was in our sight and our cameras.

It was a very beautiful and busy morning – at least for me. Connor Pass is place I wanted to capture for long time, on my last visit the conditions weren’t the best, so I was rewarded this time more than enough.

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After a treat of breakfast, it was a time to say goodbye, pack my self and head back to Dublin.

I would like to thank again to Jaro for his time and Michael and Barbara for their hospitality.

http://www.milestonedingle.com/

http://www.kerryviews.com/

 

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Magic forrest

Just few miles from Dublin, en route to heart of Wicklow mountains lies a hidden gem, although it’s getting more and more popular with photographers. Name of this place is Cloughlea , but is also known as a Kilbride Manor. The small creek runs through is named Shankill and it feeds river Liffey.

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The place is divided by road bridge to upper and lower section. In lower section creek id wider, more open, creating few waterfalls and cascades. It’s a bit difficult to capture this place in a way that hasn’t been done, but I find it challenging to discover new view.

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However, if You walked into upper section, it’s completely different place, closed gorges, stream enclosed by forest.

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The best time of year for this place is autumn, when all trees are in their colour spectrum, leaves on ground. The level of water plays part of charm of this place, as it’s rising (or disappearing in recent months) constantly changing, creating new features to focus on.

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I’ve been to this place many times, some years almost regularly, then I skipped few months and come back, just to check how it looks, whether I can find some new interest.

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Rarely a day or week goes by without some other photographer posting picture of this place. Some are recognisable right away, but I like those that aren’t, makes You think about location. It took me few visits to get over the usual set up point, walk up or down a bit and try  new angle, view or approach.

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But it is a place I return, I love the serenity of the area, surrounded by rushing water and trees, fills my mind with total calm.

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Dingle – moonset kingdom

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Another road trip around Ireland. This time into the Dingle in county Kerry. County Kerry is also know as The Kingdom. Upon our arrival in early hours, in fact still an hour before sunrise, the Moon was still visible over Brandon Peak. This instantly gave me an idea (also somewhat the movie Moonrise Kingdom) for this blog.

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We started to climb up, Mt. Brandon was our goal, but unfortunately I quickly had to retreat with sharp pain in my knee. So we split, my friend continued to climb up, I went back to car – we made a plane I will meet him on other side of mountain.

I drove over to Conor Pass, stopped at small car park near waterfall. Only due lack of rain in recent days waterfall was reduced into dripping tap. Nevertheless, quick walk up and I ended in the most serene and quiet place ever. Loughdoon is small lake above Conor Pass, it’s amphitheatre scenery is echoing every sound.

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Also on particular place along the shore, there was this beautiful red coloured partly submerged. Together with exposed rocks, and reflection of far cliff, it made amazing colourful picture.

I was there alone for few minutes – it was still early morning, when few people appeared out of nowhere. They were shooting commercial for new clothing brand, which name I forgot.

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I always like to spend long time in places like this, wandering around, looking into different perspective and angle, only to found the most intricate details down at footsteps.

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Time was pressing on, so one more shot from above. The view down to Conor Pass is much better than from car park bellow, even it’s requires slight steep climb. Yet only very few people who stopped there made the effort to do it. I wonder why – just being lazy or dumb?

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I set of, drove over to Dingle, checked in into the best B&B ever-http://www.milestonedingle.com/ and met my friend.

We had some lunch in one of many pubs in Dingle and set for coastal drive, along the Slea Head. In weather like we had it’s splendid drive, view across the bay to Iveragh peninsula, unfortunately a bit hazy so it was clear visibility. Still, just on horizon Skelligs, Blasket island and beyond Atlantic ocean.

This part of Dingle is dotted with places of ancient Irish history. One of them are beehive huts and Galarus oratory.

Further up the road was one of the places I personally wanted to visit and take some photos – Dunquin pier. The village of Dunquin is the most Westerly populated place in Ireland (apart from island on coast). Sadly, this iconic place is one of those where different angle is difficult, if not impossible. Anyway, I manage to take few shots.

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We went further towards cliffs of Waymont. This offers view of one of Blasket islands – The Sleeping Giant. As said before, clear sky with no clouds and haze didn’t provide any dramatic sunset scenery, but we had to do with what provided. IMG_0493 copy IMG_0500 copy

The next morning weather wasn’t photography friendly – no clouds and more hazy then yesterday. We drove over to Conor Pass again. With friend’s help we got better view, not the usual car park spot.

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With my friend dog wandering around, once he sat right in frame, so I quickly got snapshot, but nothing to compare with his photos. Check his page : http://kerryviews.com

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Some few last photos before sun was too high and cast strong light, and we ready for breakfast.

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After royal breakfast (we are in Kingdom after all), chat with owners it was time to pack ourself. But before we head to Coumeenoole beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. It was almost summer day, even date being 1st October. Sun, no clouds, low tide – perfect day on beach.

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Despite the desperate photographic condition I manage to found small cove, sheltered in shade, away from harsh sun, and got some interesting details. IMG_0539 copy IMG_0535 copy

After that, final farewell. But we were treated truly royalty – each of us was given framed picture, courtesy of our new friend. What a guy! This whole trip – despite the initial hiccup turned out to be one to remember and to return.

For now on, back to daily routine.

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Kerry photos

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Story behind the doors

There is a saying the story behind the doors. So, one of the most iconic sign on Dublin are its colourful doors. The most prominent location is know as Georgian Dublin, which is on north of Liffey, covering area from St. Stephen’s Green to Grand Canal, including a little less know Merrion and Fitzwilliam Square.

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As one will notice, there is rarely a two door next to each other of same colour.

Real story of why depends on storyteller. Here are some of the most told.

Two famous writer lived next to each other. As one got regularly knocking on wrong door when returning at late night (or early morning) from inspirational sessions in nearest pub, the owner decided to paint his door a bright colour, so the poor drunken fella will know which is his house.

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Another story is, that following the death of Queen Victoria all citizens of British Empire main cities were order to paint their doors black as sign of mourning. Well, the Dubliners were mourning so much, that they paint theirs door in any colour – except black.

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Whichever story is true, the fact is that this is the scene you will find on many postcards from Dublin. Most of those buildings are not residential, but corporate offices, with exceptions of colleges, language schools and restaurants.

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Due to their historical significance now they are listed buildings and preserved to their original appearance. Only the small corporate logos and modern door bells spoiling the sense of stepping into past time.

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My hometown

I just returned from two weeks holiday at home, in Slovakia. I do come home few times a year, but usually for shorter period and busy schedule. This time I had to time pressure, so I brought my camera, see If I manage to get some decent photos. Although summer’s not the best time of year for photography, there was few decent evenings.

My dad found out there are guided tours on Friday evenings of Nitra’s Castle, with access to tower. I thought this would be great spot, as it provide 360 degree view of all town. However, it was a little disappointing due to lot of people visiting this place. The tower’s walk around is very narrow, providing only space for one person. I snatched few shots.

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So we walked down to entrance square, which is usually closed on this time of day. The artificial lightning started to illuminate buildings, just as sun was bellow horizon and night started to darken sky.

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The other day I was walking our little dog, the usual route is head into field behind housing estate. To my surprise and satisfaction, this year it was sunflower field, few weeks just before being harvested.  That set my next evening destination.

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For explanation – the strange object in field is air traffic navigation station.

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It perplexed people for years, as there is no information on fence except some safety warnings. But it’s strange shape gives this place significant feature.

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Also I visited another iconic location – Drážovský kostolík. Dating back to 11th century, it’s perfectly located on edge of disused quarry, also a begining point of Tríbeč mountains ridge with Zobor raising above town of Nitra.

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Nowadays it’s very popular place, as it was centuries before, today probably for different reasons. Even on evening of my visit, there were two other photographers among people just sitting in grass and enjoying pleasant warm summer sunset.

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Achill Island

1st of July, used to be remarkable day, start of summer holiday. At present bears no significance to me, so there I set off. Leaving Dublin on afternoon, heading to County Mayo for few days. It’s sticky sweaty hot, temperature in car shows +24 C. It’s a long journey, after 2 hours i’m only pass Longford, still have to drive thru Roscommon – probably the least interesting part of Ireland. Just single carriageway, nothing on surrounding, no houses, rivers, lakes, just forest and hills. Suddenly phone rings – friend of mine was driving in opposite direction, didn’t see him. After passing road sign Welcome to County Mayo, first it started drizzle and later turned into constant rain. Hope it’s not what to come. From Castlebar it’s still long drive, need some break after non-stop 2.5 hours. Stopping at local petrol station, a couple on brand new BMW 1200GS are waiting for rain to stop. Finally arriving at Westport, realizing I did detour, should follow to Newport. Nevermind, full tank, just traffic thru town is not what I like. After Newport sign direct me to Achill, trick is they are in gaelic first, english is second language. And on Achill Island only gaelic, luckily can’t get lost. Finally in heavy rain arriving at supposedly the most beautiful beach in Ireland – Keem strand. IMG_1113   IMG_1125 IMG_1069     Evening it’s still raining, so I’m awaiting in car, eating tuna can, reading Pete McCarthys’s book. Finally rain has stop, so grab my gear and head forth. Sunset is behind hills on my back, casting shadow on beach, but illuminating clouds with some fantastic effects. IMG_1055_1 IMG_1073   IMG_1059_1   IMG_1094 At car park I’m not alone, there is some 5 other cars with clear intention to stay over night, so I don’t see any problems here. Into the sleeping bag and goodnight. Morning is clear, though it was raining during the night. Sunrise is over the hill on left, tide incoming. Perfect conditions, don’t know where to point camera first, everywhere seems to be perfect location.   IMG_1134   IMG_1061_1 IMG_1083 1 After 1.5 hour on beach is time for breakfast and little nap. I’m awaken by procession of sheeps gathering for some morning ritual on beach. Some of them make really strange noise. Time to pack up and ready for road. With no time pressure I take cruise around the island. Scenery is just pure magic, breathtaking around every corner and bend, light casting shadows and illuminating hills and sea. Stopping at 5 minutes intervals, taking camera out of bag and taking pictures in all directions. Dramatic sea cliffs, distant mountains. Roads are narrow and winding, real challenge for driver, but I’m having great time. IMG_1138 IMG_1150 IMG_1157 IMG_1154 Finally, it’s time to leave this beautiful place, but with clear plans for return in future. Next destination – Ceide Fileds on north coast of Mayo. Crossing vast plains, only edged by mountains at far horizon, lush green meadows, occasionally dotted by farms and few small villages. Taking some detours again, just for fun and discovering some hidden beauty spots along the route. Another 2.5 hours later I arrived at Ceide Fields. IMG_1170 It’s not much to see there, but this place makes you think and wonder simultaneously. The guided tour is the key, as this place has more history to listen than thing to look at, nevertheless it’s landscape settings is wonderful. Downpatrick head on far horizon for instance. And there is I’m heading next. IMG_1181 I do quick walk around, just to see what to expect later in evening. It’s still early fo any decent photographic attempt. As I walk up the hill there are few warning signs saying “Blowhole”. I have no idea what does it mean, and as I walk to first one I’m speechless. One could say it’s just a hole in ground, but this one is size of house and has Atlantic Ocean at bottom. IMG_1211 Further up is cliff edge, with old look out hut and aerial signs from WW2. As I walk back to car, I met this girl I saw at Ceide Fields. We smile at each other and start to chat. It turns out she from local newspaper, driving along the Wild Atlantic Way and interviewing interesting people, see what they have to say about this tourist attraction. We exchange few words, she took a picture of me, I handed her my card and say farewell. Down at car park I met the guy I saw again at Ceide Fields, he is walking around Ireland for charity and awareness. His name is Ron, so if you see him at side of the road, don’t give him lift. Dun Briste is a sea stack some 80 metres from 50 metres high cliffs on coast of Mayo. The cliffs in heights may not match Cliffs of Moher, but for scenery and “easy” access right to the edge they are more that equal. IMG_1215   IMG_1240     Like those two local girls who came just to sit on edge and enjoy beautiful sunset. I asked the if can frame them in photo, just to give it some scale proportion, also it makes it somewhat different. The were very happy when they saw the result at back of my camera and even asked if the can take a picture with mobile phone. So I gave them my card and said I email the final photo. IMG_1248   IMG_1232_1 IMG_1255 Sunset was spectacular, clouds casting all different shades, shadows and colours. Time for sleep, morning is not too long away. Sunrise on this location must be something magical at any time, but when you see this colours on horizon, it’s just one step better. It lasted only few moments as sun is quickly hidden behind clouds, but this give me opportunity to go down to beach to take some low tide photos. IMG_1260 IMG_1272 IMG_1266 After breakfast is time to leave again, but again with note of return. Next stop is Castlebar, Country Life Museum. It’s free admittance, so why not. Exhibition is nice, revealing history of life that was not too in past, but as it’s full of tourist from all over the world, I take a quick tour, have a lunch a hit road for home.

Arrived home tired as a horse. IMG_1182More photos in Gallery section.

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