Connemarra Dreaming

 

When I visited Connemara few years ago it was  love at first sight. The best  combination of lakes, mountains, rivers,  winding road to drive all day long and views. Horizon stretching bogs on one side, looming mountains on other. Unpredictable weather goes without saying.  Even though I visited this region of Ireland already couple of times, there was still places on my list to be visited.

So, with brief itinerary laid over, I set off one Saturday noon, just to arrive in Galway and then holidaymakers traffic on road to Cliffden.  After some slow-ish progress, I made it into open roads. I turn into direction of small town Roundstone, which was plagued by people watching regatta.  Quickly I navigate around pedestrians and continued further up. Arriving at first stop – Cleggan Bay. Again, not welcoming scene for me – full car park, people having picnic on low tide beach. I turned around and headed towards nearby Dog’s Bay.

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Much more to my like. Almost nobody anywhere, beautiful pristine soft sand and crystal clear waters. Both bay are actually on opposite to each other on small peninsula. Cleggan on east, Dog’s Bay on west.

Low tide was only let down, but then it revealed some nice rock formation at the begging of beach.  Walking on very soft sand, my feet were leaving prints few inches deep, I came across peculiar sight – cows grazing on grass, some of them wandered on beach.

I was once again in my elements. The sun was getting lower, sky was turning into amazing colour show.  Some local kids wandered in, but I was not to be distracted from my job – capturing nature’s beauty once again.

With camping on this beautiful spot I ticked another of my bucket list goals.  It was quiet night, and I woke up into calm foggy Sunday morning. There was a little less drama on sky, but then high tide was offering another opportunity.

After breakfast and some more sleep, I packed up and headed west towards another location – Derrygimlagh bog. This nature’s feature covers large part of Connemara from Roundstone to west and north towards Cliffden.  Once place of history in making. It was where Marconi build his first wireless transatlantic communication station and also landing site of first non-stop transatlantic flight of Alcock & Brown. There is very well laid trail with points explaining history of this place, both technical and nature. I highly recommend to visit this site.

The road brought me into Cliffden, where I stopped for some local shopping and was back in car. Heading back eastwards, I turned onto small road to Carna, which brought me to crossroad leading into Roadstone or scenic drive thru Derrygimlagh bog. i took the second option. The narrow, occasionally bumpy and twisty road was a pleasant change from hustle of busy main roads. I drove around for most of that day, just enjoying scenery and nice sunny summer day.

I planned another sunset shooting of famous Pine Island at Derryclare Lough. But the clear sky promised a dull evening without clouds to add any drama. I turned south, copying the banks or Owenmore river – famous for trout and salmon fishing.

I stopped at one of the small fisherman’s hut, as some clouds rolled over mountains. A lonely fisherman was trying his luck that evening. I got few photos including this guy. Then he finally stopped, turned around and finally noticed me being around. We had a little chat, explaining our motivation and what we trying to achieve that moment. I guess, I was a little more lucky. Since he was complaining about damage done to fisheries in rivers. IMG_0467_copy

I set down for night in beautiful and tranquil Lough Inagh valley. Morning I drove to planned location – Pine Island at Derryclare Lough. We I arrived, some fellow photographer was just getting out from night camp in his Land Rover Defender. We had a little chat, then everyone went his way. Without any cloud in sight it wasn’t looking for dramatic or long sunrise. And on top, usual  Irish midges were having breakfast on our behalf. Then I was distracted by some buzzing noise above my head – I looked up and saw a drove this other fellow was using. Damn things!

After some sleep and breakfast I went to Cliffden to post obligatory post card to family and set for another on bucket list – Sky Road and Omey Island. Now, I drove the Sky Road on my first visit, but the weather was so horrible, that I hardly could see 50 metres ahed of car. So long for great view.

This time it was much different story – sunny day, crystal blue water, beautiful vie over small islands and open Atlantic ocean beyond them. Only drawback was traffic of holidaymakers. And finally I arrived at packed car park at Omey Island. This island is accessible only certain times a day – basically one drives on sea bed when is low tide. It’s only few hundred  meters and well signed. Only have to watch out for pedestrians. I was surprised, it was little bumpy so no speed record was broken.

Also, annual horse race is being held here, but that was weekend after my visit. But it’s just another thing added to my list. As day was getting into evening, I was time to sum up this trip and find one more location for few last sunset photos.  I drove up the Errislannon, small peninsula just south of Clifden. From another Alcock & Brown monument, there was great view over Derrigimlagh bog and Cliffden bay.

I met some american tourist on bike, as he finished his mountain stage and taking rest, engaged once again in small conversation. We parted our ways, as I walked into the bog, searching for the best view to capture beauty of this part of Ireland. Connemara is still my favourite place. Since my last visit, I seen changes, which are to my like. Don’t get my wrong, the local businesses deserve boom they enjoyed, with more tourist attracting to visit this region. It’s just personal preference, that I try to stay away from crowded places. Next time I will choose different time of the year. Meanwhile, good by and see you again.

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Saltee Island

Every year numbers of Irish photographers – wildlife, nature or just any or none categories – make their annual pilgrimage onto small island off shore, just few miles from Kilmore Quay. Reason is simple – it’s a wild birds sanctuary, even privately owned, it’s accesible just for anyone who enjoys taking photos or watching birds.

When one of top wildlife/nature photographer from my camera club announced this year trip, I joined in. I strongly advise to go with somebody who was there few times, as local knowledge is a key. And tips and hints about bird photography are always helpful.

A little history about the place itself. Saltee Islands – it’s two of them – lies on south shore of Ireland in county Wexford. The bigger of them is privately owned by local family, who occasionally resides on island. It was bought by local farmer, who self titled himself as a Prince of the Saltee. However, visitors are welcome, even though some restriction of visiting times are in place. Boats are departing from Kilmore Quay harbour and it takes around 30 minutes to reach the island. Then it’s a transport into Zodiac boat and brought to small beach. From there is a little hike on top of hill, pass the family house and throne – every royalty has to have one.

First main point is on the first cliff on south side of island. On this steep cliffs are hundreds of nesting puffins. Great aviators, with colourful beaks, it’s a great joy and fun to watch them. Graciously gliding in air, hunting for fish to bring to young ones.

 

Unfortunately, this time there was only few of them and not much air show to watch, or capture. Nevertheless, everyone managed to get some decent shots. Me having the crappiest lens on the bunch. Canon 70-200/4 L USM is great, but for this kind of photography is just is not long enough to zoom in birds in distance. So I had to crop almost all images in post-processing.  The results are OK for viewing on computer screen, some maybe suitable for printing, but this will have to wait for later.

After some time I decide to move into other side of island, where gannets colony resides. I walked across narrow footpath across with my colleague from camera club. Along the way we pass few black back seagulls. This can be very vicious and aggressive in protecting their nesting chicks. There are stories about some nasty scars people have on their heads as a reminder. Best protection is to take umbrella or put up tripod. This time we were lucky and left unharmed.

Gannets colony is easy to find. The smell and noise can be felt from distance. They occupy rocky outcrop, bumping into each other almost constantly. They are fun to watch to land, as smoothly they glide thru air, landing is process Mother Nature has to work on. It looks like they just stop flying and drop to ground. They are beautiful birds with white body and yellowish long necks.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had to leave at around 4:00 pm, and it was just well as sea for started to rolling in, covering hills and eventually whole island. I had to admit I was a bit nervous as we could not see any land for most of our journey, but I’m no seaman.

We finished our trip in near by chip shop with one of the best – and biggest – portion of fish and chips. And cone of ice cream. Overall, it was nice day out, got a little sunburn on my hands, so this is definitely on my diary for next year.

 

 

 

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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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