Agnes Caruso Photography

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Ireland – Day 5 Crossing into Northern Ireland

Three types of columns of Giant's Causeway

Three types of columns of Giant’s Causeway

With every day we were getting closer to the end of the journey. The next day took us into Northern Ireland. When you rent a car in Ireland make sure that you let the company know that you will be traveling north. Depending on the company they will or will not charge you for it, however, not having the permission can invalidate your car insurance. Also make sure to remember that speed changes from km/h to miles/h, the distances also change from kilometers to miles. So take care!

One of the iconic sites in Northern Ireland, located close to Bushmills, is Giant’s Causeway. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The tops of naturally hexagonal columns form stepping stones leading down from the cliff to the water. Size of the columns varies amazingly, from just a few centimeters to up 12 meters. There are many column formations that resemble objects, for example Giant’s shoe or Organs.

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View towards the west

It is wise to set aside some time for a nice relaxing walk by the sea and if you are fit to return on the top of the cliff to the Visitor’s Center. On a nice day you will be able to admire views to the east towards Scotland and west onto the fields. If you get really tired you might be able to pick some great blackberries growing by the trail.

Our rented Travel WiFi decided to stop working after we crossed the border, so our driving plans have changed and we headed directly towards the Antrim Coast skipping a few small towns we planned to visit.

Despite that there were some clouds in the sky, the views were very nice as we drove across the hills, and then along the sea to Glenarm. You can see nice cliffs, green fields and beautiful little seaside towns and villages on the way. Glenarm is one of those small villages on the coast. There is a beautiful castle in a park, a few streets of beautiful colored houses and a small marina. It has rich history going back to 13th century, when the first local castle is recorded.

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Once we rested in Glenarm, we headed towards Belfast. Arriving in Belfast at 5pm is not the best time, traffic around the city is pretty heavy and it can take some time to arrive at the hotel. It felt pretty good to be back in Belfast after over 10 years.

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Ireland Day 4 – Sky Road – Connemara

Galway pier

Galway pier

Waking up to a sunny day in Ireland is always great. We were impressed with the views from the pier in Galway, just outside of the Galway Bay Hotel. When you walk on it take care as it frequently is wet and slippery.

The destination of the day was Sligo, on the way we traveled through Connemara district. A sightseeing highlight was going to be drive on Sky Road near Clifden.

 

The views along the road were amazing and the only shock was delivered when we turned onto the Sky Road. This road is really narrow, and there is lots of construction going on, so you can expect big trucks driving on it. For some reason there was also cattle wandering around the road in parts of the road. The bottom line is take care when driving! Be alert and seriously have a small car for your travels. Take care when walking on the road so you stay in one piece.

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Sky Road definitely delivers the views that are breathtaking. When stopping on the road look for wider areas, so you do not block the road. There is a parking area high up on a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean, about in the middle of the drive. Meadows on the sides of the road are full of colorful flowers, even in September.

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Panorama from the cliff overlooking Atlantic Ocean

The top of the cliff was not the end of beautiful views, on the descent you can see Clifden church towers on the backdrop of Connemara hills.

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From there we headed north to Sligo, passing by some amazing views but also seeing clouds slowly gathering around once more. Roses Point in Sligo welcomed us with the statue “Waiting on shore” representing those who awaited the return of loved ones from the sea. And as any good day in Ireland rain started slowly drizzling, making it time for a bit of snooze.

 

 


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Ireland – day 3 Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher

As the rain was falling since early morning we headed towards the Ring of Kerry, probably the most scenic drive in Ireland. The road gets a lot of traffic and is narrow, so considering the rain it was not the best choice on the day. Instead we went on a drive through the mountains and connected back to Ring of Kerry in Kenmare to circle back to Killarney.

The first part of the drive took us initially on the main Ring of Kerry road, but quite quickly took us into the hills towards the Ballaghaemba Gap.

Natural arch

Natural arch

Narrow roads do not even start to describe it. If you have never driven around Ireland or Britain before, those roads will be scary. They have no shoulders, stone walls or bushes right next to the edge of the road, speed limit of 100km/hour, lots of turns and bends, locals driving into town to go to work close to maximum speed. It was an adventure driving on them, but some parts were amazingly beautiful and views to either side were stunning. Unlike the Ring of Kerry, there was very little chance of stopping to take pictures. I experimented more or less successfully with shooting through the front windshield. If you think it is crazy and a bad idea, it probably is, however, still it is worth trying.

Blackberries

Blackberries

Rain was slowly moving across the area with low clouds coming down from the hills. One of the great rewards on the side of the road were blackberries! Sweet and ripe, great snack for tired travelers. The thing that comes to mind is a blackberry pie, it would be great right about now.

Once we went deeper into the hills there were less cars, but those that we met were either stopped while chatting to neighbors and occupying most of the road or coming at us at high speed. There could also be big trucks coming and going to construction sites along the road, as new houses are being build on the sides of the hills.

 

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As it is normal in Ireland the clouds finally parted for a while anyway allowing beautiful glimpses of the loughs (lakes) and hills. When we are shooting outdoors we want to be able to control the light, and our position with respect to the light to get this perfect image. Not necessarily the easiest task on the side of a narrow road and fences or walls on both sides and sun playing hide and seek with the clouds. You have to catch the moments, light and compose the image really quickly.

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Spider web that stopped the traffic

Sometimes there is something by the roadside that will make everyone stop right there in the middle of the road. And it will not matter if there are other drivers wanting to pass. This spider web was one of such sights. Right after the rain it was decorated with raindrops like pearls. Obviously some great angles were not quite the best idea as muddy clothing will not go well with the rental car or be welcomed in a restaurant when we get to lunch.

 

 

Additional hazard on those narrow roads were sheep and rams, not always wanting to move over. So be patient and push slowly forward.

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Cottages in Kenmare

 

On the road from the hills we headed towards Kenmare, a little beautiful town on the Ring of Kerry. It has beautiful cottages and also is a home to one of the famous stone circles (see above). This lovely little town is a great stop for lunch and a little relaxation. We stopped in a little cafe called “Jam”, if you do not get anything else, grab some scones and coffee or tea.

 

Torc Waterfalls

Torc Waterfalls

 

From Kenmare you want to continue on the Ring of Kerry and come through the Ladies’ View and head towards Torc waterfall and then Killarney.

Torc Waterfall is not as spectacular as some biggest waterfalls in the world but it is beautifully nestled in the forest and a great picture spot. As it is pretty dark around the waterfall, having a tripod again is really important.

 

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Cliffs of Moher

Once we reached Killarney, I got really confused on the Haha roundabout (yes that is what it is called, no joke) but managed to get us out of town and towards Limerick and Ennis with the ultimate destination being Cliffs of Moher. Rain forced us to stay on the road rather than sidetrack to see some of the sights in Limerick or Ennis. We were rewarded as the clouds parted when we arrived at Cliffs of Moher. I have imagined how they will look, but reality surpassed all the expectations. The sights are amazing and well worth the trip. After battling strong wind and taking some pictures we headed to Galway for the night.


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Ireland – On the road to the west

View of Rock of Cashel from Hore Abbey

View of Rock of Cashel from Hore Abbey

Traveling around Ireland is easy with buses, trains and also planes, but the best way to really see the country is to rent a car. Now that can be a bit of a challenge for those not used to drive on the left side of the road or on narrow roads. So rent the smallest car you feel comfortable with, if heading into the countryside and off the main motorways.

Our next leg of the trip took us into the west of the country with a stop at the historical Cashel. The small city in county Tiperrary is definitely worth visiting and associated with one of the most interesting historical sites in Ireland.

Hore Abbey

Hore Abbey

A legend associated with the area is that devil took a bite of a mountain close by and when challenged by St. Patrick spit it near Cashel leaving the hill on which Rock of Cashel was build. A collection of now ruined medieval buildings, including a cathedral, chapel, and the tallest standing tower, is undergoing renovations to remove the fungal and bacterial growth ruining the remaining buildings. The Rock of Cashel is beautifully visible from the nearby Hore Abbey.

You should put some time aside and walk down the hill to the abbey, as it offers great views of the Rock and itself is an interesting site. Just take care when walking so you do not trip over parts of the building.

Way to Hore Abbey

A walk to Hore Abbey

Some practical suggestions – you will need cash to buy tickets to visit the Rock of Cashel, you can park in the parking onsite or park in the town for a maximum of two hours and stroll up the hill.

From Cashel we headed west to Killarney, the home of one of the most spectacular National Parks in Ireland. While traveling on major motorways we still hit some unexpected traffic obstacles as just the day before the local team won the Gaelic football final leading to celebrations everywhere in county Kerry.

Killarney itself is a small town located right on the edge of the National Park and a fabulous loop drive – Ring of Kerry. You can easily spend a week right there enjoying hiking, cycling and sightseeing. We had a bit less time to see the best views in Kerry. And also after confronting a part of the narrow road of Ring of Kerry, we decided that an alternative smaller loop would be a much better idea.

As the rain was predicted for the following morning, we decided to visit the famous Ladies’ View the same evening that we arrived.

Panorama from Ladies' View

Panorama from Ladies’ View

I missed the best part of the sunset although with the clouds rolling in evening started just a bit earlier. A critical equipment for good shots there is a tripod, small or large whatever you want to take with you, but make sure you have one.

Views are interesting along the road towards Ladies’ View and you can stop in some spots, but not everywhere. Do not be tempted to walk across the road too much. The road is narrow and locals drive fast (speed limit is 80km/h) so taking care is critical. There are also a lot of tight turns and blind corners so a driver might not see you. In some way driving in early evening was actually a good idea, as there is not that much traffic. Be particularly careful when it rains and the road is wet.

A roadside tree

A roadside tree on the way to Ladies’ View


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A day in Dublin

Visiting Ireland started in Dublin with a weather being much better than expected. Planning of sites to see was really important considering that we only had a day to walk around after an overnight flight. A few practical suggestions – it is worth to get a Dublin Pass as it allows you free access to a number of sites in Dublin and makes it faster to enter in many places. It is also useful to purchase a Leap Card at the same time to eliminate a need for cash when traveling on public transport around Dublin. You can top it up if you need. Extensive public transport network will help you reach all the sites in Dublin but for most part it is easy to walk around the city.

Dublin is a unique city as it has two cathedrals – St. Patrick’s and Church St Patrick's cathedralof Christ. St. Patrick’s (left) was founded in 1192 and is definitely a must see in Dublin. While the outside is not as spectacular as some other cathedrals, for example Koeln Cathedral, it is amazing inside. The best part of visiting it is that you can use your flash to take pictures, so take advantage of this. There are beautiful colored windows that can be challenging to photograph. The biggest challenge is to take shots without other people in them to reflect the beauty of the church rather than crowds visiting the church.

A short walk away is the second cathedral – Church of Christ, currently serving as the seat of Archbishop of Dublin Church of Christ cathedral(below). It is the site of most official events. And actually we did not manage to see the interior as there was a new priest consecration. The building of the cathedral is linked by a walkway to Dublinia, a museum dedicated to Viking history of Ireland and Dublin in particular.

No trip to Dublin would be complete without visiting Jameson Distillery or Guinness Storehouse. Even if you are not a whisky of beer drinker, it is worth visiting both sites as they offer an interesting insight into how those typical Irish drinks fit into Irish culture, history and economy. You learn about the manufacture of the drinks, about the people who made them popular and how this affected a greater population. If you are over 18 and like to have a taste, both sites offer you a complimentary drink included in an admission price. Interiors of both buildings are dark so you may want to use a fast lens and a flash. At the Guinness storehouse the place to visit is the Gravity Bar. While having a drink there is one way of enjoying it, the other is the 360 view of Dublin. On a nice and sunny day it is a must!

Jameson distillery

Another important part of Dublin is literature, James Joyce being one of the main literature figures connected with Dublin, despite spending a lot of his life overseas. You can enjoy a literary pub crawl, writers’ museum and visit James Joyce center. Photography is limited in the center, allowed only in the exterior parts of the museum. In my opinion it was not as exciting as Thomas Mann house in Lubeck, but still worth visiting especially if James Joyce is your favorite author.

Public transport is not the only way of transport around Dublin as you can see, cars, bikes and horse drawn carriages are all happily sharing the space. Three ways to travel in Dublin

City center is full of life and people, coming and going. You can escape the excessive crowds either in St. Stephen’s green or around Trinity College. Sitting down on the stairs and just watching people pass you can be very relaxing.

Now that you have walked a lot and are really tired let’s find someplace to enjoy the evening, have some good Irish food and a pint. Choices are many and you can find pretty much anything you wish to eat. While you can settle for fast food, Asian or any other cuisine of your choice, I strongly recommend trying Irish food. One of the areas that come highly recommended is Temple Bar neighborhood. There are pubs, restaurants and live music most days of the week. So get right in and have a pint. Cheers!