The otherworldly landscape of the Burren in County Clare, Ireland
Ireland is largely a lush patchwork of beautiful green fields, crashing ocean, and deep blue skies with cottony clouds floating by overhead. But, she is also dark and bereft of color in places. The Burren is such a place. The Burren is a 250 square kilometer area composed largely of limestone with sparse vegetation growing throughout. Compared to the beautiful green fields that surround it, the Burren stands in stark contrast. Relatively few trees grow through the limestone grid that composes much of its surface. There are a few scrub trees and shrubs that grow in the cracked limestone. But, the landscape is largely gray and lifeless.
This shot is taken from a road that winds toward Gregans East. On the steep descent there are some amazing views of the Burren in the distance. The green trees in the foreground, the blue sky, and the white clouds show how very different the Burren is from the surrounding countryside. Enjoy.
A solitary fishing boat lies at anchor in Dingle harbor
Well, it’s taking me way to long to work through my images from Ireland taken last summer. I clearly need to pick up the pace or I’ll never get around to posting a new series of images. Here’s one from the lovely Dingle Peninsula. The tide moves so much in this area that this boat would be laying on its side in the mud six hours later. At this point in the late afternoon, though, it made for wonderfully peaceful image as it lay at anchor with the beautiful Irish countryside in the distance. Enjoy.
The race track at Ballintaggart hosts the Dingle Races each August
As we drove deeper onto the Dingle peninsula, the scenery became more and more mesmerizing. There were snatches of ocean views, rolling hills, and an ongoing cascade of green in every direction we looked. Adding to the beauty of the scene was a constantly evolving partly cloudy sky that covered the landscape in a parade of shadows from the giant cumulus clouds passing by majestically overhead.
It was one of those road trips where only discipline would allow us to arrive at our destination on time. We literally could have stopped every half mile to take in yet another remarkable view. Instead we pushed on satisfying ourselves with the view through our windshield and windows. That is until we came to this scene. I literally jammed on the brakes to take in the view that you see here.
We had arrived in Ireland in the midst of race season. Although we didn’t watch much television while we were there, the local coverage was fixated on the horse races as they moved from one town or county to another over the course of the summer. We had great fun viewing the spectacle of the races at Limerick Racecourse while we were in the west of Ireland. It very much reminded me of the Kentucky Derby where the people watching is every bit as much of a spectacle as is the great race itself. Ladies in their fancy hats, gentlemen in their suits, and jockeys in their colorful silks made for an hour or so of fascinating television.
Unfortunately we were a week early to see the Dingle races in person. It would have been great fun to watch beautiful Irish horses thunder around the rolling grass track at Ballintaggart under a splendid sky with colorful banners flying and the cheer of the crowd resounding across the valley. But, I’ll have to be satisfied with my imagination coupled with the memories of the race course on a brilliant summers day. Hopefully we will be able to enjoy the Dingle Races in person someday soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this image.
Clouds and lush green fields as viewed entering Ireland’s incomparable Dingle Peninsula
With apologies to my beloved national song, America the Beautiful, I’ve titled this post Ireland the Beautiful. This is perhaps my favorite image from our trip to the Emerald Isle.
As we left the Ring of Kerry, we began the short journey to the next peninsula on Ireland’s western shore, the Dingle Peninsula. Although I had enjoyed our short circuit around the Ring of Kerry and our ferry ride across the Shannon River, I was truly looking forward to spending time in and around Dingle. I had read extensively about western Ireland and the consensus among those I respected most was that the Dingle Peninsula was and is the most beautiful part of Ireland.
As we worked our way westward toward the southern coast of the Dingle Peninsula we climbed a low pass just past Annascaul on the N86. There was a small pullout that was located toward the top of the pass from which I could view the valley from which we had just traveled. I could tell before I ever stopped the car that there was an epic shot to be had from this vantage point. I only hoped that the view would not be ruined by power lines, an industrial plant, or some other modern feature.
To my delight, the view was everything that I had been looking for and more. Not only did I have the forty shades of green that I had been looking for, but I also had picturesque fields, cattle, wonderful cumulus clouds, a blue sky above them, and a wonderful soft afternoon sun side lighting the entire scene. I quickly grabbed my tripod and camera and began to capture the scene.
For me, this image captures the essence of rural Ireland. There are rolling hills, a patchwork of lush green, a small village in the distance, and even the threat of rain as the oncoming clouds touch the mountains in the distance bringing darker skies. That is Ireland – a rural country dotted with quaint villages, ancient architecture, all covered in a tapestry of lush greens and blessed with abundant sunshine and rain. I’m already looking forward to my next visit. Enjoy.
One of hundreds of ruined abbeys scattered across the Irish countryside
After we left Dublin our next stop was Ennis in County Clare in the west of Ireland. Ennis is a pretty little village with some great pubs and conveniently located for day trips. Due to some last-minute changes in our itinerary we wound up with a free day in Ennis. Some of our group headed out to the Cliffs of Moher and to the Connemara region. Since we would be visiting both areas later in our trip, we decided to make an afternoon excursion to some nearby sights.
It became apparent fairly quickly that the local bus system was not our best option. Fortunately, we asked around and found a taxi that could take us to a couple of local destinations of interest. Well, they were of interest to us at least. Neither abbey that we visited was exactly a tourist mecca. At Quin Abbey we saw one other group of three while we were there. At Clare Abbey near Ennis we scared off a group of teenage boys who were engaged in something nefarious enough that they scattered as soon as they saw us approaching. Other than that we had the abbeys to ourselves.
The crazy thing is that these abbeys were built in 1195 and 1402. Think about that. No European – other than some Vikings potentially, but that’s another story – would even set foot in the New World until ninety years after the “new” abbey had begun construction. Yet, these beautiful old structures are just scattered around the countryside with cows sometimes wandering within their walls. In America they would all be visitor attractions with paid admissions and endowments to cover their maintenance costs. Don’t get me wrong. I think the Irish cherish these structures. There are just so many of them that you can’t love them all equally.
It certainly helps that the Irish built these abbeys out of stone and not out of wood. The structures have certainly stood the test of time. Wood buildings just don’t have much of a chance to last for close to a thousand years without some painstaking care and maintenance.
Although it had been rainy or threatening rain for much of the day, the skies broke open a bit while we were at Quin Abbey. I spent a delightful twenty minutes or so composing a shot and waiting for the right combination of blue sky, cloud formations, and direct sunlight on Quin Abbey. I love the lush colors of green in the field and trees as a contrast to the blue sky, white clouds, and wonderful brown gray of the local stone. I think it makes for a beautiful scene. I hope you do as well. Enjoy.
A view of medieval Provins, France as sunset light casts a beautiful glow on the town
Because Provins was so small I could walk from one end of the town to the other in about ten minutes. That made it incredibly easy to scramble up to the top of the walls at the west end of town in order to gain a better vantage point. On the last night in Provins, I had hoped for a beautiful cloud filled sky. What I got was almost as good for the shot that I ended up taking.
Our first five days in France were for the most part blue sky days. There may have been a few clouds that passed by, but for the most part, the sky was clear and the winds were calm. Normally those aren’t the best conditions for photography. But, for this shot, I wanted to get the warm rays of a setting sun casting a warm glow on the beautiful, medieval town of Provins where we were staying.
I got my wish and managed to find a spot that also displayed the half-timbered buildings of the town as a foreground to the Catholic church and Roman fort in the distance. It was a fun way to spend an hour or so waiting for the sun to set. I hope you enjoy the image as much as I enjoyed capturing it.