The Dark Hedges: before the bright shiny fence

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I just talked to a college buddy of mine who now lives quite close to the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, and he informed that a new, bright and shiny fence has been installed inside the tree line to help maintain control of the local livestock. Apparently it doesn’t exactly add to the splendor of the view, and that’s a shame, because this is a popular scene that has stirred the imagination of many photographers. While I totally understand the rationale, I can’t help thinking that a different strategy might have been employed… one that kept the sheep where they needed to be, and one that maintained the quality of the view.

This is a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim in Northern Ireland that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. Supposedly haunted by the “Grey Lady” who appears at dusk among the trees, I had an opportunity to visit here a few years back and although I did not see any ghosts, I was fascinated by what was once a pretty spectacular driveway leading to Gracehill Mansion, home of the Stuart family.

As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a remarkable sight. People flock from all parts to photograph this scene, and although it certainly might look pretty cool on screen, seeing it in person is far more impressive. If looking for directions on how to get to there for yourself, check out a post I made from a while ago… just one of the many remarkable sights to be found back home in Northern Ireland.

I can’t imagine what it looks like with a bright and shiny fence 😦

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

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A famous row of trees

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More from Ireland…. bear with me as I get my fix from home 🙂

The image above is of a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a remarkable sight. Many people photograph this scene, and although it certainly does look pretty cool in this photo, seeing it in person is far more impressive. If looking for directions on how to get to this place for yourself, check out a post I made from a while back. Just one of the many remarkable sights to be found back home in Northern Ireland.

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

In the footsteps of a giant

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I can remember visiting the Giant’s Causeway as a kid and being fascinated by the shapes and patterns in the famous rock formations there. One year our family summer holiday took us to the Antrim coast and Dunseverick for two weeks, and from there it is only a couple of miles to this remarkable place.

From Wikipedia: The Giant’s Causeway (known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFómharach in Irish and the Giant’s Causey in Ulster-Scots) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

I remember my dad telling us all about the legend of Finn McCool and how the causeway came to be, and of course I believed every word of his tall tale… who wouldn’t? This is still one of the most unique and magical places I have ever seen, and one that I would love to return to again one day with camera in hand. Surprise, surprise… a grey and rainy sky welcomed me on the day this photograph was made, so it seems only right to process it as a black and white.

From Wikipedia again: Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner’s great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the ‘infant’, he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.

How to get to The Dark Hedges

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I check the stats for my blog every now and then, and when I do, I invariably find that certain posts are more popular than others when it comes to search terms. A post about a famous stretch of road in Northern Ireland from September 10, 2009 which I titled Dark Hedges is one such post. Other than three of my posts which were “freshly pressed” on the front page of WordPress.com generating views in the thousands, this has been my most viewed blog post. There isn’t a day that goes by where it hasn’t received at least a handful of views, and since I figured people must be looking for information on how to get there for themselves, why not share the location.

If this were a fragile ecosystem where sharing the specific location and encouraging additional foot traffic might endanger the local environment, I might be more reluctant to share specifics, but since it is a public road that just happens to be pretty remarkable, I don’t see any harm in helping others see it for themselves. This is a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy in County Antrim that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create an impressive sight. I have only visited this place one time, and on that occasion the light and atmosphere were not especially dramatic. For those of you planning on photographing this scene for yourselves… here’s hoping that the conditions come together perfectly for you, and that you come away with a special image that you are proud of 🙂

Directions: From Belfast, take the M2 north out of the city and look for the A26 just north of the town of Antrim. Take the A26 north toward and around Ballymena, and about 7 miles past Ballymena look for where the road forks with an option to take the A44 (Drones Road) toward Armoy and Ballycastle. Stay on the A44 for another 7 miles or so, and before reaching the village of Armoy, make a left onto the Bregagh Road. After about a mile you will cross over the B15 (Gracehill Road), and stay straight for another mile until you cross over the Ballykenver Road… turn the bend and prepare to say “Wow”.

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

Portbradden

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This is the last one from the archives before we land in Ireland! Sam and I are at about 35,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic as this post is being published, and needless to say we are VERY excited to be spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. I will be updating the blog with stories and photographs from our trip as we go, depending of course on Internet access. Though we only have a week here, we are trying to pack as much as possible into this trip, so stay tuned…

This is a view of Portbradden, a tiny but picturesque fishing village (consisting of maybe two buildings), at one end of White Park Bay on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. White Park Bay is one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen, and it is an example of the quintessential windswept Irish bay. Meaning “port of the salmon”, this remote part of the cove is home to a small salmon fishery, and it really is quite pretty. We had walked along the spectacular cliff path from nearby Dunseverick to get here, and I can recall several hairy moments as we navigated a trail that in places hugged the steep cliffs quite closely. When I say hairy… I mean just for me… the one with acrophobia!

A typical Irish summer day

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The weather in Ireland can be unpredictable to say the least, and although we did see a couple of days of sun and warmer temperatures on our last visit, the photograph above kind of sums up what it was like most of the time. Every now and then the sun would peek out from behind the clouds, but the rain and cooler temperatures were never far away… even in August.

This is a view looking east and out toward the Irish Sea into Murlough Bay from the area around Torr Head on the Antrim coast. I loved seeing the sheep down below on the hillside enjoying those lush greens, and even from way up here we could hear the waves crashing onshore. The classic and impressive stone wall in the foreground was what initially drew me to stop here to make a photograph, and I have a feeling we’ll see a few more walls like this on our upcoming visit.

Going home…

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It’s official. The flights are booked. I’m going home 🙂

I’ve been thinking about Ireland a lot lately, but to date I haven’t been able to come up with a workable plan to visit… until now. Combining a holiday present for Sam and a way to scratch the itch I had to return, we will both be flying across the Atlantic later in the spring.

Sam has always been fascinated by his heritage, and if ever asked where he would like to travel to, without hesitation he usually chooses the country I was born in. I think he has been to Ireland a total of three times now, though the first was when he had just turned one year old, so that hardly counts. I can still remember the two of us making that flight home, with him spending a considerable amount of time in the trusty backpack as we did the rounds. I had wanted to get him home so that my aging parents would have a chance to meet him, and although he doesn’t recall anything from that visit, I am certainly glad we made the trip. Lori came on the next trip home when Sam was about eight years old, and five years ago we had the pleasure of introducing the somewhat newly minted Jack (2) to all of his distant relatives.

The photograph above is of Kinbane Castle, built in 1547 and located along the Antrim coast somewhere between the Giant’s Causeway and Ballintoy Harbor. Last time we were home, Sam and I had ventured out on this particular evening in search of some nice light. We had a great time exploring the little cove that this castle ruin rests in, and as the summer sun sank below the horizon we both enjoyed a really peaceful sunset. I think this was the first and last time we saw the sun on that 10-day visit to Ireland, but here’s hoping we will be a little bit luckier with the weather this time around!