A Window to the World

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I’m celebrating the fact that I actually got off my you-know-what and made a new landscape photograph – one that I’m actually prepared to share! I hadn’t visited Acadia in several months, but all that changed this past weekend when local photographer Chad Tracy and I cruised down to MDI for a quick photo expedition. Despite the below freezing temperatures and the biting wind, standing on the rocky shoreline of my favorite national park never felt so good!

I’ll share a few more photographs from what was a beautiful sunrise over the next few days, so stay tuned. After exploring a part of the granite “ledges” along the Loop Road near Thunder Hole, our original plan was to meander back toward Sand Beach to maybe do some long exposures with the surf. We got sidetracked though when I realized how close we were to this unique location, and since the sun was already up, I was excited to visit at a time when I wouldn’t get the willies from it being too dark.

The ecosystem within this sea cave is extraordinarily delicate, so Chad and I were extremely cautious about making sure to walk only on the solid rock. Although not a huge secret, and relatively easy to find, to further protect this little gem I made Chad swear not to divulge the location to anyone else. The approach to the cave – and the floor inside – was quite slippery and tricky to navigate, and to add to the mystique, this location is only accessible at low tide. It was quite an experience to spend some time in here, and as we looked through the window out onto Frenchman Bay, we appreciated the shelter from the chilly winter air. I like this photograph, and I’m going to add it to my portfolio.

If you haven’t seen my full portfolio yet – if interested – you can click on over and check out a selection of my favorite images on Acadia and Beyond (in addition to Acadia, I’ve shared images of Maine, Ireland, Death Valley, Yosemite). If you do visit the site, drop me a line… I’d love to hear your thoughts.¬†If interested in purchasing from the site between now and the New Year, to save some cash be sure to type in the discount code “Acadia” when checking out. A bargain… Happy holidays!

And yes… I’m trying out a new blog theme. Feedback appreciated on that too ūüôā

On Location: Game of Thrones

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or you don’t subscribe to HBO – then you will be well aware of the epic “Game of Thrones” TV drama series. The show is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin, and “Game of Thrones” is the first book in the fantasy series. Not for the faint of heart, the show combines the drama of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the debauchery of The Tudors, with blood and guts, sex and betrayal, crime and punishment all front and center. Anyhoo… the visually impressive series is filmed in all sorts of exotic locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, and… my home country of Northern Ireland.

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I believe it was at the end of the second series that the scene above was introduced as the “Road to Harrenhal”. Locals in Northern Ireland know this special place as “The Dark Hedges”, a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this intriguing place on a recent visit home, though I believe that a new shiny green fence has been installed along the roadside since I was last there, somewhat negatively impacting the aesthetics. It is a moody place nonetheless, one that is rumored to be haunted by the Grey Lady, a ghostly figure who walks the lane beneath the beech trees.

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Many other scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed in my home country. The picturesque location above might be recognizable as part of the Iron Islands, but I know it better as the working harbor of Ballintoy. I’ve always known that Northern Ireland was filled with some of the most stunning landscapes imaginable, and it comes as no surprise that the visionaries who brought this series to life chose to film there. The Glens of Antrim, the Mourne Mountains, the Antrim Coast, and Ballintoy Harbor… these are just some of the locations that have been highlighted as the stunning backdrop to what is one of my all-time favorite shows.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Just a short post this morning with a couple of pix to celebrate what was always a fun day growing up in Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday back home, and although it hasn’t quite reached those heights here in the US, there are enough ex-pats to make sure that it gets plenty of attention. Anyhoo… here’s a sampling of photographs from my home country, leading off with The Dark Hedges, and followed by a few other famous and not so famous sights…

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Kinbane Castle

See more of my Ireland photographs…

here: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com/p641596536

and here: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com/p830260940

St. Patrick’s Day

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March 17 holds significance for me in two ways.¬†First of all, and most obviously, it is Saint Patrick’s Day.¬†Growing up in Ireland I can remember many a day spent very unproductively celebrating whatever it was we were celebrating… usually from an early hour too! Last year Sam and I were lucky enough to be in Dublin to join in with the locals as they did what they do best… great experience. If you want a quick fix from the Emerald Isle, check out my gallery of Ireland photographs, including the one below from Dunmore Head looking out toward Great Blasket Island.

Secondly, as I check the weather forecast for the coming week, I am pleased to notice that we are expecting a brief spell of almost 70 degree temperatures here in Maine. While definitely abnormal for this time of year, March 17 and St. Paddy’s Day always spell the end of winter for me. The clocks have just sprung forward, we are in the throes of March Madness, and in a couple of weeks we get to enjoy the dogwoods of Augusta during The Masters golf tournament. For me… this is a good time of the year, so cheers!

Touch it and feel it…

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Actually… I wouldn’t advise that you touch and feel prints, not¬†unless you want to get smudgy fingerprints all over them! While viewing photographs on-screen in a computer slideshow or on a web site can be impressive, there’s definitely something about physically holding a print in your hands that just can’t be beat. It’s similar to that comforting feeling of turning the page in an old-fashioned paper book, even though I do enjoy reading on my iPad. By the way, if you do get smudges on your print (like I always do), you should be able to simply “polish” them gently away with a piece of soft cotton.

In reality, I don’t get that many images printed, so when I do, I always get excited for when they arrive.¬†I have had my adventures, or should I say misadventures, with printing, mounting and framing photographs, so these days I take a rather lazy route… but one that I can be fairly sure will be successful. It’s simple actually… I let the experts do the printing and mounting, and I buy off-the-shelf frames that I think will show the prints well. To this point I just haven’t uncovered the desire to print, mount, cut mats and make frames myself.

Known as “The Dark Hedges” – this is a scene from back home in Ireland where a magnificent row of 300 year old beech trees rather spectacularly line and frame a local roadway. I love how the trees reach high above the road to become tangled as an overhead canopy, and the side-lighting from the overcast day added a nice layer of depth to the landscape.¬†I have wanted a print of this photograph for some time, and just this week I finally took the time to get it done. I used a California based company who accepts online orders –¬†Aspen Creek Photo¬†– and I couldn’t be happier with the quality of the print (and the whole ordering process). It was printed on Fuji Pearl paper, a metallic paper that renders the scene almost 3D-like, and this time for reasons of stability, I also chose to pay a little more and have it professionally mounted on 3/16″ Gatorfoam.

Just for fun… here’s the un-framed image below, and for those following my travails with selecting a new WordPress theme, this is still the same one (Nuntius) that I have been using for a while. I’m having a hard time deciding on a new theme, so to buy myself some time, I made a few tweaks to the color scheme. Simple, and hopefully sharp.

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

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 ūüė¶

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

My favorite photographs from 2011

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As each year draws to a close, I enjoy taking a moment to go back through photographs made during the past twelve months and highlighting those that mean the most to me. I usually choose my favorites based on the physical and emotional¬†experience I have, and it really does feel good to reflect on time well spent in places I enjoy. I have to admit, I also get a kick out of using the camera to technically create something I like to look at… making memories that will forever feed my soul. I hope that as each year passes my photographs get better – whatever that means – or at least that they invoke stronger feelings within me, both while breathing in and out perched on the rocky Atlantic shoreline, or now, as I sit here typing and reminiscing about early morning wake up calls and fingers crossed in anticipation of dramatic clouds and good light.¬†Anyhoo… most of my 2011 favorites are – surprise, surprise – from Acadia National Park and the coast of Maine, although this year I also have a couple from a memorable March trip back home to Ireland with my oldest son Sam. Drum roll…

I had been itching to get out with the camera again, so I decided to visit one of my favorite places and see if I could capture some snow blanketing the famous round rocks below Otter Cliffs. An early start this morning got me here about 45 minutes before the sun was scheduled to crest at 6:36am, and as always, I had the place completely to myself. Though the temperature was certainly chilly, there was little to no wind blowing, and since I was dressed in several layers, the 13F actually felt quite comfortable.

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I spent a very enjoyable late afternoon exploring the area around the Marshall Point Lighthouse in the mid-coast community of Port Clyde. Originally established in 1832, the present lighthouse was built in 1857, and this is the same lighthouse Forrest Gump visited when he was traversing the country. This lighthouse is pretty unique in it’s design, with a 31 ft tall white granite and brick tower perched on the rocks at the end of a narrow walkway. A distinctive and striking black cast iron lantern houses a fresnel light that does not flash any more. The Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum on the first floor of the light keeper’s house was opened in 1990, and the whole area is meticulously cared for and maintained.

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Standing near the ocean as the night rolls in can be a somewhat unnerving experience, especially with the wind trying to knock you over and huge waves crashing in the not too far off distance. At the end of the day, the warm light from the beacon was quite comforting as I made my way back toward the car. I stopped one more time to soak in the scene… that’s when I saw this view of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

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I can remember visiting the Gap of Dunloe some 20+ years ago with Lori and some friends, and on that occasion we traveled in style with Dolly‚Ķ the farting horse. Locals provide horse-drawn traps for the ride up to the gap, and the day we went we had a wet and windy journey up the hill, pulled by our horse who tooted all the way. This photograph is from when Sam and I visited Ireland last spring, and even though the classic greens associated with the Emerald Isle weren’t yet in full force, this was still a striking scene.

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Every single time I pass over the bridge that spans Marshall Brook I find myself staring at what I consider to be a breathtaking scene. There is something about the view laid out before you that catches my eye every time… no matter what the time of day or the prevailing weather conditions, I find myself always having to pull over. Looking north across the Bass Harbor Marsh toward Bernard (left) and Mansell Mountains (right), the eyes are treated to a snaking river that gently winds its way off into the distance.

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I spent an immensely peaceful early morning perched on a ledge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and I couldn’t help marvel at how this is a very cool way to start the day. The sun rises before 5:00 a.m. in the summer in Maine, and as you can see from the photograph above, the pre-dawn light on this particular morning was pretty special. When the sun eventually crested over Great Head behind me, it bathed the scene in amazing warm light, with the granite absolutely lighting up with color. This view is looking south along the rugged Acadia coast toward Otter Cliffs, and other than a couple of seagulls who kept me company on the ledge, I was here all by myself.

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So… I wasn’t expecting the conditions to be particularly special on this morning, but as the light slowly climbed from the east up and over my shoulder toward the lighthouse, I started to wonder if I might actually be in for a show? There were some soft, wispy clouds behind the lighthouse, and as the day began to brighten, my jaw literally dropped as I marveled at how the high clouds were being illuminated with a phenomenal pinkish hue. Knowing that the light probably wouldn’t last long, and with a big grin on my face, I worked quickly to try to combine all of the elements within the frame into something I liked. I couldn’t have ordered better weather conditions, and the impressive lighthouse that welcomes returning mariners to Bass Harbor certainly did its part.

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Taking the Slea Head Road further west out of Dingle, we spotted a little harbor tucked into the rocks with a pretty beach. From a distance it was beautiful, and up close… even nicer. Looking over our shoulder though, we saw what looked like a path winding its way up the hillside toward the ocean. Eager for an adventure and the possibility of a nice view, we started hiking. I thought I was going to have a heart attack… too many Irish breakfasts and too much Guinness lately had me struggling to keep up with Sam. When I finally did get to a flat spot, I dropped my backpack and told him to go on ahead… I needed a rest. The headland we were on was called Dunmore Head (I think), and from here you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane off to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert.

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There’s something about the fleeting appearance that Lupine make here in Maine which I really like. They explode onto the scene as the weather warms up at the start of June, but by the time July rolls around they are already starting to fade away. They are scattered all over the side of I-95 as I make my way down and back to work, and maybe it’s because they brighten my commute at this time of year, but I love the splash of color they add to the landscape. We went camping one weekend in mid-June… and despite the rainy weather, a good time was had by all. Late on the Friday afternoon we wandered up to the Beech Hill Road to hike the Canada Cliff Trail, and along the roadside we encountered a field absolutely brimming over with my favorite Maine flower… Lupine.

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If you want to discover examples of fall foliage colors in a pretty Acadia location, look no further than the path that runs alongside the Jordan Pond Stream. Starting out behind the Jordan Pond House restaurant, find the stepped trail entering the woods leading down to where the carriage road meets up with the stream, cross the bridge and make a left turn to follow the stream downhill and you will be treated to not only the soothing sound of running water, but also the wide array of foliage colors typically associated with a classic New England fall season.

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I had looked at the weather, and with a forecast of light rain and cloudy skies, it seemed like the perfect time to make a quick run down to Acadia before the fall foliage was all gone. I knew that the overcast weather and foggy conditions would offer nice even light in which to photograph the changing autumn colors at the top of Cadillac and the rejuvenated, rain-fed Jordan Pond Stream. First stop Cadillac… there is something special about being on top of a mountain when it is socked in with clouds and you have it all to yourself, and when that mountain is Cadillac, I’m in heaven.

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Fall foliage season comes and goes pretty fast around these parts, and when you factor in the potential for poor weather and the usual work commitments, chances are I might only have a couple of opportunities to try to make some photographs displaying the changing colors. This was the first photograph I made on a cool, rainy morning spent exploring the banks of the Jordan Pond Stream in Acadia National Park.

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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 ūüôā

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 Cloch√°n an Aifir or Cloch√°n na bhF√≥mharach 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 ūüôā

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.

Devenish Island

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From an older post on my blog… this location is on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. After graduating from college, I spent two wonderful years teaching close by here in Enniskillen, though during my time there I unfortunately did not take full advantage of the scenery around me.

Any time I return home to Ireland though, I try to rectify this by exploring what is an amazingly beautiful landscape. Looking across the waters of the lough you can see the island of Devenish, home to the ruins of a monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th century, and a 100 ft tall round tower that dates back to the 12th century. Over the centuries, many cultures have visited and touched this island, leaving behind evidence of what were often thriving and vital communities.

I got lucky when I stumbled on this boat on the shoreline… it made for a really nice foreground element on what was a beautiful summer evening.

Beaghmore Stone Circles

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It has been raining here in Maine for what seems like an eternity, leaving the landscape covered in dirty – but thankfully receding – snow. With little desire to take the camera out in these conditions, and in anticipation of my trip to Ireland next week, here are a couple of images from the last time I was across the pond.

The Beaghmore Stone Circles are located just outside Cookstown, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. They were first discovered in the 1940’s as peat was being cut from the local bog land.¬†On the afternoon we were there, it was a gray and windswept landscape, and I can distinctly remember experiencing an eerie feeling… a feeling that other people had been here long before us, and that this place was special.

According to Wikipedia,

“The stone circles and cairn are attributed to the earlier part of the Bronze Age c. 2,000-1,200 BC. It is possible that the full extent of the complex has not yet been revealed and further stones and cairns may still lie hidden in the adjacent peat.”

There are a total of seven circles, each consisting of many small rocks arranged in often imperfect, but definitely circular, shapes. There are also twelve cairns and ten stone rows, with experts determining that some of the stones may have been arranged and aligned in relation to the movements of the sun and moon. Cremated human remains have been found in some of the cairns, and even though the structures visible today might seem old, flint tools that have been carbon-dated to somewhere between 2600-2900BC have also been found in the area.

Sam and I are both excited to delve into the rich and ancient history of Ireland on this trip, and can’t wait to explore the countryside. I would love to return to this amazing site, especially at either sunrise or sunset with nicer light.¬†Perhaps we should add the Beaghmore Stone Circles to our itinerary?

St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin

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The photograph above is of Monea Castle which can be found just outside Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. After graduating from university, I spent a really enjoyable two years getting my feet wet learning how to teach physical education and geography at Enniskillen High School. Looking back, at that age I didn’t fully appreciated the beauty of the landscape all around me, but that just means I can return and get re-acquainted, right?

It is now less than two weeks until Sam and I leave for Ireland, and I have to admit, I am getting quite excited about the trip. Our arrival coincides with what I remember being a national holiday – St. Patrick’s Day… or did it just feel like a holiday because everyone took the day off? ¬†Either way, my memories from this time of year are of milder weather and usually a few pints of a favorite beverage. Sam and I will likely spend the day (and night) in Dublin to experience the local fare, after which we will head north toward Lurgan to visit the family.

On this trip we are renting a mini cooper… I have always wanted to drive one, and I figured its small footprint would serve us well as we will probably have to jostle with the sheep and the cows on narrow country roads!¬†We will spend a couple of days in the north doing the family thing, but after that we intend to head west and south to explore some of the more remote southwestern parts of the island. It looks like the adventure will start in and around Galway before heading south toward Limerick and the area around the River Shannon. We want to take some time to explore the Dingle peninsula and Killarney, but beyond that we have no real itinerary… we plan on stopping when we want to stop, and moving on when we feel it is time. If anyone reading this has suggestions for places we should include, especially related to hikes and history… we are all ears!

Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea

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It is true… Ireland is very green. I believe these photographs are from around 1996 when I made a quick visit back home¬†mostly to see my parents who at that time weren’t in especially good health. I can remember spending a considerable time in the hospital visiting with my dad, but when the skies cleared unexpectedly one day I stepped out for some fresh air and spent the afternoon exploring the area around the Mourne Mountains (Beanna Boirche, meaning “Boirche’s hills”). In the view above I am just starting to climb into the mountains, and am looking back across what were incredibly lush, green fields leading toward the Irish Sea.

Newcastle and the Mournes were only about half an hour from where I grew up, and I can vividly remember the many Sunday afternoon drives we would take there as a family. Back in the late 1960’s – that’s right, the 60’s – our family spent a wonderful week one summer in a Newcastle bed and breakfast –¬†still one of my fondest childhood memories. On the road going south out of town that hugs along the shore, my dad would always remark how beautiful the scenery was. He would invariably mention¬†“where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea” written¬†by Percy French to celebrate the area.

As mountains go, the Mournes of County Down really aren’t that tall (the highest mountain is¬†Slieve Donard¬†at 2,785¬†ft), but what they lack in stature they more than make up for in beauty as they truly do impressively sweep down to the sea. This is just one more little pocket of Irish splendor that Sam and I will likely spend some time exploring when we go home in March.

Going home…

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

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!