Every year I take myself off for a little photographic holiday all on my own. Running a busy photography tour company, I find that I need this time to recharge my batteries and reinvigorate me photographically. I try not to go too far as time and tide wait for no woman, especially not a small business owner, so nearby and convenient is the order of the day!
So, I cast about for somewhere reasonably nearby that I’ve never been before. 7 years ago, that’s how I found Anglesey, Wales. Now I live here, and what a great move that has been! Last year I discovered Ireland and, specifically, the Wild Atlantic Way, a fabulous route that snakes all the way down the west coast of Ireland, just a 3 ½ hour ferry journey away from Anglesey.
I have to say that it far surpassed my expectations. So far, I’ve only done a relatively small section running from the majestic Cliffs of Moher, just south of Galway, and then for just over 300 miles further south. That takes in the remote, wild and romantic Dingle peninsula, the more famous Ring of Kerry and the very ‘Scotland like’ Killarney National Park.
I was so blown away by the place that I just had to turn it into a photography tour, which wasn’t my original intention at all, but it just seemed too wonderful not to share it with other photographers. So, I’ve just returned from running my first 9-day tour there and everyone that came with me was similarly blown away by the place. I also have to say that the Irish weather gods were very kind to us and we only had 1 ½ days of rain!
So, why do I love it so much? Well, for a whole host of reasons really.
In much the same way as Anglesey, and the Hebrides, it benefits from being out there on the west coast, exposed to the Atlantic and the prevailing winds and weather.
My experience is that the light can often be softly luminous or ominously dramatic and, of course, what lifts a good photograph and makes it into a great photograph is often the light. So plenty of scope there then! Additionally, you can often see those rain squalls coming which make great photographs too. And then, when it clears, you often get that soft, luminous light I mentioned earlier. So, despite its reputation for being very rainy, it gets a big thumbs up weather-wise from me.
Then, of course, there are the locations themselves. There is a huge variety in what is a relatively small geographical area. Literally everything you could wish for. The whole coastline is stunning and wild, with soaring cliffs, long white beaches (the Irish call them ‘strands’), pretty little coves and picturesque fishing harbours. There are softly rounded hills with geometric fields, the wonderful limestone pavement of The Burren, as well as sizable mountains and winding roads.
The Killarney National Park really is like Scotland with some huge lakes and mountains, waterfalls and rivers. There is even a tropical garden with huge swathes of tree ferns. My favourite location is Dunquin – the path leading out to sea with the two jagged rocks and the islands in the distance – a photographer’s heaven. We spent two nights on the Dingle peninsula to give us the best chance of catching a good sunset and oh, my goodness, we were so rewarded for our persistence! The first night it fizzled out but the second night was just spectacular.
So, we were treated to a whole range of different locations that stretched our photographic trigger fingers and got the old blood racing. On top of everything, we went in autumn and experienced some spectacular colour! So many ‘gingers’ everywhere in both the grasses and the wild montbretia. When you look at the pictures in this article don’t think “oh that’s been Photoshopped” – it really hasn’t, that’s just how it looked!
As you can probably tell, I am completely in love with Ireland and will definitely be going again on my own to explore other areas of the Wild Atlantic Way. I really urge you to go too – either on your own or, if you would like some tuition and guidance, with me on my next tour which is next April. I have no doubt that spring Ireland will be different but just as lovely!
Cheryl is a landscape photographer based in North Wales. She has been published in various photography magazines and also runs a thriving photography workshop business. She has a permanent exhibition of her work at the H'Artworks Gallery in Beaumaris, Anglesey and also showcases her work via her website.