Practically synonymous with the color green, the Republic of Ireland is also known for its crumbling castles, quaint towns, natural wonders, and ancient history. With an abundance of activities and countless sights to see, there’s an endless amount to photograph. Here are just a few of the locations you should add to your Irish photography itinerary.
Cliffs of Moher
The Republic’s most-visited natural site, these towering cliffs have been featured in famous films like “The Princess Bride” and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” as well as in one truly devastating episode of “The Bachelorette.” Needless to say, they are easily recognized and oft-visited — and for good reason. Standing 702 feet (214 meters) above the cold and choppy Atlantic, the cliffs present a steep drop-off that is both visually compelling and bone-chillingly eerie. They stretch from the village of Doolin to County Clare, so you can embark on one of the world’s most beautiful coastal walks, but don’t forget your camera! Use a wide-angle lens to capture the enormity of the scene, and be patient, as the landscape is often foggy. Note that the Cliffs of Moher are a popular tourist attraction and may be quite packed with people. For a quieter experience, head to Slieve League in the north, which is equally stunning.
Worship was central to most early Irish communities and was responsible for creating a famously conservative society. Fortunately for us, this adherence to faith yielded some of the world’s most spectacular cathedrals. When in Dublin, visit both Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s — both equally stunning. Use a wide-angle lens to capture these imposing gray structures (and any others you visit) from their base to the top of their spires. Step inside and marvel at the ornate decor, the vaulted ceilings, the geometric inlaid floors, and the colorful stained glass, but always be mindful of the ongoing services and sanctity of the overall space.
While the solemn gray exteriors of Trinity College may suggest that its indoor decor is similarly restrained, bibliophiles and photographers alike will delight in the splendor of the Trinity College Library. Here, you’ll find high-vaulted ceilings, endless rows of bound volumes, and a portal-like effect that will yield incredible photos. For this particular look, head to the second floor balcony and point your camera to the opposite end of the room. You’ll need a fairly wide-angle lens to capture the room in its entirety, and you’ll probably want to steady your shot on a tripod or the bannister. Experiment with different exposures and settings to evoke a variety of moods — at some moments, the room can appear warm and cozy; at others, spooky and cavernous.
A trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without a pub-stop, even if you don’t care for beer! The exteriors of these Irish establishments are often unique, charming, and fun to photograph. Many feature hand-lettered signs, multi-hued facades, and a general visual ambiance perfect for photographers. If you visit during the spring, be sure to capture the baskets of blooms that often festoon the doorways of many pubs. And, if you’d like, step in to sample the goods! Photographing inside a pub will require an intimate knowledge of your camera’s low-light settings, so practice before you go. Open your aperture, raise your shutter speed, and click away — just be sure to ask before taking photos of your fellow patrons.
This converted castle in County Galway is a stunning lakeside structure with a rich history of refuge. Founded in 1920 as a safe haven for Benedictine nuns fleeing Belgium during World War I, the building actually dates back to 1867, when wealthy doctor Mitchell Henry built it as a private residence. Today, Kylemore remains an abbey, but the site — and its beautiful Victorian gardens — remain open to the public. The most striking shot of the castle is from an adjacent bank, with the lake in between. Try to capture the magnificent structure and its reflection in the water below. A tripod, a wide-angle lens, and a sharp zoom function will be of great use here!
This charmingly named region is home to lush green hills, tiny colorful towns, and a rich archaeological legacy. Rent a car and drive over the country roads of this westernmost county — and feel free to alight and snap away to your heart’s content. You’ll spot monuments, “beehive huts” built by Dark Age monks, and tiny villages filled to the brim with pubs, local eateries, and shops. Capture the vast sprawl of the peninsula and focus on photographing the bright colors of this region, notably its verdant green. We recommend photographing in the early morning or evening, as this will yield the best light. You can also experiment with macro photography in the small villages: capture intricate details on signs and over doors — they’ll tell a story separate from the sprawling hills that made this region famous.
If you can’t get enough of the sights of the Republic, venture north to explore Northern Ireland. Since the two countries are separate and distinct, be fully prepared to cross the border and present any necessary travel documents. That being said, Northern Ireland is home to some incredible natural sights, most notably:
Visually stunning and somewhat confounding, Giant’s Causeway is comprised of nearly 40,000 stacked basalt columns that give the area its unique appearance. The bizarre geological formation in County Antrim is the result of a 60-million-year-old volcanic eruption, with the primarily hexagonal columns stretching to nearly 39 feet (12 meters) in height. Delightful to visit and even more fun to photograph, Giant’s Causeway yields some of the most astounding photos. Play with perspective when photographing the columns — crouch down to capture the varying heights and the distinction between the rocks and the sea. Set up a tripod and adjust your settings to capture long exposures — the flow of the water against the texture of the rocks will make for an incredible shot.
The town of Ballymoney in County Antrim was once home to the Stuart family, whose 18th century Georgian mansion — Gracehill House — was the village’s most impressive. The family decided to plant an avenue of beech trees outside the entrance of their home — two centuries later, those trees have eclipsed the actual building. The Dark Hedges, as they’re called, have been featured in photographs all over the world, as well as in the popular show “Game of Thrones.” Their twisted branches and tunnel-like view make for an intriguing and seemingly infinite shot. Visit early in the morning for the best light, though you should picture the mood you’d like to evoke with the shot. While photographing during sunrise can make the hedges appear magical, snapping a shot on an overcast afternoon can give them a menacing look. Experiment with exposure and lock in your focus so that you can shoot away to your heart’s content without constantly fiddling with your settings.