After my breakfast of soda bread French toast that 4th day of the photo tour, I loaded myself and my stuff into the van and we set out for one last photo op at Slieve Donard Overlook. But first….The Secret Garden. The previous night, as the van turned onto the road from the b&b’s driveway, we noticed off to the side an arched entrance looking into a beautifully-manicured garden we immediately dubbed The Secret Garden. John promised to stop here the next morning as we started what would be a very full day’s journey to Ballycastle. Because this garden was private property, we couldn’t very well just traipse on in, happily snapping away. The best we could manage were shots like the one above, affording glimpses into this fairy tale garden. Afterwards, we returned to Slieve Donard Overlook for one last view of the Mourne Mountains. It was raining. In Ireland. How unusual.
We didn’t mind the rain much because, as every photographer knows: rain clouds = interesting scenes, like the dappling of sun and cloud shadow in the photo above.
We also returned to this place to help pass time until Tea Time with Violet. Remember, in my last post, I mentioned that while enjoying a second night’s dinner at the Percy French (I still can’t remember what I ate that night), John’s friend and special guest Violet invited us all to her home for a proper Irish Tea.
From Slieve Donard Overlook onward, we stopped at an arched stone bridge (none of my photos turned out very well of this place) and then at a little car park out in the country where hikers were following a narrow trail hugging a tall hill (or maybe it was a small mountain?). Can you spot the teeny tiny hikers along the trail in this photo?
I turned around to look across the road from the car park and focused the camera on this picturesque stone cottage with the bright red door.
The caravan stopped for a couple more photo ops before the rains began to fall heavily, forcing us inside the vehicle where the windows fogged up because the heater/defrost wasn’t working properly. John called Violet to check on the status of her Tea, and down the road we went toward Rathfriland.
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting regarding houses in Ireland. I guess I imagined that every home was made of stone, had a thatched roof, and was on the small-ish side. Houses in Ireland – at least, the ones I saw – are all quite large – just as large as the houses in a Houston subdivision.
Violet was all set up and ready for us. She had quite a spread: cake and cookies and scones, all prettily laid out on a lovely white tablecloth. Of course, we all sampled everything on the table and washed the sweet fare down with coffee and tea (we unanimously agreed that the cream-filled sponge cake was the best). I liked that cake so much that I purchsed an Irish cookbook from Amazon upon my return to Texas (ok, the sponge cake was not the only reason I bought that cookbook, but for a person who doesn’t cook much anymore, it was the first time I actually thought about trying to cook some Irish dishes myself).
Oh my, the sugar overload. For the remainder of the day, none of us were very hungry and we all battled the sleepies. I don’t know how John managed to drive the distance. Did I mention that it was quite a long day crammed full of photo ops?
From Violet’s house onward to the twin coastal towns of Cushendall and Cushendun. In the rain. Well, it was sunny most of the way until we entered the outskirts of Cushendall.
We passed through Cushendall to stop in Cushendun and I was the only person to brave the rain and get a few snaps of a picturesque little harbor with an arched stone bridge (note the rain hitting the water).
Thank goodness for my Vortex Media Storm Jacket camera rain cover. I don’t know what I would have done without it. The cover ultimately got saturated at some point during a particular rainy day on the Dingle Peninsula (a later post from now), but for the most part, that bright yellow coated nylon worked extremely well to keep the water off and out of my precious SLR.
Departing Cushendun, our white caravan traveled the Torr Head Road for various photo stops along the Antrim Coast. I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again: everywhere I looked on this trip held scenes of incredible beauty. The Torr Head Road (that’s what they call it, although it may officially be called something else) is a curvy road parallel to the coastline. Scenes of gorse and deep green countryside and sheep and picturesque homes and sun and clouds filled the camera viewfinder.
Torr Head (“Tall Rock”) is so named because of the soil erosion which uncovered the metamorphosed stone beneath. This prominent rock marks the closest distance between Ireland and Scotland (12 miles). There’s a new coastguard station right at the top of the hill, and the old coastguard station (built of stone, naturally) is left in rather picturesque ruins next to a new car park.
Along the narrow way from the main road to the carpark are thick hedges filled with gorgeous wild fuschias. I haven’t seen fuschias since my Seattle days, and even then, the fuschias I saw were in hanging baskets and not actually growing out in the wild. These lovely flowers are not native to Ireland, but grow prolifically throughout the coastal areas because of the conducive weather.
Not the greatest photo in the world, but I didn’t have my macro lens with me for this trip. The best I could do was a closeup using the 24-105, and that doesn’t always work out very well.
After about 45 minutes at this stop, we resumed our journey toward a sunset shoot at Dunluce Castle. We did stop for dinner at the Hunter Bar, where I ordered my first curry in the UK (remember, Northern Ireland is considered part of the UK). Delish! Even John agreed, and I’m pretty sure he’s eaten alot of curries during his photo tours.
We checked into our night’s accommodations Brown’s Country House before driving on to the castle. I don’t even know where to begin with that magical place. It’s a major tourist attraction, but because of the hour at which we arrived, everything was closed and the tourists were gone. We had the whole place to ourselves. Naturally, we couldn’t actually walk inside castle at that time of night, but the photo opportunities were everywhere. The golden sun was setting and in the distance, a storm squall of blue-pink clouds brewed. The castle was moody, the seascape dramatic…..and it was cold, windy, and wet. Totally stunning.
When we finished up an hour later, we returned to our night’s lodging. Brown’s Country House is a nice enough place, with a few caveats. I wrote up a review in TripAdvisor. The heat was on (a plus in their favor). My electric hot pot didn’t work and it was too late at night to go downstairs and try to get a replacement (a minus) so I couldn’t fix the tea I had so come to enjoy and rely upon. The toilet made a HUGE horrendous noise like it was dying or something, so I tried not to flush it too many times during the evening. And my room didn’t have a desk. Instead, it had sort of a “ledge” right over the heat radiator that was large enough to accommodate a small laptop and mouse (only just) and my portable HD if I arranged everything just so. And there were no chairs – only a stool. Sigh. One must make do with what one has, right?
Breakfast the following morning, and humorous converation with the loquacious lodge owners/operators helped considerably (good food always helps my mood).
Next: Day 5: Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, scenery shots, Bushmills, Dunluce Castle again, White Rocks, Strabane, and on to Donegal
©2011 Rebecca Latson Photography, all rights reserved. Please do not use my photos for any purposes without my explicit permission.