Photographing Ireland: My favorite Images of the Emerald Isle

Photographing Ireland: Favorite Images of the Emerald Isle

Eight days was not nearly enough for photographing Ireland. Even though we only planned to visit the southwestern corner of Ireland, an eight-day trip was still much too short for this Irish girl to visit and photograph the land of her ancestors.

I finally had the opportunity last spring to put my passport to use and visit Ireland when my youngest daughter’s high school marching band planned to participate in St. Patrick’s parades in Cork and Limerick, and that certainly was an event I didn’t want to miss.

Rather than travel with her band, though, my hubby and I planned our own adventure, paralleling much of their trip, but allowing us the time and flexibility to see and photograph at our pleasure. I will readily admit to not being much of a tour bus traveler. Not being able to stop and photograph the sights makes me a little cranky. Thankfully, my husband understands that well.

We found a series of charming bed & breakfast inns and small hotels in nearly every city we visited. Irish B&B’s are definitely the way to go, and far more enjoyable than the two nights we spent in hotels. It was so much more personal and we met so many lovely people as a result. That’s not to say that the hotels we stayed in were anything but top-notch, clean and well-appointed. The smaller lodgings just felt more homey and comfortable.

We flew into Shannon (the band flew into Dublin and drove across Ireland in tour buses) and spent our first day at the legendary Blarney Castle, where I did indeed kiss the Blarney Stone.

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle in Ireland. It was interesting to see how little the ancient castles actually resemble what we think castles are supposed to look like in story books.


Kissing the Blarney Stone
Kissing the Blarney Stone. It’s much more complicated than it looks. You have to climb to the top of Blarney Castle and then lean out on your back, bending over to reach the Blarney Stone. An attendant is there to help people up and down and to hold them so they don’t slip.

St. Patrick’s Day in Cork

We stayed the next night in Cork at the Belvedere Lodge. Apparently, Google thinks there is more than one of these (yes, it took us somewhere else first—we call that “having an adventure”) but the Lodge where we stayed was conveniently & coincidentally across the road from the Silver Springs Moran Hotel where our student was lodged. It’s also right across the road from the River Lee. Our room was clean and spacious with a view of the courtyard and garden. We also had our first Irish breakfast here, and it definitely did not disappoint. When I return to Cork, I will be staying here again.

irish breakfast at belvedere lodge
Irish Breakfast. It did not disappoint. The Irish bacon was amazing (had a funny story about what the Irish think of our wimpy American bacon). I will admit to not being a huge fan of the black pudding. But I did try it. Out of respect for my jeans I did not eat this every day, though it was offered everywhere we stayed.


Courtyard at Belvedere House
Our courtyard view at the Belvedere Lodge. The hotel in the backyard is where our daughter stayed & where we ate dinner our first night. They had fabulous fish & chips.

On our way to the Belvedere Lodge, we most definitely had an adventure. Google was being somewhat uncooperative and we found ourselves on the scenic tour of old Cork, which I really didn’t mind until we got a flat in our rental car. We couldn’t get ahold of our rental company (apparently the holiday started early) and so stopped into a local flower shop to see if we could get directions to a tire shop. Not only did we get directions, but the shopkeeper just hopped into our car and drove us right over to her trusted mechanic who replaced our tire for far less than we would have paid back home. Pretty much everyone we met on our trip was just as friendly and welcoming, and just as helpful.

The following day, being St. Patrick’s Day, we spent the morning wandering through Cork and the afternoon watching the Cork St. Patrick’s Day parade. I had not realized before we arrived that 2016 is the Centenary of the Uprising, and so it was a particularly significant occasion. I took advantage of the opportunity to greatly update my knowledge of Irish history. While I know much of the culture and bits and pieces of the history of my great-grandparents who all emigrated from Ireland in 1890, I do not nearly know enough about Irish history. I think learning the history and culture of other countries is one of the primary reasons I love for traveling abroad.

Cork Row Houses
We passed these row houses walking into the city of Cork. I love all the bright and vibrant colors. We Americans are pretty boring by comparison.


Row Homes on the River Lee, Cork, Ireland
A view of Cork from one of the many bridges over the River Lee. A beautiful city.


Waiting for the St Patricks Day Parade in cork
Waiting for the parade in downtown Cork. We were lucky enough to be right next to the reviewing stand so we could hear the announcer & learn some Irish history & trivia while we were there.


Cork St. Patricks Day Parade
Our band marching in the Cork Parade. The piccolo player in the middle of the front row is the girl I came to see.

Off to Killarney

From Cork, we traveled on to Killarney, and spent a day traveling the ring of Kerry, with its stunning views of random castles, wandering sheep and the beautiful Irish coast. We finished our day with a jaunting cart tour of Killarney National Park. This also is on my list for a return visit, partially because we arrived 10 minutes too late to tour the beautiful Muckross House. I was sad.

But our other explorations of this beautiful park made up for the day and we even came across a bagpiper in the forest.

Rowboat on Muckross Lake
Muckross Lake at Killarney National Park


Sheep along the Ring of Kerry
A flock of sheep along the Ring of Kerry


Muckross House, Killarney National Park
Muckross House. I need to go back to Killarney because I really want to tour the Muckross House.


Jaunting Cart at Killarney National Park
A jaunting cart–Fun way to tour Killarney National Park. Our guide was friendly and informative and shared so much more than just the tourist guide info.

In Killarney, we found the Ardree House, another charming lodge. Our rooms there were comfortable, light and bright with a nice sunset view, and just a couple minutes walk from the center of town. Our hosts also gave us excellent recommendations for dining and sightseeing.  One of my favorite stops in Killarney was Granda Charlie’s Auld Sweet Shop.


The Cliffs of Moher

From Killarney, we traveled on to the famed Cliffs of Moher. Fans of The Princess Bride will recognize these beautiful cliffs as the “Cliffs of Insanity.” And from the Cliffs of Moher it was on to the Burren. I have been told that the otherworldly landscape of the Burren—and it is unlike anything else in Ireland—served as inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. It’s definitely a place I’d like to explore more and photograph more extensively. I was particularly looking forward to my visit to the Burren as some years ago I had read a series of mystery novels set in the Burren of the Middle Ages and wanted to see it for myself.

Cliffs of Moher 3
O Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher with the Aran Islands beyond.


Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
The famed Cliffs of Moher, also known to movie lovers as “The Cliffs of Insanity”


The Burren National Park, Ireland
The Burren, inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien and other authors


Burren National Park, Ireland
The Burren–which looks nothing like anything else in Ireland, and nothing like what we all think of when we think of Ireland.

The photographs you see in this article were all taken by me and many of them can be found for purchase in my Ireland gallery here.

Find Part 2 of my Ireland adventures here with more lovely photographs —including my two favorite images from the trip.


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