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Back to Dublin, Day 1

Temple Bar
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In 2014, my wife and I joined Bart and Barb Obrien, of The Obrien Estate vineyard in Napa California, and a group of about 40, members of their wine club, for weeklong trip to Ireland. A descendant of King Brian Boru, High King of Ireland who finally defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf, to set Ireland apart as an independent nation (temporarily), Bart has been deeply involved in The Obrien Clan Foundation, currently serving as the Chairman of the Board. That involvement has lead him to an annual pilgrimage to Ireland, with a group of (mainly) members of the club, following the life of Brian Boru. So, our first visit to Ireland was focused largely on that. We did get to see much of the central part of the country, with bases of operation in Galway on the west coast, to Limerick in the central part, finally to Dublin (Clontarf). But we had not seen any of the south coastal areas, nor really any of Northern Ireland.

Temple Bar
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As we often do, we arrived a couple days early and spent some time touring around Dublin. When returned, we had an organized tour to see Trinity College and the Book of Kells, among other things. Each morning, I got out with my camera, and got a nice sampling of Dublin sights, from the River Liffey and its bridges, to the Temple Bar area, to the northern side of the river, and of course, Clontarf. Many of those images appear on my website, as well as in a series of 9 blogs about our Obrien Wine Trip.

Temple Bar
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

This time, our “British Iles” cruise originated out of Dublin Port in June, 2019. Again, we took advantage of the many things to do in around Dublin, and arrived a couple days early. We took a walking tour of the Temple Bar area our first night there, stopping in 4 local bar/eateries for a drink and a sample of their “tapas” style cuisine. We have found great success in doing these tours in other cities (notably Venice and Barcelona), learning a lot about the areas, and often about places to dine and drink. Our guide for the evening was Nimbh (Anglicized: “Neve”) and she did a great job, intermixing history and culture of Ireland – and in particular, Dublin – into our tour. It would come as no surprise to anyone who has traveled with us that we ended up another one of our nights in a local bar that she introduced us to, listening to live music and sampling Irish whiskeys. For us, fortunately, it was right around the corner from our motel.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I made only a few images of Dublin this trip, having done a lot of that during the 2014 visit. We stayed right in the Temple Bar area and the pictured establishments were all right across the street or around the block from us. Because we had a pretty busy schedule, I only got out one morning, and I headed over to a scene I had made a “drive-by” of in 2014, and wanted to get a better image of: St. Patrick’s Cathedral. What I remembered was the brilliant, red flowerbed in the foreground of the church.

Christ Church Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

It was about a 15 minute walk from the motel, and in the early morning, things were quiet enough that I was able to make a couple other images. Churches and cathedrals are ubiquitous in Europe and nearly every one of them is impressive. On the way to St. Patrick’s, I passed Christ Church, which is impressive in its own right. I especially like the bridge building, connecting two parts of the massive cathedral over a main thoroughfare of Dublin.

Christ Church Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Because we had seen much of Dublin, we decided to take a tour to one of its “suburbs,” the beachside resort of Howth, with a stop at the Malahide Castle on the way. These buildings, most of them medieval, are always impressive. Designed as either homes, fortifications, or both, their stoutness as well as craftsmanship, is remarkable, given the tools and materials they had to work with.

Malahide Castle
Howth, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

They often also have some very interesting details, like the brass railing going up the stairs. Our tour was booked through Gray Line Dublin and our guide, Nathan and drive Carlos were great. On the way out of Dublin City Center, we got a running commentary on the city, the suburbs, and much of its culture. We were astounded to learn that over 50% of the population of Dublin is under 25 years old. We were also surprised to learn that seemingly modest homes just outside the city center were selling for close to 1 million Euro. Shades of San Francisco! Our first stop was the Malahide Castle and Gardens. We had a 30 minute guided tour of the castle interior and then were free to roam the rest of the grounds.

Malahide Castle
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I also often find an image or two that isn’t distinctly, “castle,” but is nice just for its “landscape” value. The winding staircase here drew me to it.

Malahide Castle
Howth, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Most of the castles we have visited also have either been largely preserved as they might have appeared thousands of years ago (I will feature a castle like this in the Northern Ireland, upcoming blog), or they have been currently meticulously landscaped, as this one (which is actually named: “Malahide Castle and Gardens).

Malahide Castle
Howth, ,Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We finished our day in the Seaport community of Howth. Our guide noted that this was where people went to escape Dublin City Center for weekends and vacations. Somewhere there, I think there must have been a more substantial beach. The area we stopped in – specifically for “Fish & Chips” at a noted establishment, was much more a commercial harbor, with what appeared to be a fishing fleet.

Howth Harbor
Howth, Ireland
Copyright, Andy Richards 2019

We did get our fish & chips, washed down with a Smythwick’s fresh from the tap. Fish & chips in the British Isles is like the proverbial hot dogs and apple pie in the states. So it stands to reason that it is a staple on nearly every menu in every restaurant in Ireland. But our guide, Nathan (a Dublin native) assured us that the two best places for fish & chips was a restaurant called Beschoff’s (apparently a multiple-location local restaurant) and Crabby Jo’s, on the Main street in Howth Harbor. We opted for Crabby Jo’s and were not dissapointed. I love fish, but prefer mine grilled, broiled or baked. So, fish & chips would not normally be my first choice. But we were in Ireland in a seaport. So, fish & chips it was. They were wonderful, and I would recommend this place. It appears to be a restaurant operated by the owners of Wrights’s of Howth, a seafood purveyor.

Crabby Jo’s
Howth, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; The Final Day

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Photographically, this may be a bit anti-climax. We spent the day first with a “tour” by our bus driver of the city, including a drive up into Phoenix Park, which may be the largest park in Europe, replete with an obelisk monument, the Dublin Zoo, and the American Ambassador’s residence. There are also numerous deer and other wildlife around the park (we had driven through here on our first day in Dublin on their “hop on – hop off” bus). We drove down into the city center (much of which we had also already seen). We did learn some interesting Dublin history.

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The “Heineken” sign has a funny back-story. At one time this building belonged to Guinness. After it was sold, Heineken bought the rights (they do not own the building or have or have any other connection to it) to the wall, and the sign.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral,
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There are many “St. Patrick’s” cathedrals throughout the world. None are prettier than the Dublin version, particularly the grounds. This is a shot from our bus window and doesn’t really do it justice.

Pub Near Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Pub Near Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The River Liffey flows from west to east through the city, bisecting it roughly north and south. Much of what we saw, including Te Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and St. Patrick’s cathedral, are south of the river. North of the river there is a significant amount of commerce, though, including the old complex of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery (which has long since moved its operations).

Sculpture, Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Sculpture, Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our first “stop” was after lunch at the famed “Book of Kells” at Trinity College in the center of the city. Trinity College is an impressive, beautiful campus. The “Book of Kells” exhibit, however, is a hopelessly tourist and commercial setup that was – to me underwhelming in a significant degree. Except for the final part, where we walked into the actual library stacks. That iss impressive!

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our last stop for the day was, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. The Heuston Train Station is just caddy-corner from the complex and is where our bus from Dublin Airport dropped us for our first night’s stay about a block from there at the Ashling Hotel.

Heuston Train Station; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Heuston Train Station;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The Guinness tour is, of course, very commercial – but still a fascinating experience. One interesting fact that I don’t recall being given by the Guinness tour guide, was that (according to our bus driver – how much of his knowledge was “local wisdom” is not crystal clear) the Guinness “stout” beer was a mistake. The barley was burned during the roasting process. Mistake or not, somebody decided to finish up the batch and (although I don’t particularly care for it), the rest is – as they say – “history.”

Guinness Storehouse Headquarters;  Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse Headquarters;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There is not much interesting that you can photograph inside the commercial area of the storehouse, as it is full of hundreds of tourists, they move you through very fast, and the light is not great. I concentrated on a few small details.

Guinness Storehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

We will remember this trip all of our lives. We made some great new friends, got to see some old friends, and made some memories of an amazing and fascinating part of the world. The Irish people are every bit as friendly fun as their reputation, and we will most certainly be going back there in the not too distant future!

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; Day 8

Clontarf Castle Gatehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf Castle Gatehouse; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The afternoon of the previous day was time for me to re-charge a bit. A brief nap, and then we walked to the downtown suburban area of Clontarf, a port for Dublin. We joined a few of the many “O’briens” on the trip at a restaurant for a nice dinner and then walked back to the Hotel.

An old castle, the Clontarf has been made into a magnificent looking hotel. But being a castle, there were limitations to work with. In Europe, we conspicuous consumption type Americans are often surprised by the small size of hotel accommodations. However, in our Ireland experience, all but one – this last one (which was ironically – I am sure – the most expensive of them all) were really quite spacious and comfortable. This one worked, but was by far the “tightest” we had. Still, a pretty cool experience to stay there.

Clontarf, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Clontarf appears to be a relatively affluent suburban area, and in the mornings, I walked the streets, looking for something of interest to shoot. One of the things we noticed (and it is a matter of common interest – note, for example, the cover of Rick Steves’ Ireland 2014 travel book) – particularly around Dublin, was the brightly colored doors in many of the row house buildings. Much of it is, of course, folklore and what they like to boast about, but Ireland seems to have a pretty strong cultural focus on drinking. We were told that the primary purpose of the different colored doors was so that you could get back to where you live after a lively night in the pubs. Good story – true or not. And even better, they make for wonderful photographic subjects. We found, for the most part, all of Ireland to be proud of the looks of their towns and buildings were well kept and well landscaped.

Colored Doors; Clontarf, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Colored Doors; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Today would be our last bus ride, and our only excursion into Northern Ireland. Again, we had a smaller group, with several electing to stay behind and see what Dublin had to offer. We had been in Dublin for a full day prior to the tour and had stayed near the City Center. We wanted to stay with the tour and especially, to go to Northern Ireland, so we boarded the bus for our final group trip.

Our destination that morning was Armagh, a small town in Northern Ireland just to the southwest of Belfast. Interestingly, as we crossed the border into Northern Ireland, the speed limit signs when from Kilometers to miles, and the currency (we found when we stopped for refreshment) to British pounds. There was also a subtle, but noticeable difference in architecture, particularly of the dwellings, to a less colorful and ornate look (more like U.S. suburban homes might look) – interesting. Most interesting was our driver and week-long guide’s description of trips up there just a few short years back (less than 10) when there was so much violent unrest in Northern Ireland. There were still heavily fortified police stations, and the few policemen we saw still resembled military more than what we are accustomed to seeing for civilian police.

St. Patrick's Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The primary purpose for the trip up, however, was to visit the 2 St. Patrick’s Cathedrals: One built before and the other after, The Reformation. The churches were impressive and the differences both remarkable and fascinating. The post reformation church is a huge, ornate and probably very expensive monument. I will leave the reader to his or her own thoughts as to what it was a monument to.

St. Patrick's Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The older, Anglican Cathedral was much less ornate and “in-your-face,” but nonetheless a marvel of architecture and art, particularly for the time it was built. From a photographic standpoint, I definitely liked the older church.

St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our ride back to Dublin was along the coast, along the Irish Sea between Ireland and England, and through the Portmarnock Golf Course, back to Clontarf Road and the Clontarf Castle. There were some beautiful roads and we even stopped at a cemetery where one of our members, a fan of the Dublin rock band, Thin Lizzy, searched and found the grave of one of the band founders, I believe, Phil Lynott. Of course the music on the bus, as we entered Clontarf, had to be “The Boys Are Back in Town.”

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

We arrived back at the motel in time for our one “formal” evening (jackets required) banquet celebrating the O’Brien Clan Society (of which, of course, our gracious host, Bart, is a board member) and the Battle of Clontarf. We had some laughs and some good food that night and then got ready for our final day – all in Dublin, which was to culminate in a visit to – where else? Yup – the Guinness Storehouse. Next: “The O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland – 2014; The Final Day.”

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; Day 7

View of Countryside from Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

View of Countryside from Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Once again this morning, we had to have our bags on the bus, so I did not go shooting, but had breakfast and boarded the bus with the group, headed (eventually) for Dublin, with a couple of scheduled stops along the way. The first scheduled stop was the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. But before we headed for Bunratty (ironically, back in the opposite direction from Dublin), we stopped at another Castle which was reputed to have a connection to Brian Boru’, but is now a svelt, private hotel and golf course – Dromoland Castle. Since it was private, and the owners would most likely not take kindly to a tour bus driving in and dumping 40 tourists around, our stop was quick. There was a photo of all of the O’Briens on the trip taken, and we then re-boarded, headed for Bunratty. I did manage an image or two.

Dromoland Castle; County Clare, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dromoland Castle; County Clare, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park looked (and was) like a “commercial tourist” park.  But it was still fun and pretty interesting. I have said before, that if I were planning my own trip to Ireland, I would not have used the travel company used here, and I would have opted for some less touristy and more picturesque places, and/or more time in some of the Irish cities (Limerick is a place I would have spent more time). But as photographer that is how my “travel” mind works. For others, this may have been just perfect – and we were fortunate to be with this group, with everything planned and done for us – so not complaining; just “observing.” 🙂  In the same light, however, we also were scheduled to stop for a couple hours at an outlet mall on the way to Dublin. Really? (Just saying). After a threatened mutiny, our poor bus driver drove us straight to Dublin, dropped the “shoppers” off in City Center, and took the rest of us on to our hotel, The Clontarf Castle, for some much needed downtime.

Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The current Bunratty castle, built around 1425, is actually the 4th castle in Bunratty, and was eventually overtaken by the O’Brien clan. The interior of this 15th century stone structure was fascinating, and after a short introduction by a tour guide, we were pretty much given the run of the castle. Climbing the spiral staircases was interesting. The castles all have narrow, counter-clockwise spiral staircases, with the walls tight to the right. As the guide noted, the vast majority of Europeans are right-handed and this made it virtually impossible to draw, or swing a sword. On the other hand, if you were defending, you had a relatively clear shot, and if you were first up the stairs you were probably left handed, and probably beheaded. According to our guide, it is where the saying “heads will roll” (as they did, down the spiral stairs) came from.

Tapestry; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Tapestry; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There was also a tapestry that was over 800 years old, hanging in the great room. It looked like it might have been 20 years old. It is pretty amazing that some of the things in the castle have lasted as long as they have. Of course, today, they are temperature controlled, and shielded as much as possible from light (and human contact). I was also amazed at the detail in the wood work. Art was obviously a huge part of the life of at least the noble men living in the castle living quarters.

Table; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Table; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Detail, Table, Buratty Castle Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Detail, Table, Buratty Castle
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The view from the top was also impressive. As a photographer, I always enjoy the ability to get up high and get the “birds-eye” view of a place. Here, I shot the river, as it might have looked to a castle lookout, defending from a Viking invasion.

Ralty River from Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Ralty River from Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

A walk around the grounds of this place was equally interesting. It is supposed to reflect living in Ireland in the early 19th century. There were peasant huts and a small village street with a post-office, apothecary, some nicer “homes” and some more rural, as well. It is difficult to know how much of it is real from years past and how much is “Disney.” There was clearly an old farmhouse (Hazelbrook House) that was once a real feature of the village—but was actually reconstructed there in 2001. And in the village, there were also a number of “tourist” souvenier stores mixed in with the mock-ups. Still, I would recommend this site as a worthwhile visit. The Hazelbrook brothers were apparently famous for ice cream making and there was some very interesting looking machinery in the barns area of the house near a nice walled garden.

Machinery; Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Machinery; Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Due to time constraints, and lack of pre-planning, I missed the real shot of this castle, which is from across the stone bridge which crosses the small Ralty Rive, a tributary of the River Shannon, with the bridge leading into the castle scene. Maybe next trip? Of course, the views of the countryside were spectacular – and Green! I probably took away one of my 5 favorite images of the trip from the folk park—a shot of the ancient Ardcroney Church. This church was actually moved, stone by stone, from County Tipperary, to be a feature of the folk park. But it is beautiful; both in setting and in architecture.

Church, Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Church, Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Next, we were off to Dublin, for the final “leg” of the trip, with a 3 night stay in the Clontarf Castle, in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf.

Clontarf Castle Hotel; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf Castle Hotel; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards