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Dublin, days 2 & 3

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When I travel to a new place I try to do some research about it. That mostly entails contemporary goings on, things I wish to see, and of course to photograph. But in-country, I always learn so much. I was a dual-major business and history degree student in college. While I studied some medieval history and the obligatory “Western Civilization,” my focus was on the U.S. So traveling abroad is a learning and perspective-building experience. It is my observation that, possessing a sometimes fatalist sense of humor, the Irish people are self-deprecating, and at the same time fiercely proud of their heritage. They have much passion and perhaps not surprisingly, as their identity as a sovereign nation is much younger than our is. But their history is thousands of years longer, and full of hardship.

My observation is that, possessing a sometimes fatalist sense of humor, the Irish people are self-deprecating, and at the same time fiercely proud of their heritage

I wanted to put a small amount of Irish History perspective to these blogs. Popular wisdom has it that Ireland (and Scotland) were mainly of Celtic origin. History disputes that. There is evidence of humans from other parts of Europe well before the Celtic tribes began to migrate to Ireland. Nonethless, there is certainly a significant Celtic influence to the end-result. At the same time, the Vikings, primarily from Norway, invaded parts of Ireland, particularly along the seacoasts. Dublin, in fact, was founded and originally established by the Vikings, sailing up the River Liffey, perhaps around 800 A.D. Later around 900 A.D. the Vikings again sailed into the harbor at Waterford, and established Limerick and Cork. It was not until the Battle of Clontarf that Bart O’brien’s King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings and established perhaps the first independent Irish nation. It was, however, to be short-lived and there was much warfare during those time. In 1014. In the late 12th century, the Normans from England began a series of invasions and eventually conquered much, if not all of Ireland, making it part of the British Empire. This lasted until the majority of southern counties won their independence and became the Republic of Ireland in 1951! Sometimes you just have to be there to understand things, but for a bit of silliness, it dawned on me that maybe they thought Superman would save us all 🙂

Superman in Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our second and third days were kind of broken up. We boarded our cruise ship in the late afternoon of the day 2 (we originally arrived in Dublin at about 10:00 a.m., so by now we were really on our 3rd day). We had tickets for the Guinness Storehouse tour that morning, so our plan was to do that, grab some lunch, and then collect our bags and head for the cruise port. My wife and I had already done this tour, so I didn’t take any photographs this time at all. This is a pretty interesting tour, and the ticket price traditionally included a pint of Guinness from their “Gravity Bar” at the top of the building. There is a panoramic view of the city from there. They have changed things up a bit now, though. Now they have a tasting area on one of the lower floors and you can elect to do that in lieu of the pint up at the top. It includes a flight of 3 of their beers of your choice, and short explanation about them. They also had a very talented group of Irish Dancers who put on a short show for us. Two for one. :-).

St. Catherine’s Church
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In keeping with my comment about the bounty of church architecture in Europe in general, and in particular in Ireland, we happened upon the very small and beautiful St. Catherine’s Church on our walk from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse.

Dublin City Center Near Christ Church Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We spent that night on the ship, as Dublin Port is a ways out from the city center. I was able to get a different perspective on the city from our ship, however. But in the morning, we headed back toward the Guinness Storehouse, and to a small whiskey distillery that our first night’s guide, Nimhb, had recommended: Pearse Lyons. The distillery is set up in an ancient Church, very near the Guinness Storehouse.

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The St. James (protestant) Church of Ireland dates back to medieval times. It is likely the the building currently standing was preceded by an earlier structure. My research suggests that the current building is at least 800 years old. Over its history, it fell into a state of disrepair apparently a couple times. last used as a church in 1956, it most recently served as a hardware store (Lighting World) until 2009.. In 2013, Dr. Pearse Lyons purchased the building and grounds (except for the adjacent – and ancient – 1.5 acre cemetery, which is owned by Dublin City Council). The distillery has done a wonderful job of preserving the historic integrity of the building, down to the amazing stained glass windows.

Pearse Lyons Distillery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Pearse Lyons Distillery
St. James Church of Ireland Building
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have an upcoming blog dedicated to “whisky,” and our two significant distillery visits (Pearse Lyons and Bushmills) so I will not go into detail about the Pearse Lyons distillery tour until then. After a nice tour and tasting, we were ready to head back to the cruise ship and look forward to new venues and adventures. Next stop: Belfast and Northern Ireland.

St. James Cemetery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

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

Cruising “The British Isles” – 2019

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our recent Celebrity Cruise was entitled “The British Isles.” So why did I lead with the Eiffel Tower? The cruise “title” is mostly accurate. One would generally think of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and perhaps a couple smaller islands as the British Isles. Our cruise included ports of call in LaHavre, France, Bruges, Belgium, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. But who is complaining? 🙂 . As I often do, I made several hundred images over a 2 1/2 week period. In coming weeks, I will give a more detailed accounting of each of the many new places we visited. Today, I wanted to give just an overview of what a huge territory, and vast subjects we covered.

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have mentioned a few times here, that my wife and I like to cruise. When we can find like minded companions, that just makes it all the more fun. There were 4 of us this time, and I am pretty sure I can vouch that we all enjoyed our time in Europe. When we go to a new destination, we like to arrive in the departing port city a few days ahead, to explore, enjoy, and get to know the city. Though my wife and I had been to Dublin before, we found many new things to see and do during  our 4 days there.

Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When we were in Ireland back in 2014, we made a very brief trip into Northern Ireland, to see the Church where King Brian Boru was buried. This time we had a full (very full) day from our port of call in Belfast. Our driver and guide, Mark, was as good as we have ever had, and he had some surprises in store for us. As an “outdoor” photographer, I love a pretty scenic image. Northern Ireland did not disappoint. Indeed, as I have been processing images, it is “sneaking up on me,” that Northern Ireland may have been my favorite stop of this trip. I would definitely return and explore further, if given the opportunity.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The following day, we arrived in Liverpool, England, across the Irish Sea. We were scheduled for a Beatles Tour (what else would one do in Liverpool? – well; stay tuned, it turns out: a lot). For my Michigan friends, my quick research lead me to (wrongfully) conclude that Liverpool would be like Flint (maybe we need to organize a Grand Funk Railroad tour in Flint?) :-). Look for my upcoming post on Liverpool. It was eye-opening for me.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Next, we were back across the Irish Sea, and in the south of Ireland, at the tiny, but beautiful little port of Cobh. Cobh possibly rivals Northern Ireland in my view, for photographic potential. I made some nice images there, though at least one of them was one of those (perhaps hackneyed) “must do” shots that has already been done thousands of times. Known locally as “The Deck of Cards,” maybe I was able to make a unique “take” on the famous row of houses with the cathedral in the background. I will let you be the judge: again, in the weeks ahead. We overnighted in Cobh, and spent a day there, and a day touring Blarney Castle (site of the famed, “Blarney Stone”), and Cork City.

St. Pancras Train Station
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

By then, we had spent most of 8 days on our feet. Blessedly, the following day was an “at sea” day. It allowed for some much needed “R&R.” After our day of rest, we arrived in the British port of Dover. For reasons I will expound on when I get to Dover and London, a few weeks out, I might have planned this stop a little differently. But we took the train to London and had a day-long “Black Taxi” tour of London.

Champs – E’lysees
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our next port of call was LeHavre, France. We again overnighted there (this was unprecedented for my wife and me – two full overnight stops). We took advantage of an early arrival and a late departure 2 days later, and again rode the train to Paris, where we stayed overnight. A huge city, we spent 2 very full days there. That barely scratches the surface, but we saw a lot during our time there and I thought it was not only very worthwhile, but one of the highlights of the cruise. I will note in upcoming blogs, that both London and Paris really need multiple-day visits to do them justice. Unless a cruise ends or originates there, it probably they don’t really lend themselves to cruising.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Again, not really the “British Isles,” we ended our cruise with stops in Bruges, and Amsterdam. Known for its beer and chocolate, I sampled a little of both in Bruges. It is an impressive, historical, and very small city, which was well worth the visit. In Amsterdam, we rode the canals, did the obligatory walk through the “red light” and “cannabis” districts, and generally saw some impressive sites. Amsterdam is, again, a massive city. We only got a little taste of the more touristic (as they say in Europe) parts of the city.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In the end, we were exhausted, but the trip served up many new places, and added to our list of places to explore in more detail in the years to come. The only “gear” I carried was the Sony small camera (RX100iv) and my small tripod (which did not see any use). On cruises, it is rare to be on location in early morning, late afternoon, or at night. The only possible “night” shot might have been the Eiffel Tower, but the timing and place were just wrong. If I were to make a longer stay, land based trip, I might rethink the gear. I love the lightness and portability of the small camera. But I find myself missing the versatility of the DSLR on some occasions. The coming weeks will cover each of the above – with images – in more detail.

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

 

O’Brien Ireland Tour; Day 2

Somewhere In Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Somewhere In Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Really the first day of the official tour, it was our second day in country. We had spent Good Friday walking around Dublin’s City Center. Our only regret was that since most of the country (with the exception, of course, of Northern Ireland) is very “Catholic,” and thus, take Good Friday as perhaps their most important annual holiday. Many things were closed that day, including all of the pubs! We were able to have a nice meal in our Hotel restaurant, however, and to have our first taste of Ireland’s perhaps most famous, Guinness beer.

Temple Bar Area Dublin City Center Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Temple Bar Area
Dublin City Center
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The next morning, I was up early and walked around the city center, a bit more, taking as much advantage as I could of the nice morning light. We had pretty nice weather (particularly considering what we expected) most of the week we were there.

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our driver and some of the members of our group met us in the lobby of our hotel at 11:00. We got on the bus and headed for Galway, shortly thereafter, with a stop at the Clonmacnoise monasic site (one of the many ruins we would see dotted throughout the Irish landscape). The drive was mainly on one of the 2 or 3 limited access “highways” in Ireland. Most of the roads are “country roads,” that are narrow, 2-lane affairs, often without shoulders. It was very reminiscent of my days of living in New England and particularly Vermont and New Hampshire. Because of the “main highway” nature of the drive we didn’t see a lot of the “real” Irish countryside. The opening image is more representative of the views we often got from the bus during the week, however.

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There were so many places I would have stopped and scouted and set up for more creative photography and better composition. Instead, I often found myself shooting fleetingly from a moving vehicle. It was frustrating at times. I look forward to the day I can go back and travel on my own time schedule.

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The Clonmacnoise site offered some pretty nice views out onto the landscape, with the river behind and picturesque ruins in the foreground.

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Later that afternoon, we arrived at the Park House Hotel, in Galway, where we would spend the next 3 nights. Our first night was a group dinner served by the hotel/restaurant staff and it was there that I began my odyssey and education in the ways of Irish single pot distilled Irish Whiskey.

Park House Hotel Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Park House Hotel
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

 

During our stay at the Park House, we ended each evening at Garvey’s Pub, directly accross the street from our hotel, where we sampled the local beers and Irish whiskeys, and some local music.

Garvey's Pub Galway, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Garvey’s Pub
Galway, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards