Loading...

Follow Travel Blog | All The Ways You Wander on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
Road trip through Ireland's Ancient East: Wexford to Waterford

Road trips in Ireland

Ireland is blessed with some of the most scenic drives in Europe and our quiet country roads offer a chance to slow down, soak in the beauty of the landscape and discover your own hidden gems, off the beaten track. Being such a small country, Ireland is perfect for road trips and you can actually squeeze in a lot in just one day. We love taking random road trips whenever we have time off and we usually pack the tent in the car just in case we decide to stay a night or two on some isolated beach or lakeside meadow we’ve fallen in love with (which happens a lot!). From Dublin, you can jump in the car and be anywhere on the island of Ireland in around 5 hours so your choice of beautiful vistas and quaint old villages is unlimited and plentiful.

*We were partially compensated for this post. These opinions are completely our own, based on our own experience.

Road Trip from Wexford to Waterford

Our little car, packed with our tent and gear, has taken us all over Ireland but we’re still finding new places that take our breath away. When we’re heading off we usually do a bit of research online and always end up reading other travel blogs and tips from local photographers which are great resources for discovering those sought after hidden gems. Recently, our car insurance company, Chill Insurance, published a series of e-books on Ireland’s drives which we promptly downloaded. They contain an abundance of fantastic ideas and information on where to go for culture, music, and historical landmarks, whether you’re looking for a couple’s romantic day out or you’re on a family holiday. One particular guide, “Hidden Drives in Ireland”, piqued our interest and became our source of inspiration for our next road trip: Wexford to Waterford via Hook Head. Before our road trip would begin in earnest, however, the summer solstice needed to be celebrated properly on a beach somewhere so we prayed to the weather Gods that the sun would stay out for us. Ireland’s weather is predictably unpredictable but, as luck would have it, we found ourselves reaching Wexford’s winding coast road in glorious sunshine. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. By using affiliate links, we earn a small commission when you click through / book a room or tour / buy a product, etc. Don't worry - you don't pay any extra. It's one of the ways we might make a small sum from running this website, and keep the proverbial lights on!

Wexford’s beautiful beaches

Our search for the perfect beach side location to enjoy the sunset and wait for the stars to come out took us from Cahore Point all the way down to Raven Wood Nature Reserve, just outside Wexford Town. It’s a pristine, soft-sand beach that stretches for over 20 km passing lovely little villages to get a bite or a drink so we were spoiled for choice. Right at the end of one of Ireland’s longest stretches of coastline lies Raven Wood Nature Reserve, just after Curracloe Beach which was the setting for Omaha Beach in the film, Saving Private Ryan. Over hundreds of years, a huge sand spit has formed at the estuary of the River Slaney, creating a tidal marsh and windswept sand banks that are now the winter home of migrating geese and other birds. In the 1930’s efforts were made to try and stem erosion with large plantations of Corsican pines and these have now been turned into a beautiful woodland loop walk about 9 km long. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours but our usual walking habits involve stopping to take loads of pictures or find other meandering trails through the trees. As a result, our estimated walking times are always at least double!







Raven Wood Nature Reserve

The loop walk took us out onto the sand bank and thankfully our timing was perfect with low tide allowing us to walk right below the bank of trees. Keep an eye on the tides because you may have to scramble back into the forest if access to the sandbank is cut off. It is remarkably other-worldly with the tide out. White sand surrounded us and strips of blue in the distance served as a reminder that we weren’t in fact in a strange desert. Right on the edge of the wood where the sand and sea have encroached on it over time, the beach has taken possession of some of the trees where they stand like lonely sun-bleached sentries trying to guard the rest of the forest.  









Summer Solstice Night

Plonking ourselves in the dunes at Culletons Gap Beach after such a long walk, the decision was made that, right here, would be perfect to while away the remaining hours of the longest day of the year. Thankfully we had stocked up on supplies and cooked ourselves a feast of fajitas on a little portable BBQ, complete with freshly made guacamole and marinated beef Neil had prepared the day before. Our camp dinners are never simple, we can’t help it! The weather was beautiful, balmy and only a gentle breeze off the sea. The sun didn’t set until 11 pm and the sky stayed perfectly clear well into the night. The milky way was just visible above the distant lights of Wexford town while shooting stars and satellites flew over our heads. Watching the fishing boats signal each other out on the horizon we saw what we thought was a fire getting bigger and bigger, thinking it was one of the boats. It took us a moment to realise it was a red moon rising. Never in our lives before had we seen such a sight. A perfect end to our summer solstice night.


  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Photographing New York City

New York, New York! Wow! What an amazing city to visit, let alone photograph. A travel photography paradise. When it came to light that we were going to be heading to the Big Apple, my head was awash with ideas of things I wanted to photograph. New York is a city of icons, movies and has been in our lives for as long as we have been watching TV. We have been to other cities in the U.S. but nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming might of Manhattan and the Boroughs that surround it. We knew the place was big, but Holy Moly, this city far exceeded any expectations that we had about it. We only scratched the surface and we very much look forward to going back some day.

In this post, I try my best to document what it was like to approach a city like this from a photographic point of view. While you can find a huge amount of images taken while on this trip in the other blog posts that we have from New York - What is it like to visit New York for the first time? & The Big Apple: Buildings, Bridges and Boroughs these, for me, I feel are the ones that I am most happy with.

Brooklyn Bridge

We start our New York trip here on the mighty Brooklyn Bridge. This colossal structure totally blew our minds. Hand carved stone, iron and the sweat of the many hundreds that helped build it all culminated into one damn fine looking bridge. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a very popular thing to do while visiting “The Big Apple” so who are we to break from that tradition? While the wind was blowing a cold (very cold) breeze it didn’t for one minute take away from the experience. If you can manage to get here for the sunrise there is less people, but us being us, we went a bit later in the day. 10 stops of neutral density worked a treat here. Orla’s “please don't move for 1 minute” skills are surely improving with all the practice she has been getting. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time on the bridge and, walking from the Brooklyn side into Manhattan, paid off beautifully as the views of the Manhattan skyline are a sight to behold.

D.U.M.B.O and a classic view of the Manhattan Bridge

Okay, Okay, I know what you are all thinking: “Here is another “DUMBO shot taken from some random person again”…..but, how can you not? It’s the DUMBO shot! It was funny all the same, finding this place. Get off the subway and just follow all the hip, young looking, cool people in their flowery, flowing dresses or fancy fedoras and...Boom! You have found the #Instagram mecca. Needless to say when we got there it was pretty busy. Thankfully visiting New York City in the off season is a little less crowded (I shudder to imagine how crammed it is during the summer months). Orla didn't last too long standing around in the cold waiting for me to take the picture so she left me to my own devices while I waited…..and waited…..and waited for the crowds to thin slightly. The sun was setting fast and the golden light was shining so beautifully on the Manhattan Bridge that I had to push aside my courteousness and blatantly stand in people's shots. I am super delighted how the image turned out and I am glad to have taken the time to wait for the light to be just right. Waiting patiently is the name of the game in a location like this one. I found a clearing with no people and fired away. It turned cold fast so lingering is not an option and sure when you get the shot you might as well move out of the way and let others shoot. Glad I went, it's a great view all the same!


Top of the Rock

The mighty Manhattan skyline stands tall and proud. Such iconic views of a city warrant all the time you can spend, trying to capture them. Like most of the New York images we captured while visiting this colossus, time, patience and care are required to try and replicate what we spent our youth looking at on TV. So we find ourselves on top of the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock). This spot is hugely popular for tourists and rightly so. Offering spectacular 360 degree views of the epic New York skyline this really is a must for anyone wanting to capture the Empire State Building and the city beyond. You must bear in mind though, if you want to be there for the sunset, you MUST book early and it costs extra. Also, if you want to get a good spot you MUST arrive early. There were LOOOOADS of people up there when we arrived. So, like the DUMBO shot, there was only so long I could wait before I had to push my way through the people to find a spot I wanted, and where I could put down my little mini tripod (you are not allowed to bring up full size tripods, but the little ones are okay). I am super polite to everyone so I don't mean to sound like I bullied my way to the front, but you know, it has to be done. This particular sunset was one of the nicest ones we had while we visited New York City and we were delighted that we chose this day to go up. Top tip - when you get your shot be sure to explore other compositions as the views all around are magic.

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station, I mean, how could you not go? It's a fantastic place to visit. There is such a buzz about this location, from movies to people saying, “oh you have to visit Grand Central” and it being one of the biggest tourist attractions in the whole of Manhattan. So here we are. People, people and more people. With a location like this, one must approach it with some idea of the image you want to create, in your mind. Between the tourists and the locals getting from A to B, looking down from the balcony, it’s like the floor is alive. Now armed with some neutral density filters, the only way to shoot this, is with a nice long exposure. This will help slow down the shutter and extend the time while cutting down on the light hitting the sensor. The people essentially walk themselves out of the shot. While you could keep the shutter open for a while and get a shot of an empty hall, there is something very aesthetically pleasing about having the long shadow forms of the people in the frame. Orla, again, using her tremendous skills of standing still while I indulge my passion, did a great job of staying nice and motionless. Centered in the long cast of light in the middle of the room, she grounds the image and creates a fantastic contrast between motion and stillness (well done Orla). You must keep in mind that if you want to use a tripod inside this building, you have to apply for a permit to do so. While I had every intention of doing this, I did not. My little mini tripod came to the rescue again. And like everywhere else in New York, waiting, waiting and more waiting, is the name of the game here. One must be patient and calm to wait for the ideal spot to set up. Absolutely worth a visit and the whispering corner is a good laugh.

Chrysler Building

The mighty Chrysler Building, catching the golden light as the sun sets on another fantastic day in this spectacular city. For us this building conjures up the most nostalgia, and “Holy Moly I am in New York” feeling. This Art Deco behemoth stands 319 meters tall and dominates the skyline of midtown Manhattan. Our minds will always race to the movie Ghostbusters when we see this building. With its carefully crafted design, finding a good vantage point to photograph it is relatively easy, considering its position. This image was taken from Roosevelt Island at about 200mm. Shooting a nice long focal length gives such beautiful compression and makes the buildings almost stack on top of each other. The light, though! It was this that totally blew us away! Golden light glistening ever so wonderfully on the highlights of the building and using an ND filter to slow the shutter to drag out the clouds (about 20 seconds), this is one of my favorite images taken while visiting New York City. The Chrysler Building is an absolute must to shoot while in New York and if you can spend some time scouting a good location you will be just as happy with your results as I am with mine. Also, I shudder to imagine how much it cost to rent an apartment up there. What an amazing building to live in though.


New York City Skyline, Brooklyn Pier 1

The evening wore on and we found ourselves over on the waterfront of Brooklyn. With the sun getting lower in the sky and the long shadows of the golden hour beginning to cast themselves across the landscape, tonight it felt like was the night to head to one of the main photo locations that I had looked into before traveling to New York. This of course being the incredibly epic viewpoint of “Old Pier 1”. I have seen this picture many times cropping up over the years and it has always stood out as a composition that works on many levels. With fabulous leading lines that dominate the bottom half of the frame to the massive payoff of the Manhattan skyline towering over the top half, this was one I did not want to miss. With the conditions getting as good as they might get, I made my way to the pier. Orla stayed in the warmth of a local bar (it was freezing cold). As I arrived, I noticed only two other tripods set up, those of a Dutch guy and an Australian guy. Needless to say, conversation was sparked immediately and it turned out to be really great fun chatting with them about the exposure time, “will we bracket the images to combine later in post?”, etc. Getting to chat with these two was such a fantastic way of shooting this location. Had I been alone I fear the cold may have gotten to me sooner and I wouldn't have lasted. With such a large dynamic range for a scene like this, in my opinion, I couldn't have shot it any other way than with bracketed exposures, -2/0/+2. By doing this, it gave me the flexibility to get as much as the highlight details as I needed while also getting as much shadow detail. The exposure on the water was captured separately at about 3 minutes and taking all these images into post enabled me to create the image I had in my head, while approaching the scene. All in all, I am super delighted with how this image turned out and how everything looks and feels. I would have asked for some clouds but sure you can't have “perfect” conditions every time. With some creative thinking and some pre-visualisation, capturing the images that you want can be within everyone's reach. Just remember to take your time and don't forget to soak in your surroundings while you are there. Enjoy it!

Unisphere at Flushing Meadows

We always had it in our heads that taking a trip out to Flushing Meadows was going to be a thing while visiting New York City. Known as Unisphere, this huge stainless steel globe is a very iconic landmark. Built for the 1964 World's Fair, we were delighted that we made the journey out, deep into the Borough of Queens. 140 ft high is a lot to cover when wanting to take a nice image so, getting the trusty 18 mm on the case, did the job nicely. The next task was finding a good composition. With this time of year, everything was looking pretty dead but the snow was down and the whole park looked fantastic. It was cool that there was still snow at the top of the globe, conveniently marking out winter in the Arctic Circle. Taking my time and walking around this massive structure a couple of times, I had noticed that these little trees stood out and thought that they would work to help create a natural frame, close to the image edge, and draw the eyes down the leading line, to the Unisphere. Other than that, it's pretty much a standard photograph. While the shutter speed was set high (1/1250) I still used a tripod. Even though the sun was shining, there was still a little breeze and I wanted to make sure that I would get the steadiest image I could. I did play around with longer exposures to draw out the clouds but sometimes keeping things nice and simple works out best. Having the Unisphere dead center of frame, I know, may go against some of the hard core “rule of thirds” fans but I think solid leading lines and natural framing will always outdo convention. The blue and green of the landscape and the white of the snow all work really nicely here and I am delighted with how this image turned out. Taking the time to visit New York’s second largest park is well worth it. The train journey out here is really great. I would say in the summer, some fun times would be had, chilling and hanging out with friends.

New York City

With the flat sky and the afternoon sun blowing out any chance of some texture in the clouds, the only option you may have is to get somewhere really high up and point the camera down. Here we stand atop the Empire State Building. What a fantastic place for panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, but, for the aforementioned unworkable sky, I decided to focus on the cityscape that was below me. I don't have a tilt-shift lens so I knew some distortion would be introduced by shifting the Field Of View down, but shooting on the wide end and correcting the lines in post, and a little cropping, straightened everything up nicely. I can't remember the name of this building so please, if you know, let me know in the comments, but, I love the way it stands tall in the middle of the frame. I can’t help but think of a circuit board when I look at this. The smaller buildings around really tie the scene together, adding an extra layer of weight to the main focal point of the frame. Being as this is the top of the Empire State, tripods are not allowed to be used, so you must keep this in mind before you go. Shooting everything handheld means you’ll have to compensate with a higher shutter speed and therefore a lower fstop or an increase of your ISO. As this shot was taken in the middle of the day I was able to get by with a shutter speed of 1/250, F Stop 7.1 and an ISO of 100. I had to take some liberties with the editing of this image. I wanted to add an extra punch of contrast and as you can see, the heavy vignette really helps to draw the eye to the fantastic building in the center of the frame.

Brooklyn Bridge at sunset

Here we find ourselves back in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. First things first, I am super happy with how this image turned out. From the light, to the sky and the composition. One of the most important things to keep in mind about looking to take photographs while on a trip is to prioritise where you would like to be for the golden hour/sunset. I know that not everyone has this luxury, traveling with kids etc but regardless of your time constraints most people enjoy watching the sunset. So with some pre-planning, you can find yourself is some fantastic locations. With all that being said time is fleeting when you are presented with some magic golden light. We had lingered at this little beach and being drawn to these railway sleepers I knew they would make for some nice leading lines into the main subject of the image, the sun setting and of course the left side of the bridge, which in turn draws the eye across and into the city. Getting low down enabled me to fill the bottom left of the frame with the sleepers. Shooting with my 18mm wide angle lens, this foreground is greatly exaggerated thus providing a natural frame and lines drawing you in. The only drawback to this is, as I mentioned before, the distortion is a factor. Now I must be clear here, I shot this image with the intention of processing it to its final form that you see here. The sky was photographed at a longer exposure because I wanted to draw out the clouds while the rest of the scene was shot bracketed. Deciding to leave the water frozen helps to add a more kinetic feel to the overall scene and thus being a nice point of contrast to the sky. I spent some time over this image after returning home. Orla being such a good sport left me to my own devices, as at this stage now, she knows that when I have an idea for an image, my mind..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The Big Apple: Buildings, Bridges and Boroughs

Just these three seemingly simple city sights gifted us with some of our best memories of our trip to New York. Those, and of course, filling our bellies! So four things - buildings, bridges, boroughs and filling our bellies! Oh, and butterflies! And we can’t forget our first real taste of Kansas City style BBQ! There’s so much to New York, so much that we loved, and they don’t all start with ‘B’! In our last post, we described what it’s like to visit New York for the first time and how overwhelmingly huge it is. This is why this post is so difficult to write and why there’s going to have to be more than one! So, in an attempt to relive one of the best travel experiences we’ve ever had (and we never thought we’d say that about a big city), let’s start with the major attractions in Manhattan and how we got to see them all.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. By using affiliate links, we earn a small commission when you click through / book a room or tour / buy a product, etc. Don't worry - you don't pay any extra. It's one of the ways we might make a small sum from running this website, and keep the proverbial lights on!

Sightseeing with the New York CityPASS

Any major city like New York has top attractions and it usually costs money to see them. If you’re on a budget, it can be difficult to face the expense of seeing them all while not wanting to leave anything out of your itinerary. That is where the New York CityPASS came in handy. CityPASS kindly provided us with a complimentary pass each so we could share with our readers our honest opinions and experiences about using it. Honestly, we were delighted to discover how much money can be saved, without missing out on any of the main sights. At $132 U.S. per adult, initially it seems like a lot of money but it actually saves over 40% compared to combining the regular price admissions for all of the included attractions. Here’s the full list of attractions that the New York CityPASS gets you, valid for 9 consecutive days, showing the regular price of admission for one adult:

  • The Empire State Building which includes the 86th-Floor Observatory plus a bonus same-day evening return visit ($52)

  • The American Museum of Natural History which includes the Rose Center for Earth and Space plus the Space Show or a giant-screen movie ($33)

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art which includes same-day admission to The Cloisters museum and gardens and the Met Breuer museum ($25)

  • A choice between Top of the Rock® Observation Deck ($38) OR Guggenheim Museum ($15)

  • A choice between Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island which includes admission to the Immigration Museum ($18.50) OR a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise (Landmark Cruise is $37)

  • A choice between 9/11 Memorial & Museum ($26) OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum which includes the Space Shuttle Pavilion ($33).

Straight away you can see the savings if you plan on seeing even four of the top sights. Where there was a choice between two attractions we were a bit torn but a little bit of reading, prioritising and some local tips helped us to decide.


Top of the Rock - The Rockefeller Building

Top of the Rock was a given, as Neil had his heart and mind set on some compositions from high above the city, particularly at sunset and the blue hour. This had to be carefully timed with clear enough skies so we kept an eye on the weather to make sure we’d catch a decent sunset. Of course we should have realised that it wasn’t just us who thought that sunset would be the ideal time to get one of the best views of New York City! The queues were out the door and down the street but thankfully our line wasn’t as long with the CityPASS. We also didn’t know that sunset times need to be booked well in advance and cost an extra $10. It was looking like we weren’t gonna make it on time but the girl at the ticket desk was incredibly lovely to us and got us in on a cancellation. A recent cruise to Cobh in County Cork made her slightly biased towards our Irish accents. To be sure we made the most of it! At the top it was rammed with people and to be honest I didn’t fancy squeezing into the sunset side. I chilled out looking out over Central Park and Neil managed to get a spot for himself and his camera. Keep an eye out for our next blog post where Neil will be dishing out photography tips for New York and how to get shots like this.










Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line cruise?

On of our long walking days we found ourselves down around Washington Square Park, where we lingered to greet the inquisitive squirrels and watch art students perform in the dried up fountain. After building up a thirst, New York’s oldest pub, McSorley’s Ale House was only around the corner and sounded like our kind of place.  Sure enough, with sawdust on the floor, a long dark wood bar, shared tables and a waiter that said, “Whaddya want?”, our souls knew we’d be happy here. He sat us down next to a couple of girls and after a little hesitation, not knowing what to order, he said, “You got two choices, light or dark ale that’s it!”. I got dark, Neil got light and out came two each! That’s apparently the only way they sell them!







We settled in, enjoying the atmosphere and realised we were sitting right beside photos and an article on the wall about Brendan Behan, one of Dublin’s famous writers. He was fond of the drink and of New York so he felt right at home in McSorley’s. It definitely reminded us of home. We got talking to the two girls who were from Canada and Australia and they’d both been to New York a few times. Sharing travel stories over one or two ales, we told them about our dilemma. They recommended the Circle Line Cruise over Ellis Island so our decision was made and sealed with a clink.  


Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise - Landmark Cruise

At an hour and a half long, with a fantastically detailed narration by the on board tour guide, this cruise taught us so much about the history of the great city of New York. With unique views of every detail of the tour to go along with the narration, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a sunny winter’s afternoon. Sailing right past the Statue of Liberty, we took a lot of selfies, delighted to be up so close to her. It was very cold up on deck but getting to glide under the glorious Brooklyn Bridge was well worth the biting wind.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
What is it like to visit New York for the first time?
“You’ve never been to New York?”

Our travels together have taken us around the world a couple of times including cities on the West Coast of the United States but never to New York. Down through the years, all of our family and friends kept asking us “Have you not been to New York yet?!”. We seemed to be the only ones who hadn’t and we always wondered when it would be our turn to visit New York for the first time. Well, we finally did it! Folks, we have to be honest here. It was so disap...haha! Obviously, am joking, we had an unbelievably brilliant time. Our expectations were built up for so many years watching American T.V. shows and movies, they were as high as the Empire State. Yet still, New York blew our minds! It was a trip we never even dreamed of. New York was always on a bucket list but kind of beyond reach, given our not-so-flush travel budget. Our dreams came true in the form of a photography competition hosted by Trover. Neil entered his beautiful drone shot of Lough Hyne, in County Cork, Ireland and won. The prize was $1500 in travel vouchers for Expedia and, oh my, did we make the best use of them! Here’s Neil’s winning photo that helped us to visit New York for the first time and our excited faces on the first night.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. By using affiliate links, we earn a small commission when you click through / book a room or tour / buy a product, etc. Don't worry - you don't pay any extra. It's one of the ways we might make a small sum from running this website, and keep the proverbial lights on!

First impressions of New York City

Nothing we read or were told could have prepared us for the actual experience of visiting New York for the first time. If you’re from a small city that has yet to build a skyscraper, like Dublin, your eyes, brain, heart and soul will struggle to get used to the absolutely overwhelming size of everything! We’d hung around the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, the space needle in Seattle and we’d lived in Vancouver and Sydney so we were no strangers to living among the behemoths of a metropolis but New York is simply unlike anything we’d ever seen. It must be because there’s so much compacted onto the island of Manhattan, that it seems like every single bit of space is filled to the sky with stone and glass. Getting from JFK airport into the city was during rush hour traffic and it took well over an hour but our first impression of the city was a sight we will never forget. Cresting a hill on the Queens Midtown Expressway, the Manhattan skyline rose up against the night sky before us, sparkling as if replacing the absent stars with the cables of New York’s beautiful bridges draped like pretty little string lights across the East River. It seemed like we were driving into a photo but the top of the Chrysler building and the Empire State grew taller, as if to say, “yes, you really are in New York”. We simply couldn’t stop saying “Wow”! That feeling of pure and utter excitement stayed with us long after our trip was over.

Planning an itinerary for New York City

When Neil found out he won the competition, we found ourselves, having been to so many iconic and beautiful destinations around the world, at last, planning a visit to New York for the first time. Our flights with Aer Lingus and accommodation in Pod 51 Hotel in Midtown East were covered by the vouchers and we just had to fill in the rest. To be honest, when we started planning, we began by picking out attractions, photography locations and viewpoints but ended up leaning more towards finding places to fill our bellies with delicious food! We didn’t plan a strict itinerary for ourselves but we made sure we knew when and where we were going to eat and we’re glad we did! A valuable tip we’ve learned about planning a city trip, and we highly recommend it for anyone who plans to visit New York for the first time, is use Google Maps. We downloaded an offline map of New York from Google Maps onto our phones and saved all the well-researched restaurants and cafés as favourites (pink love hearts) and all the sightseeing as ‘want to go’ (green flags). It made it a lot easier to find something at a glance, wherever we found ourselves on one of our many wanderings around the city. Turning on our data in the States would have cost us a fortune so having a live map without having to be connected to the internet was invaluable.

Getting around New York City

The most important lesson we learned, and for anyone who plans to visit New York for the first time is to get a 7-day MetroCard. Even if you’re only there for 2 or 3 days, it will absolutely pay for itself many times over and you’ll get around much quicker. Our city breaks are almost always based on us walking everywhere but we were completely unprepared for the sheer size and scale of Manhattan, let alone the other boroughs of New York (JFK is about 12 times bigger than the suburb we grew up in!). It was a hard-learned lesson. Our first few days were going to be broken up by an overnight trip to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow (an hour north of the city), so we thought a 7-day MetroCard would be a waste, given that it has to be used consecutively. Walking all day around Manhattan, we thought, “surely we’ll see it all on foot”. How wrong we were!




Finding our feet and almost losing them to New York

On our first day, our goal was to head over to Bibble & Sip first (for their addictive Earl Grey Tea-infused Banana Bread and creamy flat whites) and then walk generally south towards Chinatown, with some diversions on the way. We got as far as Washington Square Park and realised we were way too ambitious, considering we also had to walk back to our hotel. New York is huge, it’s loud and it can drain you if you’re not prepared. We were out of the hotel from around 8 am to 11 pm and walked approximately 13 km. We walked the feet off ourselves on our first day but it’s not something we can really complain about. Just rambling and zig-zagging our way south, allowed us to absorb the sound of the city, picking out the unmistakable New Yorker dialect from passers by and the multitude of migrant languages, amid the legendary hectic cacophony of New York traffic and wailing sirens.







Even though we were exhausted and jet lagged, the city had us enraptured and we just couldn’t stop wandering. With mouths agape at the impossibly tall skyscrapers, the huge trucks honking at bright yellow taxis, fire escapes on red brick buildings, steam rising out of the streets, the pair of us were giddy and giggling (well, Orla was the one giggling) our way down every street, feeling like everywhere we stepped we were in a movie (we even found Zoltar from the movie, ‘Big’). Our feet were worn off us so of course a couple of our rest stops just had to include a seat on a stoop!








New York’s huge portions - two lunches for the price of one

People at home had warned us about New York-sized food portions but we were still amazed at the amount of meat that deli-counter staff could squeeze between two bits of bread! Katz Deli was recommended by absolutely everyone we knew who’d been to New York but it didn’t appeal to us. Especially because of its popularity, we didn’t fancy the idea of queuing for a long time just to get a sandwich. Instead we stumbled upon random deli counters and they more than satisfied us. In Bistro Market Place on West 24th Street I sampled my first Reuben (Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese and Russian Dressing) and I was sold! Neil isn’t a fan of corned beef at all but I grew up eating it for dinner. It was ridiculously big for one sitting so I ended up keeping half for the following day’s lunch. This became a regular money-saving trick throughout our trip and we used our windowsill outside our hotel room to keep food cold overnight.


Pancakes, picnics and pizza in New York

Eating out isn’t cheap in New York but we quickly learned how to save a little bit of money here and there. Near our hotel, 1st and 2nd Avenues had plenty of corner delis to buy the makings of a picnic lunch and it’s also where we discovered our favourite New York slice at Sofia Pizza Shoppe. We tried quite a few, even some dollar slices (plenty of these around the city for when you’re really broke) but this was by far the best. Perfectly thin base with crispy crusts and a golden ratio of spicy pepperoni to cheese won the pizza competition hands down. In our humble opinion, it was even better than the famous Prince Street Pizza in Little Italy. In Williamsburgh, we stumbled across Vinnies where Neil fulfilled a childhood dream of ordering from the same pizza place as The Turtles!

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The best time to see wildflowers bloom in The Burren, Ireland
More to County Clare than the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are among Ireland’s top attractions but head further inland to the east side of the Burren and you’ll find a gorgeous display of wildflowers, somehow thriving in the limestone rock of this most unusual landscape. From a distance, it’s like you’ve landed on the moon when you approach Burren National Park. The rolling hills of grey, stone folds in the landscape, hide a precious bounty of exquisite flowers which are at their most vibrant in spring. Arctic alpine blossoms, delicate Mediterranean orchids and deep blue spring gentians are among the vast array of unique blossoms that are sprinkled all over the karst environment.





When and where to stay in The Burren, Ireland

Spring is the best time to see the wildflowers bloom in the Burren and more particularly, the month of May, is absolutely perfect. It’s yet another reason why Ireland is a fantastic destination for off-season travel. In May, the Burren wildflowers are at their best, the sun starts to make an appearance and the air is a little warmer. We’ve often gone camping in May to celebrate Orla’s birthday and we’ve always been lucky with the weather, even enjoying a dip in the ocean along the Wild Atlantic Way. Our trip to the east side of the Burren was no exception and we started with a couple of nights in Clare’s Rock Hostel, in Carran. Peaceful sleeps, a friendly, helpful host and a pub with lovely food within walking distance are just some of the highlights of this superb hostel. The kitchen is fully equipped, if you prefer to cook, and there’s loads of walking to do nearby. Just head out the door and you find yourself in a walker’s paradise. We took in the local Carran loop walk, an easy way-marked trail that brings you to a hidden ruin of a 12th Century church. A happy dog followed us most of the way, seemingly keeping us safe along the lush green trail.








Walking in Burren National Park

Seeking out the wildflowers, we headed for Mullaghmore Crossroads in the Burren National Park. From here, there are tons of options for hikes and short loop walks of various levels of difficulty and they are all colour coded so they’re very easy to follow. The carpet of wildflowers we found on the White Route (Nature Trail) captivated us for more than an hour even though it’s only a 1.5km loop. It’s where we decided to have a little picnic so we could just sit and enjoy the multi-coloured beauty of spring surrounding us.




Lough Avalla Farm Loop Walk

It was a glorious day to explore the winding 8 km Lough Avalla Farm Loop walk. It’s only a short distance from the crossroads and it was definitely an easier option than hiking to the top of  Mullaghmore in the hot sun (our original plan). At the trail head the landowner had helpfully left walking sticks all made from the local hazel wood for us walkers. They were lovely souvenirs to bring home and use time and again on our walks.



Magical woodlands and fairy springs

The holy well at the beginning of the walk is like a spring from a fairy tale, with cups on hand for anyone wishing to cure their ills or to simply enjoy the cool, fresh, water.  Every part of the walk feels magic and secret. Whatever time you set aside for the walk, double it, especially if you have a camera! The flowers that the Burren is famous for are in abundance and, every step you take, brings you to a new species you never imagined would be found in Ireland.







After what seems like a journey through a hidden, parallel universe where time stood still in among the old hazel forests, the trail climbs up and out onto the limestone ground, following old stone walls, where there are sweeping views across the lunar landscape of the Burren.





  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Why Ireland’s stunning North West is the best for off-season travelIreland’s unexplored North West

It’s about time we talked about the North West of Ireland. It’s clear from our previous posts we’re quite fond of the South West of the country! However, we’ve had several trips to Donegal, Sligo and Mayo on the Northern section of the Wild Atlantic Way, always during the off-season, and absolutely loved it. We’ve hiked in the rain, frolicked in glorious Spring sunshine on remote, pristine beaches, snuggled beside cozy pub fires and stood beside the graves of Ireland’s ancient Royals. This part of the country gets less attention than the famous sights down on the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, the Lakes of Killarney or the Cliffs of Moher but it deserves more. We have been drawn to its wild and rugged character over the years and a recent trip has reawakened our thirst to explore it further. Here’s what we experienced on our travels in Ireland’s North West and why we think it’s the best for off-season travel.

Spring camping in Donegal


For 3 years we kept returning to our favourite camping spot in Donegal and each time was a soul-nourishing, rejuvenating escape from everyday life. Our first time to find this piece of paradise was Neil’s first time in Donegal. I hadn’t been back to Annagry, the local village, since I was a teenager attending a Gaeltacht, for 3 weeks one summer. It’s a way for school kids to practice the Irish language in a setting where only Irish is spoken (read about our trip to a Gaeltacht area in Kerry), and Gaeltacht areas can be packed full of teenagers in the summer months. Just beyond Annagry is Donegal Airport, voted one of the world’s most scenic landings. It’s positioned on a long peninsula behind the dunes of Carrickfinn Beach and at the end of this peninsula are jewel-like hidden coves with soft grass, perfect for a little tent to nestle in. The water is crystal clear, refreshing (it’s cold if you’re not used to North Atlantic swims) and perfect for a skinny-dip after a long walk. In spring, the dunes are adorned with tiny colourful flowers and we always have Mount Errigal (Donegal’s highest peak) as our ‘back garden’ view from the tent. The beaches around here are very popular in summer but in spring, you get them all to yourself and the weather is fine for camping!








Donegal in Winter

Donegal is probably the wildest and most remote of Ireland’s counties as it bears the brunt of the North Atlantic storms. It really feels like the edge of the world when you stand above the crashing waves and face the biting wind. But if you’re wrapped up nice and warm and, with a good pair of hiking boots on, there’s nothing more invigorating than a brisk winter walk, breathing in some of the freshest air on the planet!

Narin and Inishkeel Island

We’d normally associate the Caribbean-like beaches of Narin and Portnoo with summer sunshine but this time we arrived in January and we had a local tip to walk out to Inishkeel Island when the tide was out. The weather was a mix of sunshine and navy-grey storm clouds sending sheets of drizzle across the bay and as we crossed the wet sand, the biggest, brightest rainbow we ever saw arced over our heads. We just had to stop and take lots of photos!

Beware of Bull

As we got closer to the island, the tide hadn’t fully retreated so we had to take our shoes and socks off and wade in for the final few yards. The water was cold but not bone-chilling and we were proud to note our first Atlantic dip of the year in Winter! We marked where we had crossed and timed our return for low tide. Tiptoeing our way across the rocks on the beach, we dried off our feet in the fresh grass and put our boots back on. As we headed around the shore towards an old ruin, we were greeted with the signs, “Beware of Bull” and “You better hope you can cross the field in 10 because the bull can do it in 9!”


6th Century ruins

The island was the site for a monastic settlement founded by Saint Conall Caol in the 6th Century and the remains of the early Christian church he founded, although weathered, are clearly visible. Legend has it that the church was built on the resting place of the last druid in Ireland. It’s common in Ireland for ancient Gaelic sites of worship to be re-purposed and replaced with Christian monuments in an effort to stamp out the pagan religious practices of the time. We explored the ruins for a few minutes before heading off across the island, taking care to keep the bull in sight, just in case! Watching the weather change and roll inland across the waves, we stopped for plenty of epic photos, not bothered by the wind and rain. It was such spectacular scenery.





A dip in the North Atlantic Ocean in January

We were on the island for about an hour when we turned back to shore to make sure we didn’t miss low tide. Trying not to run so as not to alert the bull, we got to the gate that lead onto the beach and realised the tide was rapidly making its return. We had to disrobe while running towards the beach and we could see the water was much higher than when we had crossed earlier. Wading into the cold Atlantic, we had to keep our clothes and gear, especially Neil’s camera gear, high above our heads as some of the waves threatened to reach above our waistlines. Off in the distance, on the mainland, there were people watching us and they must have thought, “idiots coming on holiday up here and not knowing how tides work!”. It was an unexpected dip into the ocean in January but we survived and it really wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be. We got dressed again back in the car and looked forward to a hot shower!





Glenveagh National Park

Our visit to Glenveagh National Park wasn’t quite so dramatic but the scenery certainly was.  In Winter, there’s virtually nobody around which only enhances Donegal’s reputation as wild and remote. With the Derryveagh Mountains dominating the skyline and reflected in the park’s lovely lakes, it’s a hiker’s paradise but our visit was short. Neil had a photoshoot in Letterkenny later in the afternoon so we just took a loop walk along the lakeside near the visitor’s centre. It was a very slow walk as we just couldn’t take our eyes off the scenery. The mountains played hide and seek between low hanging rain clouds and the sun sent sparkles across the lake. A lonely tree became Neil’s focus for a long exposure shot and before we knew it the time had flown by on us.

We knew we wanted to catch the rest of the daylight at Dunlewey Church, which is down a steep valley sheltered by Errigal Mountain. We have yet to see Errigal in the snow (we just missed it by a week on our last trip) and as soon as we do there will be more epic photos added to this post!



Sligo in Autumn

Sligo has stunning stretches of coastline. It’s now a mecca for pro-surfers from all over the world and they have the mighty Benbulbin as a spectacular backdrop for the beaches at Strandhill, Rosses Point and Mullaghmore.

At Strandhill beach you can warm your hands around a hot chocolate or a hand roasted coffee at the gorgeous Shells Café & Bakery. They have a delicious and extensive menu if you’re hungry or there’s freshly baked sweet treats for a quick sugar rush. We spent ages admiring all the unique, locally made crafts in their shop and gallery while downing flat whites and gooey brownies. It’s a fantastic selection with some great gift ideas.



..
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Travel photography in Iceland during the winter How I came to photograph Iceland in the winter

Iceland is one of those countries that is a mecca for travel and landscape photographers. I have been looking at photos of Iceland for years and wishing to just get there and see, firsthand, the locations of those iconic images, let alone be given the freedom to photograph them myself. So I must start with a massive thanks to Brendan Van Son and Ivan Thor without whom I would never have been given this amazing opportunity. Let me set the stage for you. I am part of a fantastic photography group on Facebook that was set up by Brendan (I encourage you all to join if you are not already part of it!). Recently Brendan reached 100K followers on his YouTube channel, and to celebrate, he did a give-away every day for 10 days. On the 9th day, the short notice give-away was to go to Iceland and assist Ivan with scouting for future Iceland photography trips. Lo and behold, it was my name that was chosen! I couldn’t believe it! I spent about 10 minutes just walking around in a little circle not knowing what to think! I was floored!

And away we go, Dublin to Iceland

I left Dublin in the afternoon and because Iceland is so close to Ireland, it was a very easy and short flight, only about 2 hours and 10 minutes or so. I had been in touch with Ivan before I left and he had arranged to collect me from the airport which was very kind of him. As I walked through the arrival gate I was greeted with a warm smile and a firm handshake from Ivan. I think it is safe to say that we hit it off right away. We had plenty in common and LOADS to talk about. Ivan is also a professional photographer, so it was great to be able to talk shop and geek out over gear etc. Ivan’s two kids were there too, his eldest son and daughter. These two were such a pleasure to meet and spend time with!

Photographing right off the plane

Ivan had talked about the kind of itinerary we had planned and I must say it all sounded amazing! Spoiler alert...it was! On the way to the cabin that Ivan had booked for us we stopped at a well known Instagram favourite, Strankarkirkja Church. The sky was ablaze with golden light as the sun set behind it. If this was the standard of things to come, then I was in my happy place!

This scene had such a big dynamic range that I decided to shoot three bracketed exposures. Being a commercial/architectural photographer in Dublin, I was naturally drawn to put the church in the center of the frame and keep the lines straight. The contrast between the cold blue of the foreground and the golden hue of the sky, when blended together, created this striking image.

The start of something beautiful in Iceland

We continued on to our destination and got to know each other more. When we arrived, I was blown away at the location of the cabin. Tucked under the sheltered embrace of a mountain, it was a perfect place of peace and tranquility. Oh, and it had a hot tub filled with geothermal spring water! We used this every evening to relax and enjoy the clear, starry sky above us.

Pushing through the cold and ice to Hjalparfoss

The following day, Ivan had planned an adventure for us that would involve driving into the highlands a bit. First things first though, we got the car totally stuck in the snow. It was pretty funny and fair play to the two Lithuanian lads that were working on a nearby cabin, who rolled in with their beast of a jeep and pulled our own out of the trench we found ourselves in. Having been rescued, we headed to Hjalparfoss waterfall and it was a beauty. This partially frozen hidden gem was truly a sight to behold. Travelling to Iceland in the winter is beset by its own challenges and the cold is the biggest. The day was cold anyway but when the wind blew, Holy Moly, I thought I was going to be cut in two.



Even as prepared as I was, with layers of clothes, the cold still found its way to penetrate my armour. Remember when I said it can get cold while photographing Dublin? Well, I had no idea how cold things could truly get. The walk from the car was simple enough but the wind was blowing and the cold air battered every inch of me as we pushed through. Taking a shortcut, we headed downhill and we saw it then, frozen in time, and surrounded by ice and snow. It was such a fantastic experience to get the chance to see a waterfall not too many people get to see while on their trips to Iceland.

For me, there was a natural composition for this image and that was using the fallen trees in the foreground and framing the waterfall in the back. I had a very limited filter system - all I had was a screw-in 10-stop ND filter. I popped this on and gave myself a long enough exposure at 2.5 seconds to smooth out the water, both in the river, and the waterfall itself.

The walk back to the car was tough to say the least. As I climbed the hill I felt my lungs burn with the cold. I had never felt anything like it. As we have said on so many blog posts here, we are not the fittest fiddles under the sun, so I found this a challenge. Thankfully the hard part was over and the last leg of the walk was on the flat but walking in snow is like walking in sand. It just saps the energy spent in every step. Needless to say we were all pretty bushwhacked after this excursion so we thought we would head back to the cabin to relax for the day, and of course, soak in the hot tub. Just even getting to drive around Iceland in winter is amazing. The landscape has something majestic to show you around every corner.

Photographing some of the Icons of Iceland

The following day we awoke good early so we could make the most of the day, and what a day it was. Ivan’s thinking was, “You can’t come to Iceland without seeing Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss”. To which I responded “That’s okay with me Ivan, you lead the way!” These two waterfalls are very famous and very close to each other so it makes for very easy viewing.



The first main stop along the South Coast road is Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall offers visitors a very unique perspective with an accessible trail behind it. Its best times for viewing are early in the morning and at sunset. The sun rises from behind the mountain and casts its light on the landscape beyond. Being behind the waterfall in the morning is ideal, while sunset provides the golden light on the falls themselves. Unfortunately, with the snow and ice, the path behind was closed but we made the most of it any way. This location has a second waterfall, Gljúfrafoss, within walking distance, and is less crowded. The epicness of it is, is that you have to walk up stream into a cave to get to it. It's not too far but in freezing conditions, the “stepping stones” were sometimes iced over as the rushing torrent of water flowed fast. Each step must be carefully calculated or else you are going to have a cold, wet rest of your day. When you make it through the ice water you are greeted with a magnificent waterfall. There is a very iconic shot to be taken here but the big rock was covered in ice so we braved the spray and stood in front of the waterfall to capture some great shots! #doitforthegram







This waterfall, being so high, I shot it vertically. Using a ND filter, we were able to slow down the shutter enough to smooth out the water, but give us a fast enough shutter speed, so the subject matter, me, was still sharp. We got soaked but it was such fun and worth every second.


After we tentatively made our way back out of the mouth of the cave we stopped to take a few shots of the main attraction. There can be lots of tourists here at the best of times so the clone stamp will be your friend if you come here to photograph it.


A journey to find a hidden waterfall

After this waterfall we headed for Ivan’s secret waterfall (he really likes waterfalls!). I can’t divulge the location or the name of it as it’s on private property and you have to be in the know to be allowed go here. You have to hike your way in through the canyon. During the winter,..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Find ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ in County Kerry, Ireland

Kerry is one of Ireland’s most spectacular counties for scenery and no matter how many times we visit, we’re blown away by its beauty. It’s known as ‘The Kingdom’ for good reason and not just because of the lovely lakes of Killarney National Park and the, now famous, Skellig Islands. Ireland’s tallest peak, Carrantuohill, lies among its majestic MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range, while mysterious Mount Brandon guards the Dingle Peninsula and the popular Slea Head coastal drive. National Geographic once tipped the Dingle Peninsula to be ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ and maybe it is! It certainly keeps calling us back and it always will. Our latest visit was a long one, lucky for us, so we returned to some of our favourite spots and discovered some new ones. Neil's family took their holidays here and we got the chance to meet up with them and show off some of our 'local knowledge'!

Ireland's Kingdom of Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way - YouTube
Irish speaking community

At the end of our trip to County Cork, we decided to head straight to our most beloved area in Ireland, An Clochán (Cloghane) and Brandon, on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. We find ourselves returning every year, no matter what the weather, to this tiny Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) community tucked in at the foot of Mount Brandon. Irish traditions still have their place here with regular music sessions in the local pubs, celebrations and a parade at Lughnasa (the Gaelic festival of the harvest) and of course everyone still speaks Irish fluently. Gaeltacht communities are few and far between in Ireland so it’s lovely to hear the language around us as part of daily life and to practice what little of it we have left in our heads. Here’s some handy phrases you can show off to the locals when you visit:


Dia dhuit (deeya gwit) - How are you?

Go Raibh Míle Maith Agat (Guh rev meela mahagut) - Thank you very much

Le do thoil (leh duh hull) - Please

Slán (Slawn) - Goodbye

Sláinte (Slawntya) - Cheers

Cá bhfuil an siopa (Caw will on shoppa) - Where is the shop?

Cá bhfuil an leithreas (Caw will on Lehris) - Where is the toilet?

Ba mhaith liom pionta Guinness, le do thoil (ba wah lum pyunta Guinness, leh duh hull) - I would like a pint of Guinness, please

Campsite by the ocean

When we first arrived, the weather was wet and windy. We were feeling the need for a hot shower and a bed after our few nights camping in Cork so we were delighted to get a last minute cancellation in one of our favourite hostels in Ireland, Mount Brandon Hostel. The welcome we always receive from Mary is something special. Mary is a kind soul, an extraordinary host and a well-spring of local knowledge and the hostel itself is excellent. It’s very popular with hikers and families, especially during the summer months so on this occasion we only managed to secure one night. Mary kindly offered for us to come back to the hostel any time we needed to cook or sit somewhere comfortable to work on our laptops. We made enquiries at O’Connors Bar & Guesthouse, a few doors down, who had recently started offering camp facilities in the field behind their pub. We booked a pitch for the following three nights and picked a spot right at the edge beside the sea. We were happy little campers, knowing we’d be well fed and well looked after by the lovely staff at O’Connors.





Ireland’s highest mountain pass

Once the tent was set up we headed for Dingle. The route to Dingle from this side of the peninsula is up and over the Conor Pass, one of Ireland's most scenic drives and the highest mountain pass in Ireland. It requires patience and a head for heights because a long section of it is one-way with steep drops off the side, down into the valley below. In order for the traffic to flow, it's best if everyone drives slowly and uses the little lay-bys to enable cars to pass each other. On clear, sunny days, the views (and the road) really are breathtaking. About halfway towards Dingle it’s possible to pull in off the road and enjoy the waterfall pouring from Pedlar’s Lake. We climbed up to the lake high above it and took a break up there for some even better views and photos. It’s well worth the climb and next time we might even bring our swimwear for a quick dip.






Delicious coffee in Dingle

Once we got to Dingle, we went on the hunt for some nice coffee and we couldn't have picked a better place. Bean in Dingle are the first and only coffee roasters on the Dingle Peninsula so they know how to satisfy any coffee-lover's desire! Grab a coffee to go or savour it with one of their homemade brownies and sit by the window. This was our saving grace as the weather had turned again and it was really wet outside.

When the weather changes…

With our shopping done, we headed straight back over the Conor Pass. The difference a couple of hours makes to the weather in Ireland is nuts! Thick, heavy cloud had descended on the route and there was near-zero visibility on the road. There was only one thing for it when we got back to our tent - the pub! Sometimes it's not so bad if the weather drives you indoors! We settled in O'Connors Bar and got some work done on the laptops with one or two pints (Orla likes her Guinness and can wholeheartedly say they do a very good pint!), followed by a lovely meal and a few more drinks chatting with the staff and the locals.

We then had to run through the rain back to our tent and snuggled up for the night listening to the weather getting worse. By the time the morning came, it was nearly gale-force! Here's a little video of our poor tent getting battered!

The joys of camping in Ireland - YouTube
Hiking to new heights

Thankfully, as the morning went on the wind died down and out came the sun - phew! We were excited to see blue skies and thought we'd have a look for a small hike to do for the afternoon. Driving towards the end of the peninsula, we took a turn that was signposted for a grotto and found a few cars parked at a trail head. We decided to chance it and see where it would lead. Thinking that it was just a small trail leading to the grotto we took it slow enough, stopping to look around at the views and then we bumped into some hikers who told us it was actually the pilgrimage trail to the top of Mount Brandon.

Now, as we've made plain in previous posts, we love the outdoors but we're not super fit so we thought we'll just go as far as we can. There was no pressure on us to actually climb the beast! We got a lot further than we expected though, even if our pace was slowed to a crawl at the really steep bits. I actually thought we might even make it to the top but we came to a steep gully on the side of the mountain and the final leg of the hike was revealed. There was absolutely no way we could tackle it! There's a cross that marks the very top of the mountain and even looking up at that made us dizzy!

We met a couple from the Netherlands on their way back down from the top and they said they had started it very early in the morning so we'd be mad to try and make it to the top and back down before dark. We were delighted we had that excuse rather than us having heart palpitations! (Note to ourselves: get fit in 2019!)


  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Find ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ in County Kerry, Ireland

Kerry is one of Ireland’s most spectacular counties for scenery and no matter how many times we visit, we’re blown away by its beauty. It’s known as ‘The Kingdom’ for good reason and not just because of the lovely lakes of Killarney National Park and the, now famous, Skellig Islands. Ireland’s tallest peak, Carrantuohill, lies among its majestic MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range, while mysterious Mount Brandon guards the Dingle Peninsula and the popular Slea Head coastal drive. National Geographic once tipped the Dingle Peninsula to be ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ and maybe it is! It certainly keeps calling us back and it always will. Our latest visit was a long one, lucky for us, so we returned to some of our favourite spots and discovered some new ones. Neil's family took their holidays here and we got the chance to meet up with them and show off some of our 'local knowledge'!

Ireland's Kingdom of Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way - YouTube
Irish speaking community

At the end of our trip to County Cork, we decided to head straight to our most beloved area in Ireland, An Clochán (Cloghane) and Brandon, on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. We find ourselves returning every year, no matter what the weather, to this tiny Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) community tucked in at the foot of Mount Brandon. Irish traditions still have their place here with regular music sessions in the local pubs, celebrations and a parade at Lughnasa (the Gaelic festival of the harvest) and of course everyone still speaks Irish fluently. Gaeltacht communities are few and far between in Ireland so it’s lovely to hear the language around us as part of daily life and to practice what little of it we have left in our heads. Here’s some handy phrases you can show off to the locals when you visit:


Dia dhuit (deeya gwit) - How are you?

Go Raibh Míle Maith Agat (Guh rev meela mahagut) - Thank you very much

Le do thoil (leh duh hull) - Please

Slán (Slawn) - Goodbye

Sláinte (Slawntya) - Cheers

Cá bhfuil an siopa (Caw will on shoppa) - Where is the shop?

Cá bhfuil an leithreas (Caw will on Lehris) - Where is the toilet?

Ba mhaith liom pionta Guinness, le do thoil (ba wah lum pyunta Guinness, leh duh hull) - I would like a pint of Guinness, please

Campsite by the ocean

When we first arrived, the weather was wet and windy. We were feeling the need for a hot shower and a bed after our few nights camping in Cork so we were delighted to get a last minute cancellation in one of our favourite hostels in Ireland, Mount Brandon Hostel. The welcome we always receive from Mary is something special. Mary is a kind soul, an extraordinary host and a well-spring of local knowledge and the hostel itself is excellent. It’s very popular with hikers and families, especially during the summer months so on this occasion we only managed to secure one night. Mary kindly offered for us to come back to the hostel any time we needed to cook or sit somewhere comfortable to work on our laptops. We made enquiries at O’Connors Bar & Guesthouse, a few doors down, who had recently started offering camp facilities in the field behind their pub. We booked a pitch for the following three nights and picked a spot right at the edge beside the sea. We were happy little campers, knowing we’d be well fed and well looked after by the lovely staff at O’Connors.






Ireland’s highest mountain pass

Once the tent was set up we headed for Dingle. The route to Dingle from this side of the peninsula is up and over the Conor Pass, one of Ireland's most scenic drives and the highest mountain pass in Ireland. It requires patience and a head for heights because a long section of it is one-way with steep drops off the side, down into the valley below. In order for the traffic to flow, it's best if everyone drives slowly and uses the little lay-bys to enable cars to pass each other. On clear, sunny days, the views (and the road) really are breathtaking. About halfway towards Dingle it’s possible to pull in off the road and enjoy the waterfall pouring from Pedlar’s Lake. We climbed up to the lake high above it and took a break up there for some even better views and photos. It’s well worth the climb and next time we might even bring our swimwear for a quick dip.






Delicious coffee in Dingle

Once we got to Dingle, we went on the hunt for some nice coffee and we couldn't have picked a better place. Bean in Dingle are the first and only coffee roasters on the Dingle Peninsula so they know how to satisfy any coffee-lover's desire! Grab a coffee to go or savour it with one of their homemade brownies and sit by the window. This was our saving grace as the weather had turned again and it was really wet outside.

When the weather changes…

With our shopping done, we headed straight back over the Conor Pass. The difference a couple of hours makes to the weather in Ireland is nuts! Thick, heavy cloud had descended on the route and there was near-zero visibility on the road. There was only one thing for it when we got back to our tent - the pub! Sometimes it's not so bad if the weather drives you indoors! We settled in O'Connors Bar and got some work done on the laptops with one or two pints (Orla likes her Guinness and can wholeheartedly say they do a very good pint!), followed by a lovely meal and a few more drinks chatting with the staff and the locals.

We then had to run through the rain back to our tent and snuggled up for the night listening to the weather getting worse. By the time the morning came, it was nearly gale-force! Here's a little video of our poor tent getting battered!

The joys of camping in Ireland - YouTube
Hiking to new heights

Thankfully, as the morning went on the wind died down and out came the sun - phew! We were excited to see blue skies and thought we'd have a look for a small hike to do for the afternoon. Driving towards the end of the peninsula, we took a turn that was signposted for a grotto and found a few cars parked at a trail head. We decided to chance it and see where it would lead. Thinking that it was just a small trail leading to the grotto we took it slow enough, stopping to look around at the views and then we bumped into some hikers who told us it was actually the pilgrimage trail to the top of Mount Brandon.

Now, as we've made plain in previous posts, we love the outdoors but we're not super fit so we thought we'll just go as far as we can. There was no pressure on us to actually climb the beast! We got a lot further than we expected though, even if our pace was slowed to a crawl at the really steep bits. I actually thought we might even make it to the top but we came to a steep gully on the side of the mountain and the final leg of the hike was revealed. There was absolutely no way we could tackle it! There's a cross that marks the very top of the mountain and even looking up at that made us dizzy!

We met a couple from the Netherlands on their way back down from the top and they said they had started it very early in the morning so we'd be mad to try and make it to the top and back down before dark. We were delighted we had that excuse rather than us having heart palpitations! (Note to ourselves: get fit in 2019!)

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
How to have the best 4 days in Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal stole our hearts! The city of Porto is picture-perfect and it’s a photographer’s dream. Neil expertly captured its pretty palette of colours and graceful architecture during our 4 days here. He had been before, creating content for Ryanair, and he couldn’t wait to explore it with me. He predicted correctly that I’d love Porto and that I might even prefer it to Lisbon. Built on the steep slopes of the winding, Douro river, it’s great exercise exploring it on foot but there are funiculars and lifts for extra help. Its enviable position offers stunning viewpoints overlooking the red-tiled roofs of the old buildings, tumbling down narrow streets to the riverside. I think because of this, and the fact that Porto feels so relaxed and chilled out, it beats Lisbon’s larger and busier vibe. It’s definitely worth your while to spend at least 4 days exploring this beautiful city.

How to get to Porto from Lisbon

We tagged our 4 days in Porto onto the end of our favourite, and by now, regular house sit in Portugal. We got the bus to Lisbon and headed for Oriente Train Station, a major transport hub for the city, which is conveniently connected to the huge shopping mall, Centro Vasco da Gama to grab a bite before a trip. Train travel is definitely our favourite way of getting around, if we can manage it, so we were delighted with the opportunity to see the Portuguese countryside on our way up North. It only cost €15 each (if you book early you get the best discounts) and took just over two and a half hours. It absolutely beats the dead zone of airport security and boarding gate queues! As we approached Porto, the train crossed the Ponte de São João bridge giving us a fantastic view down the river towards the city, bathed in golden sunshine.

One of the best views of Dom Luís I Bridge

We arrived at the Airbnb apartment after a short 15-minute walk from the Metro Station and our friendly host, Inez, met us at the door. It turned out that Inez and two others only use the place as a studio for their design company so we’d be the only ones sleeping there. They had the fridge stocked with beer and told us to help ourselves! We ended up having the entire apartment to ourselves for the 4 days as they weren’t around. We settled in, got the camera gear organised and then went for a walk towards the river. We found ourselves on a steep descent, down winding stairs with one of the best views of the iconic Luís I Bridge. The ornate ironworks of the huge bridge, framed by the lovely old buildings rising either side of the steps is the best 'first glimpse' of Porto you can get. Just head for Muralha Fernandina, a huge medieval fortress overlooking the river and go straight down from there. Keep the easier ride on the Guindais Funicular for your trip back up.







Best wine with a view in Porto

We walked along the waterfront of the Ribeira, the tourist hotspot of the city, and found Wine Quay Bar to indulge in some wine and tapas. It's popular for good reason as their outdoor seating is right by the wall above the quays. Tremendous views of the bridge and across to Vila Nove de Gaia on the other side, paired with gorgeous wine and excellent tapas, might mean it’s a little pricier but it’s so worth it! We sat here for a good while planning our days ahead and trying new Portuguese wines and cheese.



Local Bars in Porto

FC Porto had just won Portugal’s Primeira Liga so the streets were filled with happy soccer fans screaming “PORTOOOOOOO!” and the blue and white team colours were flying everywhere. We slowly walked back towards our Airbnb and found a huge queue outside a little corner cafe at Jardim de São Lázaro (the city’s oldest park). Rather than join the queue of football fans outside that night, we took note of it and planned a return visit for when it was less busy. Instead we headed for a couple of bars across the road which were buzzing with students and locals all enjoying the incredibly cheap beer and lively atmosphere. This became a regular 'end-of-the-night' ritual for us and it was great to find a local hang out for a late-night drink, that felt somewhat off the beaten path.




Oldest cafe in Porto

Our next morning was kind of lazy, given our shenanigans til the wee hours the night before. We decided the best thing for us would be pancakes so we set off looking for O Diplomata. To our disappointment, it was extremely busy with a massive queue down the street outside. It was going to be an hour-long wait so we ditched that plan and let our feet take us to where ever they would. Luckily we stumbled upon Cafe Progresso, the oldest cafe in Porto and tucked into possibly equally as delicious pancakes and coffee in there. Definitely drop in here for a bite or a bica when you get to Porto. It's beautiful inside and out.





One of the best viewpoints for photos of Porto

We ambled afterwards, to Praca de Lisboa, a lovely little park for a snooze in the sun, which I did happily, while Neil took pictures of the nearby Clerigos Church.




We made our way back down to the river via Miradouro Vitória. It's probably one of the finest viewpoints for perfect Instagram shots of the city. There's nothing there but run down buildings and graffiti but there's plenty of space to set up a tripod or just sit on the wall and admire the view.

If you follow the steps down from here towards the river it's a nice walk with some good street art and lovely little alleys and old buildings. We stopped for a snack in Xico Tico, a cafe on a back street not far from the waterfront, rather than picking one of the touristy places on the tram line which looked overpriced and not so inspiring. This little place is friendly and cheap and does Brazilian snacks like Empadinha and Esfiha. We didn't get to have the caipirinhas but they’re supposed to be the best!

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview