This adventure starts at Cardiff airport. Well, there was a long drive from North Cornwall, but I slept for most of it. I was pleasantly surprised by Cardiff airport. It is small, but not crowded. It lacked a technology specific shop, but was equipped for my mine and my girlfriends food, coffee and duty free needs. Plus, travelling from Cardiff meant that we set foot in three different countries in just a few hours. Flying with Flybe was also a good choice - professional and friendly staff and decent leg room.
When we arrived in Cork, my grandparents were waiting (they live there). First on the to do list was to fill our empty stomachs. We also had to stock up on snacks and meals before we could chill out at their farm in Drimoleague - our home for the week. Throughout the journey to the farm, we enjoyed fantastic views of never-ending fields, rolling hills and tall fur trees. I also loved the looked of all the isolated houses, ant-like to the vast landscape.
I spent a lot of time in Ireland as a kid so I was excited to see the animals again and show my girlfriend around. We made our way from field to field, from the chickens to the cows and from the horses to the donkey. The clouds were low and the landscape was stellar - it was begging to be photographed.
With my camera in my hand, I ventured out to some different fields and even down the road a little. I could've done with my tripod (so I could use a lower ISO and longer shutter speeds), but I was happy about not being restricted and weighed down.
We dedicated the next morning to catching up on sleep but, when we woke, we headed straight out to the local town of Bantry for lunch. We made time to try Guinness and drunk it in the oldest pub in town - complete with dated decor and dingy rooms, but the best beer garden EVER.
After walking around the town and the bay, we also headed up the hill to a viewpoint that looks out across Bantry. The clouds were still low, which I really liked the look of, and the mountains could be seen in the distance. There was even a bit of blue sky and sunshine, so we also walked down to a nearby waterfall when we got back to the farm. Walking through the woodland was a proper adventure and our companion (my grandparents' dog) seemed to enjoy it to. This time, I took all of my camera gear, which really was a pain to carry but it was worth it after I started to get some really cool shots. Last time I visited, I lacked a polarising filter, so I struggled to get shots that I really liked, but that wasn't the case this time.
The next morning, we woke to beautiful, blue skies. After eating lunch in Bantry again, we spent hours at a small secret beach that I found on my last trip to Ireland. Bathing in 28 degree sunshine, we laid by the shoreline on the pebbly ground. We also went in the water a few times and then moved on to a second secret beach. Here, it wasn't quite as warm but that didn't stop us from enjoying ice-lollies and fresh fruit. We even went in the sea here to. The water was crystal clear and the huge cliffs that surrounded the beach left me in awe.
The next day, we were treated to the same lush weather. Of course, I got a bit sick of it after a while because of the burning and lack of energy, so we went on a woodland walk instead of returning to the beach. At the start of the walk, we were greeted by two huge stone bridges that crossed a river we were soon to follow through the trees. We eventually came to a small, stoney beach where we jumped into the fresh, flowing water, down to the bottom of the deep river. It was the most refreshing experience of my life and I swear I have never felt better!
That evening, the clouds moved in and it rained relentlessly - stopping me from taking sunset photos. There was the opposite problem the day before, with cloudless and uninteresting skies.
The following day, we went for another walk. The main attraction of this walk is the huge boulder that sits on top of the hill. It's so heavy that it would crush anything in it's path, yet it's perched perfectly (sometimes) in the clouds. A nice breeze made the walk bearable and the clouds created some good photo opportunities. The light was really nice on the opposite mountains and the path was a simple and effective foreground.
That evening, the horses were having their hooves seen to and, the previous day, we saw a newborn calf, so we were being treated to amazing and interesting farmyard things. However, still no sunset because, yet again, it started to rain. The rain stuck around for most of the following day to, so it had to be a bit of a movie day. By the time we were done at Bantry cinema, the weather cleared up but the clouds remained. It was time for a cup of tea at a nearby cafe.
In the toilet of that cafe, I saw a photograph on the wall - a beautiful, black and white photograph. It made me keen to get out, rain or shine, with my camera. There was only a day left of the trip, so I was under pressure to create more photos to come home with. I went for a walk around the farm but nothing really took my interest. So, we headed back to our secret beach for an evening of photography.
Not much came of sunset that evening and it sure wasn't what I hoped for, but the clouds made for dramatic skies and the tide was perfect - revealing rock formations and creating fantastic white water where I needed it.
On our last full day in Ireland, we woke up early to spend the remainder of our Euros at Bantry market. It was the perfect place to find a present for my grandparents/terrific tour guides/fantastic hosts.
In the afternoon, we jumped in the car and went to Glengarriff - a village and nature reserve north of Bantry. We quickly decided whether we wanted to see seals in the bay or views in the mountains. In the end, we did both! Firstly, we caught a ferry from a beautiful natural harbour called the Blue Pool. The water was perfectly still and the reflections immediately interested me. We didn't have to wait long until the small boat picked us up. After allowing the passengers to get off, we were free to jump on board and begin the journey to Garinish Island. Although, we weren't actually planning on getting off - we just wanted to enjoy the ride and spot some seals... and we did. Lots of them in fact and even an eagle's nest high in the trees.
After the boat trip, we went on a little drive along Ken Mare road where we had amazing views of high mountains and deep valleys. Interestingly, the mountains were extremely rocky but mostly covered in grass and other greenery. What makes the area so compelling to tourists are the multiple tunnels you have to drive through (the largest is known as Caha Pass and leads you into County Kerry from County Cork). Lucky for me, there were many places to stop along the road, so I could take plenty of photos.
And that was it for the holiday. We made our way back to the farm that evening, paid the animals one last visit and packed in preparation for our flight home the next day. There could've been more sunset missions but, overall, it was a fantastic trip!