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On the Wild Atlantic Way, 9 km west of Westport, Co Mayo, the mountain of Croagh Patrick, or ‘The Reek’ as it is called, is 764 meters high, with breathtaking views of the coast of Mayo from the summit. Regarded traditionally as a holy mountain, it is a site of major cultural and religious significance in Ireland. According to tradition, in 441 AD St Patrick spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting to bring about the conversion of the Irish to Christianity. Because of that, it has always been an important place of pilgrimage for Irish people. On the last Sunday in July, ‘Reek Sunday’, thousands of people take part in the annual pilgrimage to the summit. Many climb the mountain in their bare feet in the traditional way. Climbing the mountain is also very popular with local and international visitors, many of them active hill walkers who are taking part in a pilgrimage of a different kind. This picture is about the changing culture in Ireland as seen by these two people, each on their own different pilgrimage but sharing this special space at the summit of the mountain.
In May 2016, I spent some time taking photographs of the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin in Co Clare. Near the end of a frustrating day of low cloud and poor light, the weather started to clear from the west and I made it to the top of the cliffs in time to photograph what I could of that evening light. Working against the fading light I was totally focused on what I was doing and maybe not as aware as I should have been of other people on the Cliff Walk who were enjoying the beautiful evening. Having taken all the pictures I thought I would get in the gathering dusk, I slowed down and started to appreciate the scene and the atmosphere. That is when I was greeted by the beautiful smiles of two people who were wiser than I and, going at a different pace, had been just enjoying the magic of the evening on the Cliffs of Moher on a May evening. They smiled and I smiled back.
The Castillo de Santa Catalina was built in the city of Cadiz, in south-west Spain, after an Anglo-Dutch force sacked the city in 1596. It is a classic example of military architecture and I am sure it was very effective in its intended use as a fort and a military prison. Trees now dot the courtyard and soften the military harshness of the buildings under the dazzling sunlight of southern Spain.
The area on the shoreline that cover by the incoming tide and then uncovered when the water recedes is the borderlands that are called the intertidal zone. Twice a day the covering tide writes its own story on the sand.
Sunset is the time when the trailing edge of the sun’s disc disappears below the horizon. Atmospheric refractions distort the sun’s rays to such an extent that the sun is already below the horizon when you see the ‘sun set’. This distortion also helps create the intense orange and red colour in the sky. The reflection on the wet sand on Culleenamore beach, Co Sligo, amplifies the effect.
As in the sphere of humanity, borders are never fixed or clear cut. On either side of the North Atlantic the border between the ocean and the land can cover large areas. The difference between high and low tides can be over 16 metres as in Nova Scotia and on the Irish Atlantic coast it is between 4 and 5 metres. At Culleenamore beach, Co Sligo, the volume of water moving in and out twice daily acts like a sculptor or a wood carver in creating beautiful shapes in this border area.
After all the bustle of getting everything ready for Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day, on 26 December, when there are no commitments, is often the day to enjoy a walk in the winter weather. On a coast that faces out into the North Atlantic, north-westerly gales can bring dark, dramatic skies and shafts of sunlight can light up the ocean. Hunting for these moments of light and drama along the shore is a great way to spend a winter afternoon. You will, of course, run the risk of getting caught by the stinging rain pelting in from the ocean but there is always good company and a nice warm fire to go back to.
The autumn afternoon light filtered through the reeds on Glencar Lake, Co Sligo, together with the gentle lake water waves, takes on a special light and atmosphere.
The view of the surrounding landscape from Queen Maeve’s Cairn at the top of Knocknarea in Co Sligo is spectacular at any time of year. Early on a frosty morning in January, this landscape can reveal a story that is 6,000 years old. The first evidence for human activity in this countryside dates from 4,000 BC. Some of the large-scale communal undertakings by the people who lived here at that time can be seen in the cairns and passage tombs that dot the summits of hills and mountains in the region. While the mist obscures the imprint of the modern world in the valleys and lowlands, from hilltop to hilltop we can see what people in the Neolithic era also saw.