I guess that the Giant’s Causeway will always be there even if the wind and water change the surface of the rocks in the next million years. The rope bridge is also unlikely to disappear. But there is a place that won’t last long, and it fills my heart with sadness… The Dark Hedges, one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland.
Both beautiful and somewhat eerie stretch of the road was known only to the locals until the 1990s! The ancient Beech trees were planted by Stuart family in 1750. Since that time they reached up and across to each other and their entwined branches created a natural arched tunnel. There are about 150 trees left. The people who planted the trees never got to see them in their glory: Beech trees reach maturity at 150 to 200 years. The beautiful Dark Hedges trees are past maturity. They are dying.
Unfortunately I haven’t got to see all the lane, only its southern part. Even if I come another time, the place won’t be the same. There are some diseased trees that have to be felled, and also some dead branches have to be cut off for safety reasons.
There is a qualified tree surgeon appointed to preserve the archway and to meet the safety requirements, and the maintenance works will start in early September. The Bregagh road, home to the famous trees, will be closed for ten days, or for how long it takes. Also brown tourist signs are to be erected which is a great thing because at the moment there are no signs at all.
Their branches are entwined, their roots are entangled. They cannot be separated. It is one body, and if one tree dies, or it is cut down, the others will know.
The Dark Hedges came under threat a few years ago when Roads Service proposed to fell many of the trees for safety reasons. The avenue was taken over by the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and they are probably doing a good job since the trees are still standing, but that infamous green fence they put up in 2011 has raised many critics. There are hundreds of critical comments and articles about the fence all over the internet, and the words “monstrosity” and “nuts” tell you lots about the Trust and their creation.
I have read these comments, but when I walked the road no ugly fences existed for me, only the serene beauty and the timeless magic of the place, and muted sounds and colors.
It was one hour before the sunset, my favorite time, and all the photographers were getting ready. Look at them in the picture below: they will be busy removing me from their pictures in Photoshop 🙂
Looking through Google images of Dark Hedges I noticed that it is in fashion to take a picture of one’s car or bike with the Dark Hedges in background, and we too witnessed such a photo session. It is all right, but something else really annoyed me. We took the trouble to park in the parking lot and walk down the lane with our gear and the baby. The other visitors parked right in the middle, in the most picturesque place. There was even a van!
Nevertheless I got some beautiful evening light and took pictures I am happy with. The only thing I did in Photoshop was removing cars and excess of joggers 🙂
We had been there about 40 minutes, and you can see the change in the light.
The iconic trees have been featured in a popular HBO’s Game Of Thrones series, Season 2, Episode 1, representing the King’s Road.
I so hope that new saplings will be planted and Dark Hedges will live. Otherwise where would the ghost of the Grey Lady go? I didn’t see the ghost. Too many photographers are hanging around at the dusk and dawn. It could be that the Grey Lady rescheduled her appearances to the worst time for photography – the midday.
This was the first picture I took when I turned around the bend…
…and these were taken when we were leaving.
To get to the Dark Hedges: From Belfast take the M2 north, toward the town of Antrim. Driving around Antrim, take A26 toward Ballymena. About 7 miles past Ballymena look for the A44 toward The Drones/ Armoy/ Ballycastle. After about another 7 miles you pass The Drones village ( just a couple of miles before Armoy) and turn left onto the Bregagh Road. Keep going until you see a lay-by parking lot where you can park. Walk around the bend and there it is! 🙂
Hope you enjoyed this virtual trip to Northern Ireland with me: crossed the bridge, climbed the basalt rocks and walked the avenue of beautiful ancient trees. Thank you for your company! 🙂
Click on the images to enlarge them : it will take a second, they are all resized.
Photography tip of the day: Manual settings for beginners – something to start with.
Aperture: Midday, sun – f16; Any other time, sun – f11; Overcast -f8; Shade – 5.6; Dark shade – 4.5;
The lowest ISO for your camera;
Shutter speed: set it 125 and then regulate up or down.
Move on with your settings after you are comfortable with this simple advice.