A trip up North : Dark Hedges

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.

dark hedges

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.

dark hedges

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.

dark hedges

dark hedges

dark hedges

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.

dark hedges

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 🙂

dark hedges

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 🙂

dark hedges

dark hedges

We had  been there about 40 minutes, and you can see the change in the light.

dark hedges

The iconic trees have been featured in a popular HBO’s Game Of Thrones series, Season 2, Episode 1, representing the King’s Road.

game of thrones

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…

dark hedges

…and these were taken when we were leaving.

dark hedges

dark hedges

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.

yglenariff 31

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.

inese_mj_photographyHave a great day!


      1. I hope they get busy planting right away! That’s when you know that people care about the future, when they start doing things that they themselves won’t directly benefit from.

    1. Oh thank you so much! I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer, even that I have done a few nice landscapes, but I love taking photographs of the objects of nature, birds and animals. I hope to take photographs of the Northern Lights in October, but it depends on the weather, of course. I would be thrilled to have such a picture.

      1. Here’s hoping. Your gift is to just see the world through your lenses. No big deal (LOL) Anyway that’s what I see in your work and I think that is why you can take anything

  1. Glad to see you are back. I was going over your posts again and saw the tree lined lane. I bet they would look awesome in the moonlight with erie shadows etc. Anyway, stop all the worrying and take more photos. I looked back on all my prior worries and found that it didn’t help one way or the other. So, I resigned myself to a higher power and don’t worry anymore. There’s a lot less stress in my life now. CHEERS! 🙂

    1. Thank you Ron! “Higher Power”… you mean, I have to trust your Horrorscopes.. it is what you mean ?… 😉
      Cannot upload photos, it is my problem. And also… I am upset because I have a flight in a few hours…

        1. You would. The bunch of photographers you see in the pictures did annoy me. They didn’t use the parking lot but parked right in the middle of the alley, in the most beautiful place where the road looks like a ribbon. They had no idea about the place, did no research. What a sorry bunch:(

  2. Nice trees, nice shots. Even if allowed to die off, the skeletons of those trees would continue to do their job for generations. All ‘they’ need do is shove up a sign at each end “Enter at own risk” (and mean it).

  3. How beautiful and how sad that they are dying. I do hope they can save them or at least start replacing them for heritage. I have tentatively traced my ancestors to the County Antrim area in the 1700s and this makes me wonder if they’ve gone down that path among the trees. 🙂

    1. Yes Linda, most of them will die. Some trees live exceptionally long, but this avenue already has many gaps… Won’t be the same in a few years…
      It is amazing that you have got the records from 300 years back! great job! 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing all this. I love trees and these are special. It’s so nice to be able to enjoy things like this. I just got a good camera from my daughter who is up grading but still have to locate the right charger as she lost it. I can’t wait to start taking pictures again (I studied some basic photography at art college).
    I’d love to share some of these on my blog (with of course your name and site) but as you are a professional I don’t know if that would be an advertising help or an imposition?

    1. No problem, and thank you for asking! 🙂 You can sure use the images, just please link them to my blog or any other of my pages wherever you get them from. It won’t be long till you take your own stunning images, and then I will ask you for the favor of using them 🙂 Camera doesn’t matter much, you know.
      Have a nice weekend!

  5. Oh my gosh, what beautiful trees! I think the beech may just now be one of my favorites! Thanks for bringing this place to life; glad to now know of it.

  6. Oh my!! This is impressive, what a beautiful nature! And your pictures are simply breathtaking! Great post! (PS: I am not sure why I missed your post on my wordpress reader – found your post from your tweets instead of my wp reader 😦 )

    1. Thank you Indah! Same here, I am missing so many posts even that I am in the reader every day! And also, I always visit any blog who “like” my post, but wordpress doesn’t show me many of them in notifications, especially those who are not following. I feel like I am impolite… 😦

      1. It is 😦 I hope today it will be better..I am following your blog, so it was weird to miss some posts from the blogs I follow.. Hope you have a great weekend!!

  7. Inese this is a beautiful, haunting and helpful post. Thank you for sharing!

    Trees, they make me happy and make me cry. I become a rabid mama bear when the tree trimmers try to cut my trees near the power lines. In fact, I have requested (and granted) permission to have a power pole moved so that one of my trees will be left alone. My Farmer appreciates trees too, or this move would not happen.

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful area. I am sad for the trees to mature and die, but I am filled with giddy excitement to think that I am living in the time when the next trees will be planted for people to enjoy a 150+ years from now.

    Thank you for the manual setting suggestions. I typically shoot on AV, but I will be trying your manual tips soon.

    Best, Inese!!
    Emily Grace

    1. Emily Grace, great to hear from you! August is a busy month at farm, isn’t it. Thank you for reading, and I am glad you too have love for trees.
      Some of these beautiful trees might survive another hundred years. Some of them are already gone. Hope they do some planting this September to fill in the gaps.
      Glad my tips help 🙂 It is just something to start with, for the first two weeks of going manual 🙂
      My best wishes!

      1. Do you wanna join me and other folks with a grupal dashboard… I can send you an invitation and you just accept. The dashboard will appear among yours if you accept
        If you are interested, give me your name at Pinterest (I think it might be the same than the one ay Twitter, Am I right?)

        Hugs, Aquileana 😀

          1. I sent you invitations for four dashboards… You just accept the ones you want to be in, as you wish, Ok…

            Happy friday and weeekend dear Inese ❤
            Aquileana 😀

            1. Thank you, I will check out 🙂 Happy Friday dear Aquileana, and all the other days! I will be away for the weekend, talk to you next week! Hugs!

  8. My dear Inese…

    This is so mesmerizing it seems taken from a movie…

    Excellent photos and I also enjoyed the video… ❤

    A particular note on the post that totally caught my attention: the beginning…
    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.

    That could have been written by Gabriel García Márquez or a similar latin american writer, from the perspective of Magic Realism.

    I think everything is connected at the end…
    Beauty entrains (more) Beauty.

    It is always a pleasure to visit you as your posts are marvelous, my friend…

    All my very best wishes to you and yours, always,

    Aquileana 😀

    1. My dear young friend, thank you for this beautiful comment. I can imagine how busy you are, yet you find time to read and comment. That speaks a lot about your kind heart. Thank you again.
      I like what you say about beauty. Philosophers of all times discussed the concept of beauty. Would they find an old, crooked tree beautiful? I think that our emotions can make things beautiful too.
      My best wishes to you, in any aspect of your life.
      Hugs, Inese

      1. Yes Blogging and social media have become my second job, dear Inese 😛
        Your insights as regard to the concept of Beauty are touching and poetic… If you have read Marcel Proust ‘s “Swan’s way” or read Wordsworth poem “Daffodils” you will get an approach to the concept of Beauty mainly linked to our personal experiences and the way we see things…
        From a romantic experience, even sad and melancholic things might be beautiful!. I will add the link to Wordsworth poem for you to read it
        (BTW Daffodils are national symbols of Wales, did you know that?)


        Hugs and best wishes to you, Aquileana 😛

        1. Thank you for your reply and for the link! Isn’t it that only hatred and it’s derivatives don’t see beauty? Or may be also despair and fear can fail to see it sometimes… You have read so much, you know the answers 🙂 Thank you again for your amazing blog and your sweet character.

          Hugs, Inese.

          1. I think both… However during the second War World philosophers such as Walter Benjamin believed that they got to keep on writing (even poetry) as Beauty needed to prevail despite it all, the horror and the ugliness related to war.
            Beauty was seen by then and since forever as “an an ever-fixed mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken” (William Shakespeare’ Sonnet 116).
            Hugs ❤
            Aquileana 😛

    1. Thank you Andrea! How did they manage to hide this place so many years, I don’t know. 🙂 It is only 20 minutes drive from the Giant’s Causeway, and no one ever mentioned it in the tourist booklets until some 2-3 years ago. So sad that the trees are almost gone…

    1. I think the movie triggered the interest. I first went to the Northern Ireland in 2005, and before the trip I did some research on the Giant’s Causeway, the Rope bridge, National Parks and historical ruins, but I never came across any information about the Dark Hedges, even that it is only 20-30 minutes drive from the coast. People just didn’t see it as a tourist place 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing; I doubt that I will ever be able to visit. But I do recall the fuchsia on the roadsides of Ireland (the republic) from a September 2005 visit.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I guess that many places like this exist somewhere, but we don’t know where they are. I know a younger beech tree avenue, and they too look stunning.
      Have a good week!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! I don’t know how long they will stay, hopefully many visitors will enjoy their fading glory. 10 years? 5? I don’t know… 😦 Thank you again!

  10. Beautiful, have only been once to Northern Ireland to Peatlands Park – very wild – love to visit all these places, think you have to be there early hours to miss the crowds but im not sure id be so brave if its haunted

    1. They say it is haunted before the sun goes down.
      I have read not once that one hour before /one hour after the sunset is the best time for photography, so we planned our trip that way. I am happy with the results. I got the light where i like it:) To catch the morning fog would be great, I think, but to get there is too long a trip…

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