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!

A trip up North : Carrick-A-Rede

rope bridge

I can tell with certainty that every Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge visitor has this picture.  A one kilometre long  coastal walk from the car park over the high cliffs is a treat itself, but still everybody hopes to catch a distant view of the famous bridge, so they stop after each turn of the path and take a snap.

The truth is, you cannot see the bridge until you get there.

rope bridge

The Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge is a famous tourist landmark of Northern Ireland.  It connects the mainland with a small rocky island  ( “carrick “goes for a “rock” in Gaelic ).

If you expect an Indiana Jones-ish experience, you will be disappointed. The bridge is not too long; it won’t break up; it won’t swing and toss you in the waves. No one ever fell over the rope handrails, but there were plenty of tourists who just couldn’t make it back… No, they don’t get picked up by a helicopter as I hoped when I first crossed the bridge in 2005. The miserable are seated in a boat and ferried off to the mainland. No, I wasn’t in the boat. It was a windy day, but I made it back: a man with a little baby walking  behind me gave me the courage.

rope bridge 31.07.05

The rope bridge didn’t always look the way it looks now. Built  by salmon fishers in 1600s it was used from June to September as an access to the rocky islands. The fishers ran their nets between the islands to catch the salmons coming through the area to spawn in the nearby rivers. Below is an image taken in the 19th century. Up to the 1970s the bridge had only a single handrail.

19th century

When the salmon fishing came to the end The National Trust installed a new, tourist friendly cage bridge to span the 18m wide and 24m deep chasm. It was a unique and costly project. The bridge was taken down and re-installed annually. Another one was built in 2004, and the current one is built in 2008. Now the bridge is opened all the year round if the weather conditions are not dangerous.

In June 2012 the Olympic Flame was carried onto the Carrick A Rede  bridge by a P.E. teacher Clare Leahy from Coleraine.  After that the Flame was carried to the Giant’s Causeway ( my next blog).

When you get over the bridge Scotland is as close as never before 🙂

2014-08-01 Northern Ireland I 390

Walking around the island you can enjoy the glorious scenery and take pictures.

rope bridge

carrick a  rede

carrick a rede

rope bridge

Sooner or later you have to cross the bridge again…

rope bridge

The more you do it the less you fear. If I come again next year I might even look down…

rope bridge

So this is my story for to day. There is a link to the webpage where you can read more about the timetable and tickets. If you don’t want to cross the bridge don’t buy any tickets and just walk over and watch the others cross. The walk is beautiful and free.

To be continued.

Photography tip of the day: secure your shooting gear and memory cards. A gust of wind can ruin your trip.

inese_mj_photographyHave a great week!