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At Red Rock Beach, Howth. Alex Sheridan
Snap Happy

'I just had to get a picture': 6 of Ireland’s most amazing photo ops, according to photographers

Here’s where to head with your camera (or smartphone) this summer.

‘TO COLLECT PHOTOGRAPHS is to collect the world.’ So said legendary writer Susan Sontag.

Whether it’s a phone snap or a painstakingly set up landscape shot complete with tripods, timers and lens filters, sometimes you come across a view so good you’re compelled to try to capture just a tiny bit of the magic you feel looking at it.

But where in Ireland should you go for unforgettable images that will take your breath away?

For me, it’s the view from Synge’s Chair on Inis Meáin of the coast of Galway. At the edge of the island, overlooking Inis Mór and the Atlantic ocean, is a little seat of sorts, made out of rocks.

Sitting there, you feel as if you’re at the very edge of the world, with the wild Atlantic in front of you and incredible stone wall-dotted fields behind you. Whichever way you turn, there’s the opportunity for a great shot.

IMG_0077_Nathalie Marquez Courtney Synge's Chair on Inis Meáin. Nathalie Marquez Courtney Nathalie Marquez Courtney

I asked six other photographers, all based in Ireland, for the locations they’d recommend for that perfect photo…

1. Red Rock Beach, Howth, Co Dublin: Alex Sheridan

This side of Howth is quieter than the more popular Summit and cliff walk, and boasts a beautiful view of Dublin Bay. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set, according to Alex Sheridan, a portrait and lifestyle photographer:

One of my favourite evenings of last summer was spent on the hill beside the beach with my girlfriend, taking photos and watching the sky go from orange to pink to blue over the bay.

For a truly special shot, there’s a little hill you can climb up right beside the beach, which gives you an elevated view. Aim to get there just before sunset and stay until the sun goes down.

AlexSheridan_1806_0262 The view toward Poolbeg from Red Rock. Alex Sheridan Alex Sheridan

2. Barley Cove Beach, Cork: Ruth Connolly

There’s something about introducing somebody to Ireland that makes you appreciate it anew. This is definitely the case for commercial and fine art photographer Ruth Connolly.

“My husband is Turkish American, so since we met in college here in Ireland ten years ago, we’ve travelled every inch of Ireland together. I love introducing him to places I went to as a child, and it helps me see Ireland through new eyes too,” she says.

This shot was taken last summer when we went to West Cork for a few days. On a drive we came along this view of Barley Cove Beach, and I had to pull over to take a picture. It was lovely to see blue skies and people enjoying the beach, one of those truly magic Irish summer days. Very shortly after, I remember we had 99s. It was perfect.

Ruth Connolly Barleycove, Co Cork. Ruth Connolly Ruth Connolly

3. Ballydwan Bay on Waterford’s Copper Coast: Al Higgins

A winding stretch of road dotted with small, beautiful, often isolated beaches, Waterford’s Copper Coast is a favourite haunt of Al Higgins, a Dublin-based photographer:

Growing up, we’d always find somewhere knew to explore on weekends. Ballydwan Bay is a favourite – there’s a slip of a road leading to beautiful beach with a ferocious undercurrent. The beach is disconnected from the rest of the world by cliffs stained red with hints of white and green. Early morning here is incredible as the sun begins to illuminate the bay.

8312878274_c5d2358369_o_Al Higgins Swimmers at Ballydwan Beach. Al Higgins Al Higgins

4. The view of Dublin Bay from Bull Island: Maggy Morrissey

Accessed by a narrow wooden bridge, Bull Island is a small, dune-covered stretch of land running parallel to the Dublin coast at Clontarf. Irish photographer and artist Maggy Morrissey calls it “a wonderfully calming place, even when the weather is a little bit wild.”

She adds:

I always leave this little oasis feeling refreshed and grounded. There is so much to photograph here, including lighthouses, the iconic Poolbeg chimneys, sailboats, ferries, sea birds and sometimes even kite surfers. You might even see the odd seal if you’re lucky.

Morrissey recommends a morning visit for the best shot. “It’s calmer then, and the view is really special on a soft, foggy morning.” Keep an eye on the tide times as the beach can look quite different at high and low tide.

Summer In Dublin-Maggy Morrissey Poolbeg Lighthouse, as viewed from Bull Island. Maggy Morrissey Maggy Morrissey

5. The top of Bray Head, Wicklow: Lili Forberg

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of a beautiful view to reward you after a hearty hike, as fashion and lifestyle photographer Lili Forberg recently discovered:

A view like this is all about the achievement of getting there… it’s just breathtaking. I took this shot on my six-year-old son’s Leon’s first big hike. He was so proud of himself when he reached the top. We were recently there on a cloudy day and it was equally as amazing. 

If you have a wide lens, put it to perfect use here to capture the views, and look out for streaks of sun breaking through the cloud – that’s where the magic happens.

Lili Forberg First hike success. Lili Forberg Lili Forberg

6. Mullaghmore, The Burren, County Clare: Ruth Maria Murphy

Caves, cliffs fossils, rock formations and a dizzying array of flora and fauna. Not to mention some of the best waves in the world.

Photographer Ruth Maria Murphy usually shoots interiors, but getting windswept while walking around the beautiful, vast limestone plateau of The Burren is one of her favourite outdoor activities:

My mom is from Ennistymon so I grew up going to this part of Clare, spending summers in Corofin, Fanore, Doolin and Ballyvaughan, all of which are nestled around The Burren. There is a remote spot off the beaten track in front of the majestic Mullaghmore where the low evening winter light creates a beautiful atmosphere.

Ruth Maria Murphy_2 Mullaghmore in the early morning. Ruth Maria Murphy Ruth Maria Murphy

More: ‘Leave the hordes in Dingle and head north’ – 6 insider alternatives to crowded tourist spots>

Nathalie Marquez Courtney
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