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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C

9 places to take magical photos of Irish night skies, according to a photographer

You’d be amazed by what you can capture.

LIVING IN IRELAND, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d never see the Northern Lights or Milky Way without leaving the country. 

Dublin photographer Ian Carruthers, however, proves that thought wrong with his astonishingly beautiful shots from around Ireland of galaxies, consolations and – you guessed it – the Northern Lights.

Carruthers, who has always had an interest in photography “but only really started taking it seriously” in 2012, “is passionate about capturing rare moments,” he tells “Whether it be a stunning early morning sunrise, a storm raging outside or a meteor shower lighting up the night sky.”

“For me, it’s always been exciting capturing light from distant stars, nebulae and galaxies and sharing my passion online.”

However, it’s not as simple as heading outside at any given moment and coming back with the winning photo: “Sometimes a few months or even a year passes by before you get the perfect conditions,” says Carruthers. “Finally getting the shot you envisioned gives a great sense of accomplishment after all the planning and travelling.”

Having travelled around the country, Carruthers, whose camera of choice is a Nikon D750, says he has big plans for the future: “Going forward, I have many places still to visit, especially in the west.  Once I have them ticked off I hope to publish a book showcasing the night sky of Ireland.”

He shares his work on his Instagram account, @irishskies, with prints available to buy. 

Below, the self-proclaimed “weather and nature addict” shared with us nine of the best places to take magical photos of night skies around Ireland – and a few tips on how to get the perfect shot…

The Poolbeg Lighthouse, Dublin Bay

Patience and perseverance is what I needed to get this shot of last June’s Strawberry full moon rise over Poolbeg Lighthouse.. Four months passed before the conditions all came together and to know the exact point I needed to be at for this alignment. You only have a matter of minutes to adjust your position if you are in the wrong spot before the moon is too high.

The moon gets its red colour at moonrise due to the refraction of light through the thickest layer of the atmosphere. An app called PhotoPills is what helped me find the exact spot the lighthouse lined up with the moon at moonrise. This shot was taken using a 500mm lens at a distance of over 4km, so the compression effect of the lens makes the moon look larger.

The Northern Lights at the Hill of Tara, Co Meath

Being interested in meteorology and maths, I also have a interest in space weather. Some people think they need to travel to the Arctic to get a chance to see the aurora boreali (the Northern Lights), but with some prior study of aurora conditions, you can see it from many locations around Ireland a few times a year.

On this particular night in 2016 it was strong enough to see from the Hill of Tara with the naked eye. You could visually see the veil-like curtains dance ever so slowly across the sky. The long exposure capability of a DSLR was able to unveil even more of its stunning array of colours. 

Hook Head Lighthouse, Co Wexford 

Along the south coast of Ireland away from any of the big towns or cities is pretty much a prime location to view the night sky as there is very minimal light pollution. Hook Head Lighthouse is one of those spots.

On a clear, moonless night you can visually make out our nearest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy. The lighthouse itself has little effect on light pollution as the light’s concentrated direction is out to sea and not up to the sky.

Ballydowane Beach, Co Waterford

Along the Copper Coast Geopark, Ballydowane beach is a great location to view the night sky. At certain times of the year, the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye. Taking a long exposure shot with a DSLR can unveil faint dust lanes and nebulosity.  

Bective Abbey, Co Meath

This shot was created using a long exposure technique of capturing the motion of the stars through the sky over a period of time. This shot is roughly one hour’s worth of long exposures. 

Ardmore Strand, Co Waterford

I took this last February of the winter constellation of Orion and The Pleiades star as they clustered over Ardmore Strand.

Glendalough, Co Wicklow

Another great spot to observe the night sky. At a certain time of year, the Milky Way lines up with the upper lake and can be a sight to behold with the naked eye. It’s made even more dazzling with long exposure photography. 

Valentia , Co Kerry

Kerry is renowned for its dark skies. It even has gold tier dark sky status via the International Dark-Sky Association. However, what it does not have is gold tier weather. So you can be very grateful if you get a night of clear skies and no moon to really appreciate the views of the cosmos.

This is a recent shot looking over towards Valentia town with a Perseid meteor caught on camera.

Newcastle Beach, Co Wicklow

Using a small lantern and the Milky Way as backdrop, I created this shot called ‘Holding A Star’. Wicklow is the closest spot to Dublin with reasonably good dark skies for viewing the night sky.  

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