When I upload my photographs or write blogs, I usually write about two things:
1) What it is I have photographed, what are the stories behind the place? Its name. Its history and its significance; as well as
2) My experiences of photographing the subject. Usually in landscape photography there is an 'experience' to go hand-in-hand with every photograph. It provides perhaps too much sentimental attachment to some photographs which perhaps aren't so good, and not enough to other photographs which are good but were maybe too 'easy' to get.
However, with this blog, whilst I'll touch on the above I want to discuss the practical sides of the photography itself. What can go wrong, what I put in my bag, what lenses I have, what filters I use. How I planned the trip in terms of fitting in locations. And of course, how I decided to compose each shot at the time and my post-processing as well as some self-critique. It's something I get a lot of emails about and hopefully is something a bit different from my usual posts.
If i'm honest, I love planning for photographs. And I think a large part of this is a bit of a geeky fascination with maps. This photo was taken in December, on those days between Christmas and New Year's that we always have to find ways to fill! The importance of planning in landscape photography cannot be understated. Sure, the best shots are often those 'unplanned' ones, and plans often go wrong (as you'll see), but there's usually a good reason that you're in the right place at the right time.
Talking of maps...
I had 4 detailed Donegal maps (Ordnance Survey Ireland - Discovery Series 1, 2, 6 and 10). These four cover basically all of Donegal other than parts of the southeast and Inishowen both of which I didn't plan to visit on this trip. Inishowen is fantastic, but I've visited there quite recently.
I also had a Sperrins Activity Map (by Ordnance Survey) as I planned to go up through the Sperrins on my way to Donegal.
My other map was just a plain old simple Road Atlas of Ireland.
In planning for this trip I also used a fantastic book called 'Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim - A Walking Guide' by Adrian Hendroff. This was because between the 'golden' hours of sunrise and sunset I planned to hike the Derryveagh mountains and to the summit of Slieve League, some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. I'd recommend this book to all interested in hiking in the north west.
I used the fantastic app that I have mentioned before 'The Photographer's Ephemeris' to plan which photo would work best at which time of day (and time of year). If you have a smart phone and don't already have this app, download it now!
I had one more book and that was a nice blank notebook. So what did I write down? Here is a transcript (if I can read my own scribbles!)
Donegal Trip 2-3rd March
Alarm 4.30am - Breakfast
Leave Lisburn 5am
7.15am sunrise - Beaghmore Stone Circles
8.15-8.45am - Gortin Lakes morning light
9am - Breakfast in Gortin village
11am - Arrive at Errigal mountain. Climb.
2.30pm - Quick lunch if time
3.30pm - Get to Murder Hole beach, Rosguill. afternoon light
4.30pm - drive to Lough salt
5pm - Climb Lough Salt mountain
Sunset 6.09pm - from Lough salt mountain summit
Go to hotel.
8pm - Liverpool v Man City
I then turn the page to my equally optimistic 3rd March plans....
7.19am - Sunrise Dunlewy Lake (reflections)
Poisoned Glen - early morning light
Go for a fry at hotel and check out
11.30am - Arrive Teelin to climb Slieve League via One Man's Pass
4pm - Finish hike
Kilclooney Dolmen if have time
Crohy Head Sea arch sunset - 6.15pm.
Dinner and go home.
Now, looking back I don't think the plan was impossible, but it was as I say very optimistic even by my standards and needed all conditions to be perfect, which of course in early March is rare, and the roads to have no roadworks or tractors slowing me down between locations....
Also before I left I had to scrap the sunset plans at Crohy Head on the Thursday... this was nothing to do with Julie's gym class! So consider the updated plan to end at 'Finish hike'.
Anyway, that was the planning done.
Now, it is the night before and it is time to pack my bag and take another look at the all-important weather for the days ahead. So what to put in my bag?
I have Lowepro 350 backpack that i find fantastic with its dedicated internal camera unit for the lenses and camera body itself with further compartments for my cleaning equipment, filters and then non-camera items such as my trusty gloves and beanie hat. Oh and a nice section for maps! It's also really comfortable on your back and I happily take it hiking.
My camera is a Canon 7D Mark II. I got it in July 2015 for my 30th birthday and I really enjoy it as it is a decent upgrade on my previous 550D. I have 3 lenses:
- Canon EF-S f3.5 10-22mm - My wide angle. My default lens if you like. 80% of my photos are probably taken with this. It used to be 99%;
- Canon EF-S f3.5 18-135mm - My first ever lens. A bit battle-worn but very versatile in range and I still use it sometimes.
- Canon EF-S f4.0 70-300mm - My zoom lens. My newest lens also. I got this at Christmas as I wanted to challenge myself to get different types of photos. It's useful up in the mountains and to pick out details in the landscape. A recent upload of mine you may have seen 'The Winding Road, Glens of Antrim' was taken with this lens and is the kind of shot I was thinking of.
I have 3 filters, though 2 of them are just different sizes of the same filter (for different lenses). These two are both 10-stop ND filters which basically allow me to get long exposures (to achieve movement of clouds, smoothing water etc) by letting less light into the camera. The other filter is a polariser filter, which like the sunglasses, helps to reduce glare.
So, now the bag is packed. I check the weather again. What’s that? Snow? Storm Jake? Oh, this isn’t going to be as easy as I had planned!
If you remember the list from above, that was the plan, this is the reality….
THE REALITY - DAY ONE!
4.30am and my alarm goes off. I don’t turn it off in my sleep so the morning can be considered a success. I look outside my window to check for ice and snow. Neither! The forecast said heavy snow in Lisburn from 4am…. I decide this is a sign to get on the road and get as far as I can before the snow starts. My destination was still Beaghmore Stone Circles in the Sperrin mountains. There’s bound to be bad roads to come.
A traditional bowl of Jordan’s Strawberry Crisp and I’m on my way. However, I wasn’t even out to the main road from my house when the snow started. And the forecast was correct. It was heavy!
By the time I made it to the motorway there were a few inches of fresh snow and the blizzard showed no signs of abating. The motorway was more dangerous than I had expected it to be. I was the first on the road and it is dark, there are no lights on the motorway and the blizzards made visibility poor. It was 5am and it was heavily snowing, why would anyone else be here?!! I began to question what I was doing. I was knackered as it was. Why couldn’t I just take the lie in? This was stupid. Ah well, I’m up now. A snowy sunrise could be great I tell myself, and anyway, I’m on my way to Donegal.
By the time I get to Dungannon and leave the motorway I feel a bit better. There are street lights here and other cars are starting to appear for work! The heavy snow stops but cloud is everywhere to be seen. I decide to check my phone for the latest satellite pictures of the snow to see if it’s likely to be dry at sunrise. Oh…no phone. Did it fall out of my pocket? Please let it just have fallen out of my pocket? No sign of it! I ask 3 people at a filling station if they have a mobile phone I could use (to phone my own to see if it’s under the seat). No-one in Dungannon has mobile phones it seems. No, more likely no-one trusts a dishevelled looking man at 6.45am at a filling station asking to use their mobiles. Eventually an ambulance driver loans me his phone, but no buzzing, no ringing, that's it. It’s at home!!
This is not good. I need my phone to keep in touch with my family at home. It’s 6.45 and sunrise is in half an hour. I may as well push on for that, and then sure I’ll head back to Lisburn to get my phone.
I like to consider myself good with directions so even though I don’t have my phone to check the final back roads to Beaghmore I’m fairly confident. But in these conditions you don’t want to be unnecessarily driving down the wrong snowy mountain roads! I drive down one windy, hilly, snowy road for 3 or 4 miles but lose faith and turn back to see if I can re-assess. I see a brightly coloured sports car at a shop. It is snowing heavily again. I wind down the window and ask the man where the Beaghmore stone circles are.
“That’s up near my house. You won’t be getting up there today”.
I explain the roads I took.
“Awk, fair play you were nearly there! Another 200 yards and you’d have seen it!”
I turned the car around and negotiate the same treacherous road! I get out of the car and run to the Stone Circles. 80% of the sky is dark cloud… it’s blizzarding…but look over to the east, there are gaps, there is colour!! I’m delighted there is some variation in the sky. But I don’t have time. The blizzard is getting worse and the roads are getting worse. I don’t want my car to be stuck by the time I get back to it.
Ideally you should take time over a composition but I’m ashamed to say in this case I found one of the many stone circles and simply snapped it with the sky behind. It’s ok, but I could have done better. I went back to the car and started to head for home, and my phone!
I was feeling ok about the day. I should still make Errigal for 11ish, but I will have to forego Gortin Lakes photos (and breakfast in Gortin!) Just before I rejoined the motorway I saw the signs for Dungannon Park. I know I shouldn’t add stuff into the schedule I hadn’t planned, especially given I was wasting so much time, but the snow would soon melt as it’s March. I wanted to make a bit more use of it! The car park is near the lake, so it would be fairly quick! I found these boats and thought they made a great foreground with the snowy hills and lovely blue skies behind. Anyway. Snap. Pack up again and get back on that motorway!
After battling through remnants of rush hour traffic (and there was a lot of it!) I retrieve my phone and let everyone know how stupid I was but that I’ll still be contactable. The fry in the Sperrins is replaced by a banana in my own house but I get back on the road and head for Errigal!
My family are all from the northwest. My dad is from Limavady and my mum is from Letterkenny, so I know the roads towards Derry very well. It’s a fairly monotonous drive and I don’t stop (though having walked in the Moneyneaney and Corick areas I always think there must be serious potential off the Glenshane Pass). However, shortly past Derry and near Letterkenny something does cause me to pull over. The showers had created a wonderfully positioned rainbow just over Burt Castle on Castlehilll. I grabbed the camera and quickly fitted the zoom lens before the rainbow disappeared. This photo was all about symmetry and the curves of the hill matching the rainbow, with the castle prominent at the top of the hill.
The weather was so changeable, with dark clouds and heavy hail showers followed by lovely fresh blue skies. As I drove through the Glenveagh area I turned a corner to a beautiful view of Muckish mountain. Muckish comes from the Irish ‘An Mhucais’ meaning ‘the pig’s back’ due to its ridge-backed appearance. I had to stop. But I wanted to find some foreground. For those who have driven through this area of Donegal, there are miles of flat, brown, inhospitable bog. It dominates the landscape. I found a little pool of bog water that formed a nice leading line to Muckish mountain.
I eventually arrive at the foot of Mount Errigal at 1pm…2 hours behind schedule! Disaster! The snow and losing my phone has a lot to answer for….I start to consider whether I should climb Errigal at all as enjoyable as it would be, it’s time consuming. Should I just try and get back into the schedule with photos on the Rosguill peninsula and around Lough Salt….But no, Errigal was a key part of this trip. I really wanted to climb it! I get the mountain boots on and the rest of my mountain gear and start to hike up Donegal’s iconic highest mountain, Errigal.
So, the roads were clear of snow, but Storm Jake had begun. Strong gale force winds were blowing at sea level off the Atlantic. This was to prove to be the worst element of the weather up Errigal. The changeable weather from sunny spells, through to heavy hail and dark clouds was to continue, but changeable weather is good for photographers. The light after a passing shower or storm is always great and patchy cloud creates areas of light and shadow all over the landscape. I was delighted. The notoriously boggy slower slopes of Errigal were much boggier than usual. Halfway up Errigal I caught this shot of Mackoght (Mac Uchta) mountain and Altan Lough with a bit of light hitting the wintery slopes. I thought it was extremely windy but I hadn’t got up to the more exposed parts of the mountain yet…I had no idea what would be in store for me!
Every 5 minutes another heavy hail shower would come in and combined with the increased winds I would need to take shelter beside a rock, zip up my hood and sit it out. Then the blue skies would return and I’d resume the ascent, buffeted by the winds. I couldn’t wait to see the summit ridge of Errigal again. I had climbed this a long time ago, without a camera and the views are magical down to Dunlewy Lough on one side and Altan Lough on the other. I’d consider myself a relatively experienced mountain hiker, but, once I got within 20m of the summit another weather front came in and I took shelter once more.
This one was more prolonged. I knew the weather was to turn and the hail/rain to become more persistent. The winds were only to get stronger. I had a decision to make. I struggled to stand without being knocked off my feet. People underestimate the mountains we have in Ireland. On some summer’s days they can seem like pleasant green hills that can be walked in trainers, but the rest of the year, they can be very dangerous. Errigal has two huge drops off either side of the summit ridge. The cloud wasn’t clearing, I didn’t want to be blown off the ridge and it was so windy I wouldn’t have been able to use my tripod. I began to descend. It’s the first time in my life I have decided to turn back before summiting a mountain, but looking back I know I made the right decision.
At a slightly lower altitude (maybe 50m from the summit) some of the cloud cleared again and I could watch out to the beautiful landscape of Altan Lough, Aghla More mountain and Mackoght. I had basically taken no photos of my hike on Errigal! What was going on? I had to get one photo! I decided to put myself in the frame, but this meant leaving the camera on the tripod on its own in those winds. I found some rocks to shelter it behind and spread the legs so it was sitting very low to the ground. It was safe. Now, see those rocks in front of me. They’d have been cool to stand on, but that’s a drop below! I wasn’t doing it, I don’t think you’ll blame me! You can see from my hood and coat that the wind is blowing me up like a balloon. But look at that light….I loved it. The far left you can see yet another hail shower coming in over the north shoulder of Aghla More and Altan Lough but light patches light up the land, and the rocks around my feet.
Now, to get back to the car. The rest of the day looked to be a write-off with rain due to move in…but I retained some optimism, and at least I’d got some exercise!
The way down was much quicker than the way up as I could slide down the snowy slopes once I had passed the rocky, scree sections. Always handy. I got back down to the car for 3pm and wondered where to go next. I knew I had no time for the Murder Hole beach and Rosguill peninsula, but I could still do Lough Salt Mountain, which was my initial plan for sunset.
The view from Lough Salt mountain is fantastic over two narrow lakes, Lough Salt and Lough Greenan. A dramatic, colourful sunset would’ve been perfect. But I had to make a judgement. The weather was saying low visibility and likely rain. If I couldn’t see those two lakes from the summit, I wouldn’t get much of a photo. I decided to cancel a third photo of the day (Gortin Lakes, Murder Hole Beach and now Lough Salt mountain). However, there was no way I was giving up for the day. I needed something a bit closer to sea level, with interesting foreground right in front of me….luckily I was in Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal. Scenery is everywhere.
I drove down to Bunbeg, just 5 miles down the road from Errigal and looked out to Magheraclogher beach where the old wreck of Cara na Mara sits, battered by the tides. That was my sunset. I just had to wait!
It’s an hour before sunset and it’s FREEZING outside. I decide to stay in the car until about half an hour before sunset when the light should, in theory, be at its best. However, looking out the window about 5 mins later I see some fantastic crepuscular rays forming and shining down on the west Donegal coast, so I grab my stuff. The winds are fierce from Storm Jake and the car door is so hard to open that I climb out the passenger door instead! I walk the short distance over the beach at low tide to the wreck. The first problem in photographing this scene are the winds. It becomes very difficult to keep it still so I try and stand to the right of my tripod giving it some shelter and also holding in its place. I need these pictures to be sharp. The second problem is the sinking sands. I used a tip I learned from a photographer from England, Thomas Heaton, and it works brilliantly. 3 old CDs under each leg of the tripod and the camera is much firmer, and it also offers the tripod some protection from the corrosive sand and sea water mix.
I compose my shot so that some patterns in the sand lead out to the corners and with the rule of thirds in mind place the horizon about a third of the way down the shot, and the boat at the top right intersection of the rule of thirds, leaving the left of the shot open for the lovely crepuscular rays.
It takes 2 minutes to walk to this point and it’s still half an hour until sunset. I’m not one who minds the cold, but it’s COLD. And plus, the winds keep blowing my coat zip into my face again! Back to the car for 20 minutes to watch the skies, and I’ll return for sunset itself if the rain holds off. The rain came in patches and the sky remained dramatic. I walked back over about 10 minutes before sunset and decided to get a slightly different composition of the boat, a bit more focused on the detail of the battered underside. This was the result.
OK. Sunset over, I would normally stay a good bit past sunset as the sky can change in an instant. In this case that was also true, but the sky changed to 100% rain. This was kind of nice to be honest. Photos done for the day and it offers a full stop. It's almost, “ah well I can’t take any more photos now anyway”. No guilt! So I headed off to my hotel just up the road (An Chuirt Hotel, Dunlewy) to check in and get washed and changed. I really needed to get changed. I was almost up to my hips in caked-in bog.
My plan for the evening if you remember was ‘Liverpool v Man City’. If the football hadn't been on I'd have planned night shots, but it seems football trumps night photography on this occasion, sorry! I sat down in the hotel bar in time for the match and got some grub and a pint. I liked this hotel!
I’m a Liverpool fan. Supporting Liverpool is a little like landscape photography, sometimes it’s great and sometimes incredibly frustrating! On this night it was great, we won 3-0 :-) A great end to an up-and-down, but ultimately great day!
I check the forecast for tomorrow morning. This was a little trickier as I was in the Republic of Ireland now and I didn’t have usual plethora of weather apps to choose from. Met Eireann doesn’t seem to be very good…perhaps someone could suggest a good one to use! Anyway, I went back to my usual Met Office one which gives a general County Donegal forecast and still has the satellite images of course as rain was my main concern. Tomorrow morning looked clear right up until lunchtime. Perfect, I suppose! My only concern is climbing Slieve League and One Man’s Pass in low visibility. I leave it to the weather gods and go to sleep.
THE REALITY DAY TWO
Oh how I slept! The whole night, right through. Bliss!
Another benefit of An Chuirt hotel was how close it was to my sunrise location at Dunlewy Lough. 5 mins up the road to a location as beautiful as Dunlewy Lough is hard to beat! It’s normally 3 hours from me! I look outside my window as soon as I wake. It’s ‘blue hour’ which is that period before sunrise and after sunset the sky takes on a blue hue, funny enough. It’s good for night photography. Anyway, I can see that there is 100% cloud. Not what I wanted. But it’s dry, that’s good.
I head out to the car and remember to check the weather update. The satellite pictures say heavy rain any minute now, and to continue ALL DAY. I panic. Is that the whole day ruined?! I remind myself the forecast might not be accurate and sure, it’s not raining yet.
I pull out of the hotel onto the main road, and rain drops start falling on the windscreen. NOOOOO!!!
Anyway, I keep going, it’s not heavy and it might pass, and it soon stops. I arrive at my location and get my wellies on. Wellies are so good for a photographer. They open up so many more composition possibilities. The cloud looks like it might be breaking slighly. There are pink parts to the sky. This could be good! I climb down into the lough and get a few quick shots. I always do this, even though I know the best light is still to come because at least if something goes drastically wrong or heavy rain comes out of nowhere, at least I’ll have SOMETHING.
Dunlewy Lough is beautiful, and before my trip I visualised it to be perfectly still, reflecting the distinctive peak of Errigal, with a colourful sunrise behind. On this morning, it was perfectly still. It was like glass. The gales from the day before were a distant memory. Some good luck at last! I just had to keep perfectly still myself with my toes going numb in my submerged wellies, so as not to spoil the stillness. The sky continued to show promise until about a couple of minutes before sunrise it peaked and I got this shot. I’ve visited here before a number of times but never came away with a photo I have liked until now.
My next location was at the other end of the lake, the Poisoned Glen where I had planned ‘early morning light’ shots. I had imagined some soft side-lighting on the abandoned church and throughout the glen itself. However, the sky wasn’t ‘changeable’ like yesterday, and didn’t have breaks of sunshine flowing through. The cloud was that kind of ‘high pressure’ cloud and the sun wasn’t coming out. I decided the main thing I had in my favour was the colour in the sky, and it was fading, fast, so about 1 minute after technical sunrise, I was back in the car and heading over to the Poisoned Glen.
This was another location I’d been before with acamera. Twice in fact, but looking back I didn’t like my photos. From speaking to other photographers, this is an affliction. We constantly look back at our older shots and hate them. We go back re-process them, we go back and try to improve our composition. It is a constant cycle of taking photos and deleting some of our old ones.
I may look back on this photo quite soon and think negative thoughts about it….I wish I’d focused much more on that gravestone in the foreground. I came across it and thought it was perfect and I decided to place it in the bottom right intersection of the rule of thirds. It’s an ok composition but I think it would’ve worked much better as a close-up. You also see what I mean by the sky. A great colourful sky would’ve been cool or alternatively (and perhaps even better) would’ve been a stormy, moody sky to suit the abandoned church, but it was these weird cloud structures that I had to work with. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s an ok shot, but unlike the Dunlewy Lough one, this isn’t what I had ‘pre-visualised’ when doing my planning.
The light became very flat and dull and I decided there wasn’t much more point staying here with lots of locations and hiking to go. So I head back to the hotel to enjoy a full Irish fry and check-out.
Next on my list? Slieve League, and One Man's Pass!
I’ve stood in awe from the Bunglass viewpoint at these majestic huge cliffs that drop into the Atlantic Ocean, amongst the highest in Europe. I’ve photographed the cliffs in a hailstorm and on a warm spring evening. However, I’ve never climbed to the summit of the cliffs. One of the routes to the summit goes via One Man’s Pass, so called as the ridge is only wide enough for one person. It might sound quite daunting, but it’s pretty cool looking and I wanted to photograph it with the path falling away into the Atlantic below. I left Gaoth Dobhair and headed southwards through The Rosses and into southwest Donegal. It started to rain. The cloud was extremely low. No mountains were visible anywhere, peaks shrouded in thick, flat cloud. Again, I had decisions to make. I could hike Slieve League, but this is a photo-trip, and I wouldn’t get any of the views I wanted. I could always hike it another time. Plus, I had it on good authority that heavy rain would definitely start about midday and stay for the day and through the night. I decided to change tactics and start fitting in lots of smaller locations in that area instead.
What’s good to photograph on agrey day? Interiors? I like pub photography….forests? Waterfalls? It was 9.30am so I rule pubs out, even though I was driving past Nancy’s in Ardara, one of Ireland’s most famous pubs! I know of a waterfall not far from Ardara called Assaranca. I’ll go there. My maps start to come in handy again for planning back-up shots and I soon arrive at Assaranca waterfall. All the snow and rain of the previous days has come in handy. The waterfall is in full flow and looks fantastic. I’ve seen photos when it can just be a trickle, so I was definitely seeing it at its best. Wellies on again, climb into the river, polariser filter on to help stop reflections and glare from the water and here we go….I’ve also added one with me standing beside it looking rather dashing in wellies and muddy clothes…simply to show scale.
So, after Assaranca waterfall I have a bit of a blank canvas again. There’s no point heading home until the rain starts, despite the grey skies. A lady messaged me a while back and asked if I had any photos of the Portnoo/Narin area and I hadn’t. To be honest I hadn’t heard of either, and I thought my knowledge of Donegal was decent. So when I realised I was only a couple of miles from there I decided to pay it a visit. There was a little harbour at Portnoo and some interesting waves come in with the backdrop of the church and the village so I climbed down onto the rocks for this shot. I was careful to get a short shutter speed to get the waves just crashing over the wall
Next on my list is Kilclooney Dolmen. If you remember from the initial plan it was down as ‘Kilclooney dolmen - if time’. Well, I had time, and it was only up the road, but as I drive up the hill out of Portnoo harbour and into Narin, I catch a beautiful view that makes me stop the car, even on this greyest of days.
I spotted these 4 walkers out walking along Tramore Strand outside Narin and I loved the shape of the beach and just thought this composition and subtle greens, yellows and blues worked well. I stuck on my zoom lens and this was the result.
Kilclooney dolmen is one of the most well-preserved neolithic dolmens in Ireland and I had been impressed by it in photographs. It’s situated up an EXTREMELY muckypath past donkeys and cattle (and I’m not sure it was just normal muck, so thank you again, wellies!) but it is very impressive when you get up to it.
I decided to go right in close to these boulders as foreground and again I think it’s ok, but this shows the damage a flat grey sky, with no nice lighting can do to a photograph! I would love to photograph this location with some subtle side-lighting, but I can’t get everything I want! I did get that great sunrise at Dunlewy Lough after all!
From memory it was now nearly midday, rain really looked imminent and with that light I would struggle to get anything particularly inspiring photo-wise. I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint ‘don’t shoot if it’s grey skies’, there’s always something that can be done in a great location, but it does make things difficult and after a day and half of constant photography, I think I was all inspirationed-out! So I decided to head in the direction of home, but I wanted to go home a specific way, up past Lough Finn and through Glen Finn.
My grandfather, Joe, was from here. It’s a Gaeltacht area and his first language growing up was Irish (which is definitely part of the reason I’d have an interest in it). Whilst Joe brought me here as a very young child, I had no memory of it, and it was an area of Donegal I knew relatively little about. It’s a beautiful area. Unfortunately it rained for most of my drive through it but I’d love to photograph it again. It was his home and it’s a fabulous landscape to grow up around. The rain briefly stopped to allow me to get this quick photograph down the Finn Valley to the looming bulk of Aghla mountain, from the townland of Brockagh, very close to where Joe grew up.
Around the corner from Brockagh was the actual townland Joe was from, Cloghan, with its great views out to the Bluestack mountains (mountains for another time!) Cloghan has a little pub called The Rambler’s Inn and it is owned by my granddad’s cousin, Connie McGlynn and his wife Brid. My mum told me before I left “If you are able to call into Connie’s, you should!” I pulled over and walked in.
This is where Joe brought me mostly as a boy, I played here with some other children my age and called the pub ‘Connie’s Hotel’. As I walked in, I noticed ‘McGlynn’s Bar’ on the pub mirror above the fireplace and immediately felt at home!
A woman was working behind the bar, and she turned out to be Brid. I (re)introduced myself to Brid and we got chatting. What I hadn’t realised was that this pub used to be a hotel, ‘the Brockagh Hotel’ owned by the McGlinchey’s. A pub/hotel had been on this site since the early 1800s and was bought by Connie and Brid around St Patrick’s Day 31 years ago, so they’ve had it for about as long as I’ve been around! I asked Brid if I could photograph the bar and she was of course very accommodating.
So I got to photograph a pub after all. Oh, and with the rain now lashing down, I’m glad I wasn’t up on my own on One Man’s Pass!
I grabbed some lunch in Ballybofey and headed back over the border from Lifford into Strabane and hit the main roads back to some home comforts.
My two days in Donegal might not have been quite what I had planned, but they were still brilliant!
I had a fantastic two days though two low points spring to mind
- Realising in a snowy Dungannon that I had left my phone in Lisburn, and
- The zip of my mountain jacket smacking against my frozen face with the gales on Errigal!
The high points where probably the views out to Altan Lough when the clouds broke, my pint and burger in the hotel on the 1st night after freezing out at Bunbeg, Liverpool winning 3-0, and sitting by the fire at the end in The Rambler's Inn. When things go wrong, it's not always for the worst!