While we were in Ireland, we booked a photography tour of Dublin. We were a little leery because many of those are little more than a guided how-to-shoot-the-city tour. The guides tell everyone how to frame a shot, the correct exposure, the correct perspective, etc. Not our style. But it was a chance to see Dublin's outskirts, so we went for it anyway.
Our tour started on a cold, early October morning, when a Dave, the owner, met us at our hotel. He shook our hands and escorted us into his van. Happily, we were among a really small group, which meant we wouldn't have to worry about getting in each others' shots.
As we settled in, Dave handed us a sheet with a list and descriptions of all the places we’d go in North Dublin. We got to know each other as we drove north. Dave is a Dubliner and a passionate professional photographer, and he’d begun the company as a way to show off his beloved city from a unique perspective. (Kudos to entrepreneurs who find creative ways to use their talents!)
As he explained it, he knows lots of “off the beaten path places,” perfect for great shots, that most people would never find. So he grouped them by location and decided to start offering tours to North Dublin, South Dublin, and Dublin at night. Because the twilight Blue Hour is such a great time of day for photography, he named his company Dawn2Dusk. Appropriate.
I had absolutely no idea that Dublin has a nature reserve within its city limits! Bull Island is a UNESCO biosphere nature reserve, a 300 hectare island of dunes, scrub and marsh on Dublin Bay.
Cameras in hand, he took us along the North Bull Wall (proposed by Captain Bligh!), past the Men’s and Women’s bathing areas, dated from times gone by when sexes were separated at the beach. As the cold October wind whipped our scarves and chilled our fingers, we all marveled at swimmers who were braving the frigid waves in the bay. Anyone who says that the Irish can be crazy won’t get any argument from me.
At the end of the wall stood a lighthouse and a statue of Mary, Queen of the Sea. (Remember, we’re in a Catholic country. No disrespect, but she seems to be the queen of everything.)
Dave offered to take a portrait of Dan and me with Dan's camera. We were thrilled. We don't get many photos of us as a couple that are in focus, and very few are as good as this one. Do you agree?
Across the bay is the wall’s twin, the Great South Wall, also with a lighthouse at the end. Dave sometimes takes his visitors there, but instead we went to St. Anne’s Park, which he thought we’d enjoy more.
Saint Anne’s Park
Only a few minutes down the road, we came to Saint Anne’s Park. In Ireland’s early Christian days, St. Anne blessed a holy well in the area. Though the well has been lost over the centuries, they say it lies somewhere on the parklands, hence the park’s name.
Saint Anne’s Park is the second largest municipal park in Dublin, we learned. It has playgrounds, parkland walks, follies (decorative buildings), a golf course, and more. Dave took us to a pretty little duck pond along its edge. At the far end is one of the follies, a small temple. It was modeled on the Temple of Isis at Pompeii.
Yeah, but I'd like to know why there's an Egyptian temple in Pompeii, Italy.
Back on the road, we headed further north. Dave kept the drive interesting with his commentary about the area’s history and sights along the way. We finally ended up at Howth (rhymes with both). It's a charming seaside village that sees a lot of holiday-goers. First stop: Howth Harbour.
The first pier, at the left of the marina, is a working harbor and boatyard. We walked past restaurants and shops, where I made friends with a mannequin diver and passed fishermen repairing their nets.
Dave told us to try to find the footsteps of King George, who visited during his reign. His shoes were immortalized in stone.
How did they do that?
At the end of the pier were some anglers. Apparently it’s a favorite fishing spot.
We needed the van for our next stop. Passing cafés and restaurants, a playground and grassy areas, we wound up on the other side of the marina at the second pier. Seagulls swooped overhead, vainly searching for any treats we might drop as we walked.
Walking along the second pier eventually brought us out to the very unimpressive lighthouse.
Just offshore, a small, uninhabited island called Ireland's Eye beckoned our cameras. Dave pointed out has some ecclesiastical ruins and a Martello tower, plus a sizeable bird population. It’s a nice boat trip and walk in good weather, he said. We were just as impressed to see more anglers along the rocks, waiting for a big catch. It seems that Irishmen really like to fish, doesn't it?
Once an island, Howth now sits on a peninsula. Drive uphill, through a residential area, and you’ll end up atop craggy, gorse-covered cliffs that give a stunning 270-degree view of the surrounding area. Others climbed up the path to where we were standing, but we preferred to stay at the overlook. From there we could see Dublin Bay, Howth, Howth Castle, and the Wicklow Mountains.
Should you be visiting on your own and have a lot of energy, take the sign posted “cliff walk.” This will take you around Howth with some spectacular views overlooking Dublin Bay on the way.
End of our tour
Back in the van and heading back to Dublin, Dave asked us for our honest feedback. So we gave it to him: Thank you for the printout explaining what we were going to see. Thank you for offering advice if we asked for it. It was also nice that – unlike some guides, who think they know what’s best – he let us shoot whatever we wanted. We also loved that he was so easygoing and likeable. The van was in good shape. Plus, he has a great sense of humor.