Photographer's Ireland in early May

February 13, 2007


Hi there,

First of all, I want to thank you for this wonderful site — I have used it more than any other for planning my upcoming trip to Ireland in early May (May 4-13).

The preamble: I would prefer to go for a longer time period (2-3 weeks) but this is all I have. The reason I am going at this time is for a friend’s wedding which will take place in Cork on Friday the 11th. So in theory I will be free from the 4th (I’ll be flying from Paris into Cork) to sometime in the afternoon of the 11th.

Originally my plan was to rent a car in Cork, and then tour the South West by bike or by car. However, after doing more research, I realized that there is a lot more in the west that I would like to visit (actually, all of Ireland has things that interest me, especially in the North, but since I’m flying in and out of Cork I thought it better to stick to the West/SouthWest).

I don’t want to do a ‘Green Blur’ tour, and although I like the idea of staying in one area and getting to know it well, I would rather see a bit more, since this is my first time visiting Ireland.

Additionally, (and I would have to say this is my primary interest), I am a serious amateur photographer (yes I get up at 4-5 am to catch the sunrise) and am really trying to plan my trip from a photographic standpoint (although I realize that weather can put a big damper on things).

This would mean being in scenic places at sunrise/sunset for photographic opportunities, while doing hikes or scenic drives during the day (which may include driving to the next overnight location).

I’ll be travelling by myself (by car). Although I am used to long drives (I’m Canadian) and slow narrow roads (lived in Japan where there are many) I would prefer to limit my driving to no more than 3-4 hours a day. I would also prefer to stay off the coach tour roads, even though I’m sure they’re faster (and in some cases I may have no choice).

Wow — this is getting long! Anyway, I’ve come up with a couple of itineraries and would like your opinion as to what would better suit my needs. Numbers in brackets indicate the day in May.

1. From Cork catch a flight to Galway. Rent a car, head south towards the Burren and spend my first night there – Ballyvaughn?(4). Next day Burren (all day) – Ennis overnight(5). Drive from Ennis to Tralee or Doolin if possible (6). Dingle — ferry from Dingle to Cahersiveen (not sure how long it takes). Not sure if I’m skipping the best part of the Ring of Kerry -willing to drive instead of using the ferry(7). Skelligs and Skellig Ring(8). From Cahersiveen (or similar) to Kenmare or possibly Castletown Bearhaven (9). Kenmare to Clonakilty/CB to Skibbereen (10). Skibbereen to Cork or Clolakilty to Cork (including Kinsale?)(11). Recuperate on the 12th (and maybe see a bit of Cork) and fly out on the 13th.

2. Fly Cork to Killarney, rent a car. Dingle Peninsula (4-6). Ring of Kerry (including Skelligs) (7-8). Beara Peninsula (9). Sheep’s head and Mizen Head peninsulas (ending in Skibbereen) (10). Skibbereen to Cork (11).

Personally, I know #2 (or something to that extent) makes more sense but I would really like to see the Burren (spend at least a whole day there). I don’t really want to waste a lot of time in traffic around Limerick/Shannon airport, although perhaps it’s not as much as an issue in early May? The Ring of Kerry doesn’t interest me as much (too touristy), but the Skelligs do, so it seems I don’t have much choice. The Dingle Peninsula seems equally photogenic and a bit less touristy but I’m not sure if I should drop it.

Similarly, the extreme southwest could be dropped but I have a friend who lives in Skibbereen whom I wouldn’t mind catching up with, and I’d like to do a little kayaking in that area (1/2 day trip or evening).

The point?: I’m interested in landscapes – both coastal and countryside, ruins and other interesting archeological sites, and wildflowers (I’m assuming May is a good time for them?), and interesting towns. I’d like to stay out of cities – I’m sure Galway, et al, are fantastic, but for this trip I’d rather focus on the more scenic side of things.

I’d appreciate some frank advice about where to go, and if I’m on the right track in terms of driving routes. Please feel free to suggest any changes. Again, the key factors would be great photogenic places, especially in early May, and a reasonable driving schedule that would allow some down time to explore (and not just take some snapshots before setting out again).

I’m so excited about going and I’m already thinking about a second trip (so I’m not worried about trying to see EVERYTHING) — but I want to make sure that if a second trip doesn’t happen for some time that I’ll be happy with this one.

Last question — how long are the days at this time? (sunrise/sunset). I’m an early bird so after (hopefully) getting some good photos in a location I could be on my way to the next place and be able to spend most of the afternoon and evening there. If the days are really long perhaps the first itinerary would be manageable?

Sorry for this extremely long post! I really would appreciate any and all advice concerning my trip.Cheers!

12 Answers

  • Sile Gorman says:

    Hi Arrive Cork
    Drive to Skibereen area 2 nights 4/5
    visit Beara Peninsula etc
    On to Killarney / Kenmare area 2 nights 6/7
    Ring of Kerry and National Park
    Dingle Peninsula 2 nights 8/9
    make sure you go west of Dingle
    By Ferry up to Clare – Doolin / Ballyvaughan area 2 nights 10/11
    See Burren
    May be the lake area around Lough Clare/Limerick Border 12
    And Back To Cork

  • mooseontheloose says:

    Thanks again for the info — I’ll definitely look into Tim Collins’ tour of Dingle — it may be just what I’m looking for!


  • IrishFlair says:

    Tim Collins, the same gentleman who Rick Steve hires, will take you on an archeaology tour of the Dingle Peninsula. I have a Web Friend who used this service for her and her husband and she said it was wonderful; that they felt they visited a lot of places most folks just don’t get to. I bet if you let him know what exactly you are looking for he would be able to take you there.

    I’d ask him, too, about the Ring of Kerry. I’m sure he knows just as much about it and can either take you around as well or at least can point you in the right direction of someone who can. These folks are the ones who will already have the permission of the locals to cross lands, pastures, etc.



  • IrishFlair says:

    This reminds me of a funny story – well, it was funny after the fact!

    My husband and I were driving around Ireland, touring as we are apt. I spied a beautiful stone house and wanted a photograph. My hubby is a great photographer and is keen to take photos for me so we pull over, he jumps out of the car and goes to take a picture. The house was close to the road and he couldn’t really get a good angle and get it all in the frame so he hops over a fence (stone wall) and into this pasture across the road from the house to get a better shot.

    I’m looking at the house, as is he, and sorta watching him out of the corner of my eye. Just then I notice that he’s jumped into a pasture that has a huge bull in it! The bull is not looking very agressive but I also didn’t want to alarm my sweetie by yelling so I calmly beckon him over to the fence and then tell him he needs to get out of there, NOW. The bull was very passive, just a bit curious about us wandering around his area.

    He even sauntered over for a mouth of grass out of my hand – after my gallent photographer was out of there. Ha! We laughed all the way up the road…

  • DoChara says:

    This is a slightly tricky issue.

    Some are always publically accessible – they are on public land or there is a right of access to them. Only a tiny minority would be ones that have any ‘opening hours’ as such – they are just there, no entrance change or tours or anything like that.

    Others are on private land, and landowners fall into two camps, those who allow access and those who very adamantly don’t. Sadly, primarily because of insurance issues, the number of farmers who don’t allow access is increasing.

    The truth is that in Cork/Kerry there are so many of these places that you will have little difficulty finding ones you can photograph.

    Also a friendly approach to a farmer, explaining that you want to take photographs, will often be enough to get you permission to go onto land. Especially if they see you are a sensible looking person, sensibly dressed.

    You get people wearing high heels, light sandels or other completely unsuitable clothing/footwear trying to cross rough, hilly, uneven land to reach some site and then sueing the farmer because they twist their ankle, or leaving gates open when there is livestock in a field or letting their kids play ‘chase the sheep’ and other plain stupid stuff like that – it’s no wonder that so many farmers find it easier to just impose a blanket prohibition on access and then make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.


  • mooseontheloose says:

    Another question if you don’t mind,

    I’m curious about access to some of the ancient sites across Ireland (or Cork and Kerry in my case). Are sites like that usually on private land, or are they accessible to the public? Do there tend to be ‘opening and closing’ hours, or are they accessible 24/7? I know that public sites in cities have restrictions, but I’m just curious about those in the countryside, as I’d like to be able to access them around sunrise/sunset.


  • mooseontheloose says:

    Hi Wendy and Katherine,

    Thanks for your advice. I still really want to see the Burren but with my luck (which certainly isn’t Irish ), it would probably rain buckets while I was there. So I think it’s back to plan A — that is, to visit Cork and Kerry and leave the rest for another time. Also, thanks for confirming my ideas about going to Sheep’s Head and Mizen Head. One certainly doesn’t hear too much about them, so I think that’s the best way to go.



  • IrishFlair says:

    Yes! I had meant to include that but was in a hurry at work this morning.

    By all means, take your time around the Ring but do not leave off going to Sheep’s Head or Mizen Head! We loved our slow trips around the peninsulas and as a photogrpaher I’m sure you will love it’s rugged scenery even more!


  • DoChara says:

    Wendy is on the button as usual, but I would just add one thing.

    Don’t be too quick to dismiss the Sheep’s head and Mizen Head peninsulas. You don’t hear so much about them because the major tours don’t really include them – for the purely pragmatic reason that the roads in that area are very narrow, very twisty and a complete nightmare to drive a coach on. Plus there are very few large tourist type hotels.

    This is good, and its how the people in West Cork like it. It means the area is much less crowded, less touristy and easier for someone in a car to get around.

    There is a sort of slower, much more laid back feel to things and loads of small craft workers and artisan food producers who give the area a special feel. And that whole area is staggeringly beautiful and a photographers dream, especially at sunrise/sunset, both in the many little towns and villages and along the shore.


  • IrishFlair says:


    I have looked over your two very different ideas about visiting Ireland and am happy to give you my thoughts on them both.

    As someone who visit Galway every time I return to Ireland i think that you idea of starting there and making your way down to Cork is a good one. You will really get to see a good bit of the West and hit a lot of great sites besides. Sunset at the Cliffs of Moher can be a photographers dream in the right conditions. Just being there at all is a joy.

    The down side to this approach, however, is that you will be doing a lot more traveling (read: driving) to get you through the places you listed plus get you to the wedding on time. If you really want to see as much as you can while still doing some traveling (and therfore, less photography) then the Galway to Cork itinerary is the one for you.

    By keeping to the South West of Ireland and visiting Dingle, Ring of Kerry and the Beara Peninsula you will have a lot less driving but get to take a lot more photos. The wolds of Kerry and Cork are well worth the extra time, too. Plus you get to visit with your friend have some outdoor water adventure. From your post and what you say you want to do on this trip I think this second itinerary is ideal for you. And don’t worry about the Ring, it has amazing views (or it wouldn’t be so popular) and there won’t be many buses on it at sunrise or sunset. The big tour buses start out of Killarney and Kenmare around 10am and you can easily be out of the way by then. And if it gets too busy or crowded for you, head to the interior of the Ring, that is where you will find many ancient sites and very few people. The boats start their runs out to the Skelligs around 10am. And the earlier in May you are there (Ring of kerry, Killarney, etc) the fewer the tourists will be.

    Dingle is worth spending several days for pictures in town and out of it. Be sure to check out Conor pass at both sunrise and sunset. Beara is a great place to spend your last few days before the wedding as it is well off the tourist path and yet as wild and rugged as any photographer could want.

    One last word, Irish weddings are usually a big To Do. None of this “showing up on time and then leaving right after” – most that I’d been to or heard about will last that day and well into the next!

    Have a blast and I hope you come back to post about your experiences.


  • mooseontheloose says:

    Hi Irish Flair,

    I’m not locked into flying into Cork — haven’t bought the tickets yet! I would prefer to fly into Galway but was thinking of doing it as an option out of Cork since most direct flights out of Paris fly to either Dublin or Cork.

    One-way flights are pretty cheap from Cork to Galway…If I do the Galway option I would arrive in Cork in the early afternoon and depart for Galway a few hours later. Not the best way to spend the day but better than driving it!


  • IrishFlair says:

    Dear MotL,

    A couple of questions for you:

    1) Are you already locked in landing in Cork or can change your flight to Galway?
    2) If you must land in Cork, what time do you land?


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