Destinations Magazine

Shooting in North Dublin – A New Way to See the City

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

Dublin is such a photogenic city, both day- and night-time. Dan finds plenty of things to photograph, no matter where we walk. With so many interesting things within blocks of our place, though, we’ve never bothered to check out the city’s outskirts.

While we were at a bloggers’ conference, Faílte Ireland offered to send us on a photography tour of Dublin. We were a little leery because many of those are little more than a guided how-to 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 a new part of Dublin, so we went for it anyway.

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Our tour started on a cold, early October morning when a van picked us up at our hotel.  We met Dave, the owner, who shook our hands and handed us a sheet with a list and descriptions of all the places we’d go in North Dublin, then we all climbed in. Happily, it was a really small group, which meant we wouldn’t have to worry about getting in each others’ shots. 

We got to know each other as we drove north. We learned that Dave is a Dubliner and a professional photographer, and he’d recently 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.

Dollymount Strand

I had absolutely no idea that there’s a nature reserve within Dublin’s city limits. Bull Island is a UNESCO biosphere nature reserve, a 300 hectare island of dunes, scrub and marsh on Dublin Bay.

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We walked along the North Bull Wall (proposed by Captain Bligh!), past the Men’s and Women’s bathing areas, and watched swimmers in the bay while the cold October wind whipped our scarves and chilled our fingers. Anyone who says that the Irish can be crazy won’t get any argument from me.

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Out at the end of the wall was a lighthouse and of it and the statue of Mary, Queen of the Sea. (Remember, we’re in a Catholic country.)

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Dave offered to take a photo 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?

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Across the bay is the wall’s partner, the Great South Wall, also with a lighthouse at the end.

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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

Back in the van and minutes from Bull Island 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 was somewhere on the parklands, hence the park’s name.

Actually, Saint Anne’s Park is the second largest municipal park in Dublin and has playgrounds, parkland walks, follies (decorative buildings), a golf course, and more. Dave took us to a duck pond along its edge. At the far end was one of the follies, a small temple, modeled on the Temple of Isis at Pompeii.

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Can somebody tell me why they had an Egyptian temple in Pompeii, Italy?

Howth Harbour

Back on the road, we headed 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 (pronounced like both), a pretty little seaside village.

The first pier, 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.

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Dave told us to try to find the footsteps of King George, who visited during his reign. His shoes were immortalized in stone.

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At the end of the pier were some anglers. Apparently it’s a favorite fishing spot.

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Back in the van, past 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.

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Walking along the second pier eventually brought us out to the very unimpressive lighthouse.

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Not far offshore was pretty Ireland’s Eye, a small, uninhabited island. 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 the Irishmen really like to fish, doesn’t it?

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Howth Head

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.

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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 of 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.

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Aside from the usual hop-on/hop-off bus tours we usually take, Dawn2Dusk is one of the few tours that we’d enthusiastically recommend to other people. We plan to take others when we return to Dublin, especially since we found out how affordable they are. We’re thrilled with our photos of North Dublin.

Would you enjoy a photography tour?

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