Ballycotton Island Tour – 16/06/15

BC Island Finbarr OShea-2

Ever since Ballycotton Island Tours began operating, it was only a matter of time before ECCG got around to going with them and that trip came about on Tuesday evening last, 16/6/15. Our plans of photographing the island and Ballycotton village bathed in a brilliant sunset were dashed when a sea fog set in and enveloped the top of the island. Undeterred, we set off from the pier in the capable hands of our skipper, Diarmuid Walsh, a crewman of the local lifeboat, and guide, Derry Keogh.

BC Lighthouse John Tait-1All suitably attired with life jackets and fully briefed in water and boat safety, we left the shelter of the harbour and headed out across the sound in the tour boat 'Yassy' to the island, which we were surprised to hear, is nearly a mile offshore. After the fifteen minute crossing, Diarmuid brought our boat gently alongside the island pier where we disembarked and began the steep climb to the lighthouse.

Derry provided a commentary on the history of the island as we climbed to the top which gave us a great appreciation of the hardship of life on the island for the lighthouse keepers who worked and lived there.

BC Lighthouse Noelle Lowney-4On reaching the top, we entered the lighthouse and climbed the steps to the balcony, the scene of two marriage proposals since the tours began! The only connections on our minds however were those between the island and the mainland which we couldn't see with the fog. We could only ponder then on the magnificent views we were missing but, never ones to be beaten, we explored the area and concentrated on shooting the buildings and wildlife which all provided an abundance of variety.

BC Lighthouse Denis Barry-8Having spent some time at the top, we eventually made our way back down to the pier and went on a short boat trip around the East of the Island and encountered the island's small goat herd perched precariously on narrow rocks many meters above the water.

BC Lighthouse John Tait-8
As dusk settled in the bay, the light in the lighthouse came on and shone its familiar signal through the fog. Diarmuid took his cue and headed for home landing us safely back at the pier.

While disappointed with the poor weather, we were delighted to have done the trip and had seen enough to know that a return trip in better weather is something we will definitely do in the near future.

Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours operate tours daily to the island, weather permitting, and all details can be found at their website, www.ballycottonislandlighthousetours.com.

Click here to see our full gallery of images from the trip. Enjoy!

 

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The Skellig Islands – 27/7/14

Denis Barry-6

John Tait-1In what was one of the most anticipated shoots of the year, ECCG members headed to Portmagee, near Valentia Island, Co. Kerry on Sunday 27/7/14 to catch a boat to Skellig Michael, a rocky island with a long and interesting history located approx. 12 Km offshore in the North Atlantic. Coincidentally, this was a special time in the history of the island as shooting of scenes for the latest Star Wars movie was due to begin there on the following day, Monday 28/7 which was causing much talk and debate locally and nationally.

Anthony OConnor-6The 50 minute journey to the island, while choppy, quickly allayed the apprehension of some of the land lubbers in the Group and all landed safely at Blind Man's Cove following some deft maneuvering by the skipper. A 300 meter walk along the lighthouse road, that skirts the south side of the island, gradually rises towards the helicopter pad and about 50 meters further on, is located the beginning of the climb to the top.

At this point we were taken in charge by one of the resident guides, Cathy (yes they actually reside on the island for 14 days at a time!), who gave us some safety guidelines for our visit. Her advice was perfect as the climb to the top is not for the faint-hearted. There are no two ways about it, it is a dangerous place even on the calm, dry summers day that we experienced. The climb, on dry stone paving, is long and steep and there are very few handrails to grasp. That said, by following the advice of the guides to keep to the paths, go at your own speed, rest when necessary and stop if you feel it's not for you, the island can be a safe and enjoyable place to be and is really worth a visit. Cathy also explained that the island is a World Heritage Site and underlined the need for visitors to protect and preserve its integrity by taking nothing from or leaving anything on the island.

James Brady-7The presence of thousands of puffins, seagulls and other birds who call the island home, for a time at least, is a photo fest indeed and only for the thought that there's a return boat to be caught a few hours later, a photographer could easily spend the whole day just shooting them as they are really up close and in no way shy. Denis Barry-2

Over half way to the top is an area known as Christ's Saddle, an area of flat ground between the island's two peaks. Whatever about its former religious purposes, for today and the next few days at least, it is base-camp for the Star Wars film crew. With all items such as tents, gear, water and provisions having to be manually hauled up the steps to this point, this has to be the least glamorous side of the movie industry.

John Tait-4From Christ's Saddle another steep flight of steps brings you to the monastic site located on a terraced shelf 600 feet above sea-level, and developed between the sixth and eighth centuries. It contains six beehive cells, two oratories as well as a number of stone crosses and slabs. It also contains a later medieval church. The cells and oratories are all of dry-stone wall construction and a carefully designed system for collecting and purifying water in cisterns was developed. It has been estimated that 12-24 monks and an abbot lived here at any one time. A hermitage is located on the south peak.   John Tait-3Two lighthouses and living accommodation were built on the island during the 19th century and, as lighthouse keepers were posted to the island for as long as four years at a time, their wives and families moved here also which must have been some experience for them. A second guide, Bob Harris, gave a comprehensive account of the history of the island from the earliest known reference in ancient books right up to the present day.

Noelle Lowney-6After an hour or so at the summit taking in the breathtaking views and marveling at the incredible engineering abilities and resilience of the monks and the lighthouse keepers that followed them many centuries later, we headed back down the steps to our boat which was waiting at Blind Man's Cove. On the return trip we paid a close visit to the nearyby Anthony OConnor-10'little Skellig' island which is home to over 23,000 pairs of Gannets, one of the largest colonies in the world. Some seals were also found taking it easy around the island and barely raised their heads as we passed by. The return journey to Portmagee was a bumpy ride to say the least. With a stiff wind and large swell combining, our boat was buffeted quite a bit but we arrived back in port all in one piece and definitely glad we made the trip. What an experience! There was even talk of a return trip....

After you view the video above, mouse over the image below to activate the slide show. Enjoy!

 

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