The Burden of Being Fancy

When I got my Nikon D800 four years ago I thought, this camera is going to change my life. I dubbed her “Fancy” and vowed to travel the world with her, taking once in a lifetime photographs that would have National Geographic pounding at my door. Today, I just think about how much she makes my wrists hurt and how there are probably thousands of people running around with Fancys of their own, wanting a shot with National Geographic or Lonely Planet.

I’ve learned that I’m lazy. I don’t necessarily want to learn all the nerdy and technical components about photography that will make me better at it. At the end of the day, I just want to capture what’s beautiful about the world around me. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

More and more often, I take pictures on my cellphone, which is funny because that’s how this whole blog started years ago: cellphone photos. That’s not to say I’ve totally lost interest in Fancy; I’m just a lot more selective about when I take her out. During my last trip to England, I took most of my photos on my phone. I mean, it’s compact; I can easily hide it in my purse when I’m done using it. I don’t have to worry about breaking it. I can instantly upload photos to social media.

So…sorry, Fancy. Here are some of my favorite cellphone photos from England earlier this month.

ReflectionInterior Bath AbbeyBath Abbey GirlOpen Air TheaterSt Ives 10

Shadow SelfieSt. Ives BeachSt IvesSt Ives 5St Ives 7St Ives BoatsTin Mine

Climb to CastleTin Mine3MailboxHastings 2

Hastings AlleyHastings CastleHastings 3Battle AbbyBattle Abby2White CliffsWhite Cliffs 2

Yours to Explore: A Tour of Scattery Island

I’ve been fascinated with abandoned monastic sites, famine villages, and other ruins ever since I first visited Ireland seven years ago. As their bones slowly crumble into the earth, ancient buildings leave you wondering about what life would have been like anywhere from 50 to 1,500 years ago.

Achill Island has its deserted village, tucked away on the southern slopes of Slievemore Mountain. Skellig Michael has its beehive huts, found ten miles off the coast of County Kerry. And Glendalough has a monastic city, complete with round tower, in the middle of the Wicklow Mountains. Just to name a few. There are literally hundreds of ruins scattered across Ireland. I’ve seen quite a few of them over the years. So, when I landed at Shannon airport last May, I was surprised to find that I’d actually missed a major site!

Mixed in with the various travel brochures that I sometimes peruse for ideas, I found an advertisement for Scattery Island while waiting for my rental car. Located in the Shannon Estuary and less than an hour from the airport, the uninhabited island boasted a monastic settlement, abandoned village and a lighthouse–a trifecta of deserted Irish treasure!

Of course, I called Scattery Island Tours immediately and booked a trip.

Scattery Island Tours is a family run business that started operating in May, ferrying passengers to the island several times a day. The staff is outstanding. From the moment you pick up your ticket and board the ferry until the moment you’re back at the marina, you feel like a welcomed guest. Part of the reason for that is the small group sizes—there were only seven people on my tour, although (I think) they could fit up to twelve on the boat—so you don’t feel like just a number.


Plus, I love traveling by boat; it feels especially adventurous, like you’re really going somewhere. Leaving Kilrush Marina, the ferry actually passes through a lock. This was a first for me. The tide was out, so it took a few minutes for the water level to fall so we could exit into the estuary. Once out, it only took about ten minutes to get to the island.

Our guide was already waiting for us on shore. He led our humble group of seven down the ecclesiastical path (the easier of two walking trails), regaling us with tales of angels and of venerated saints who drove monsters from the island. Legends were mixed with the history of St. Senan, Vikings, and, most recently, fisher-farmers who occupied the island until about 1970.

After an hour-long tour, we were free to explore at our own pace. A second path led to a lighthouse and artillery battery. A few people walked the twenty minutes or so to get there while I explored the old main street and enjoyed the silence.  I think that was one of my favorite things about the island–how quiet it was. I remember walking behind the village, surrounded by trees and tall grasses, and hearing nothing except the rustling of leaves and a few bees chasing each other down the path. It was just good for the soul.

Ecclesiastical path
One of the more noteworthy relics our guide talked about is the round tower, speculated to be one of Ireland’s first. It’s unique for two reasons: 1) It was struck by lightening, giving it a lopsided shape and 2) It’s door is at the base of the tower. The doors of most towers in Ireland are built about ten feet off the ground. Contrary to popular belief, the high doors weren’t meant to protect the monks from invading Vikings, they were meant to provide structural stability. A doorway built at ground level would have weakened the structure.
A rare look inside a round tower. Another first for me!
Scaffolding is such a drag for the photo enthusiast. My one wish is that OPW will restore the buildings on the island to a safe standard so the metal fencing and scaffolding can be removed. I’d love to actually go inside of some of the old buildings. It’s a nit-picky request, though, because there’s certainly plenty to see, and the island is a quiet reprieve from some of the noisier sites around Ireland.
Cnoc An Aingeal. This is where an angel flew Saint Senan to the island to defeat the resident monster.
We had the island all to ourselves.
Looking back towards the mainland.
St. Senan’s Bed. The monks who used to reside on the island basically put up a No Girls Allowed! sign. Even if you were a saintly woman on her deathbed, you weren’t allowed to set foot on it.
St. Senan’s Bed
Mystery weed
Another fixer-upper. I’ll take it!
A peaceful resting place
The Street
Post Office
Closer… (love all the rust!)
After several tranquil hours upon the island, looking back to the mainland felt a little startling–like the past had suddenly and inexplicably collided with the present.

Don’t let this tour escape you. If you’re in the area, it’s worth adding to your vacation itinerary.

Scattery Island Tours

Kilrush Marina,

Merchants Quay,

Kilrush, Co. Clare

Tel: 085 2505512

A Trim Ending

My Ireland blog posts will be a little out of order. This is because when I arrived in Clifden, an electrical surge destroyed the transformer on my laptop’s power cord, and after that I had no way to charge my computer – so no uploading photos, blogging, etc. I had a spare cord at home from an old laptop, so the first thing I did when I got home last night was plug in and start pouring through photos. What a daunting task!

I decided I would start with Trim, Ireland – the last stop on my latest Ireland adventure.

I checked into Highfield House, a bed and breakfast just across the street from Trim Castle, on Saturday. Immediately, I was captivated by the high ceilings, antique furnishings and lush decor. I wanted to ask owner Geraldine Duignan, who wins the award for most hospitable hostess on my trip, if I could just move in. (She must get that a lot!) Geraldine prepared tea and scones upon my arrival, set me up with all the information I needed to explore the town, and made me feel truly welcome to be staying in her home. This is a great place to spend either your first full or last day in Ireland if you have flown into Dublin. I was tempted not to leave Highfield at all while in Trim, but the castle was literally just outside the door…

Along the River Boyne, the ruins of Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman Castle in Ireland, still stand after over 800 years. (You may recognize it from the movie Braveheart!) A lovely walking path runs from the castle, along the river, and past the ruins of the 13th century town of Newton.

I crossed the River Boyne at Ring Road, and initially took the Castle River Walk that way, which first led me to Sheeps Gate. According to the County Meath tourist guide, “Sheeps Gate is the only surviving gateway of the Medieval town of Trim. In olden times tolls were exacted but today you can pass through…as freely and as often as you wish.”

Yellow Steeple

Next, I came upon The Yellow Steeple. Who could miss it? This used to be part of the Abbey of St. Mary, and it could be seen from most any point along the Castle River Walk. I wasn’t sure what I liked better – the steeple or the sky behind it. I was really blessed with good weather.

Inside the walls of Trim Castle

I paid 3 euro to get inside the castle walls. I could have paid a little more to do the tour of the main tower but wasn’t willing to commit an hour of my time for information I would probably forget anyway. (I always buy a book or take brochures to remember the details my terrible memory can’t retain through tours.)

Outside the walls of Trim Castle

After leaving the castle, I back-tracked and crossed over to the other side of Ring Road to follow the Castle River Walk as far as it would go to Newton. You would not believe how many women and children I had to PhotoShop out of some of my photos. I swear, Trim must be having a baby boom. I have not seen so many babies in one place in all of Ireland!

St Peter and Paul Cathedral

Legend has it that the tomb of the “jealous man and woman”, found in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral can cure warts. I was not able to personally verify that. Ha.

The Priory of St. John the Baptist – just beyond the ruins of Newton

The Priory of St. John was past the official walk, but it was just sitting by river, begging to be photographed.

So, now I will be slowly going through my remaining 1,000 plus photos. I have so many stories to share! I can’t wait to blog about all of them. In the back of my mind, I know there are probably hundreds of emails waiting for me back at work and lots to catch up on. Can’t I just stay on vacation forever??

The Third Time is the Charm

I love how Irish people pronounce “Ireland”. They say her name like that of a new lover with whom they have just parted ways, wistfully enchanted, possessed by a fondness that can never be fully realized. I have caught myself saying it that way too – love and loss rolled into three syllables. Ireland.

Who couldn’t help falling in love with her?

She is magic, an enchantress who sings of adventure and romance from her Celtic shores. She lures you in with her bittersweet song and haunts you long after she tosses you back to sea. Ireland.

She is cold reality, forcing you to swim back against the salty currents, wounded, just to get another burning glimpse. Ireland.

She makes her peace with you – once you let go of your own agenda and just love her. She opens up a colorful promise, like a rainbow painted across a steal-blue sky, sweet hope against heavy sorrow. She plucks you from the desolate beach of disappointment and offers a gift. Ireland.

Ireland’s gift to me is a story,”Spirited Away”. She gave me the time and space to discover that I am a writer, and unlike the fickleness of romantic love, writing is a passion that can’t be taken away from me. So I have returned to the Emerald Isle a third time to do just that – write. Who knows, maybe I’ll finish my first book while I’m here?