A visit to the Park is a great day out with family or friends to escape to and to soak up the rich biodiversity and tranquility the Park has to offer. The Park opened its eco-friendly visitor centre and café in 2014 and offers designated nature trails and walking and cycling tracks, where visitors can rent bikes.
The history of Lough Boora goes back 15,000 years, when the raised bogs of the Midlands of Ireland appeared after the last Ice Age. Lough Boora Discovery Park is now a sanctuary for wildlife, a haven of fora and fauna for nature lovers. There’s also a Sculpture Park, where art meets nature – a route enhanced by 24 innovative works of art that complement the surrounding landscape with varying contrast depending on the weather.
Winner of the Best Environment Tourism Innovation Award at the biennial Irish Tourism Industry Awards in 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely team behind Lough Boora Discovery Park at the awards ceremony. The Awards celebrate Ireland’s most successful and innovative tourism initiatives, services and experiences. Beating off stiff competition, Lough Boora Discovery Park is a well-deserved winner.
My good friend Lisa and I set out for a trip to Lough Boora, which is about a two and half hour car journey from Dublin city centre. The visitor centre and cafe is our first port of call on arrival to pick up a map, a cup of tea and a sandwich. The café has a lovely decking area overlooking a lake known as, Loch and Dochais, which means ‘Lake of Hope’. This beautiful view sets the chilled-out mood for the day. A bike rental service is located just beside the visitor centre and we up a couple of bikes to explore the Park over the next few hours.
The tranquil ambiance of the Park helps you feel totally zen and cycling through the vast open space, soaking up the rich biodiversity and art sculptures is certainly good for the soul. I highly recommend it! The bog cotton is pretty cool.
There’s lots to see and do in Offaly, which is part of Ireland’s Ancient East. If you’re planning a trip to Lough Boora Discovery Park, check out other activities nearby here and enjoy!
A home away from home is how I would best describe West Cork Photography Breaks. A perfect getaway filled with great food, nature, photography and fun, led and hosted by UK and Ireland based photographer, Celia Bartlett.
In Spring and Autumn Celia hosts a series of four-day photography workshops in the lovely ‘ Yellow House’ located on Toe Head, Castletownshend, which holds a Fáilte Ireland Welcome Standard for Quality Assurance and its welcome. Celia guides guests along some of the most scenic places in West Cork to photograph and learn more about this beautiful part of the country.
The Yellow House, Toe Head, Castletownshend, West Cork
I love travelling around Ireland, taking photos (on my iPhone) and posting them on Instagram so when I heard about this workshop in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way, I was keen to check it out. Even though I find professional cameras a little intimidating, Celia reassured me that her workshop was for all levels and that I could use my iPhone if I preferred.
When I arrived at The Yellow House, the kettle was boiling and Celia introduced me to fellow guest Sara, a lovely librarian from the UK. Celia served a delicious homemade chowder with giant prawns caught fresh that morning in Union Hall. (Celia is also trained in gluten-free food preparation). The house was charming and my bedroom was lovely, a perfect start to the weekend.
After lunch we went for a ramble to take some photos around Toe Head and the small beach just a stone’s throw away from the house. The weather was a little dull, but I found the experience very relaxing. Usually when travelling I like to take snap shots of the beautiful things I see, whereas here I was seeking out the shot to learn more about how to capture the right light, composition and angles with Celia’s guidance. I was hooked and it got me thinking about investing in a pro-camera. Later that evening, over a hearty Irish meal and a couple of glasses of wine, we shared some of our photos taken during our ramble and Celia provided her feedback. Sara was streets ahead of me but Celia’s easy-going manner made me feel comfortable. Celia gave me some great tips and it was obvious that she was used to working with all levels. Here are some of my favourite shots (taken with my iPhone)…
Toe Head, Castletownshend, West Cork
Toe Head, Castletownshend
Toe Head, Castletownshend, West Cork
Toe Head, Castletownshend, West Cork
The next morning after a full breakfast, we headed off for a whale watching trip with Cork Whale Watch. The short drive to Reen Pier near Union Hall to catch the boat was beautiful and reminded me of a place called Vatos in Corfu. At the height of the season, skipper Colin Barnes told us that he could see up to 90 whales in one day, including humpback and fin whales. We spotted several minke whales during our trip and hearing the sound of a whale exhale air explosively through its blowhole was incredible. We chased the birds gathering around whales to feed. Sara managed to get some great shots of gannets diving into the sea like bullets. She also got a great shot of grey seals resting on the Stag Rocks. Dolphin pods are usually spotted too but not the day we were out, unfortunately.
Colin Barnes, Cork Whale Watch
Cork Whale Watch
A couple of days later, I heard that basking sharks were spotted and filmed on one of Colin’s tours. The west coast of Ireland is one of the best places in the world to encounter or see Basking sharks, according to Emmett Johnston of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group from a recent interview with the Irish Independent.
Later that evening, we settled in front of the fire with a glass a wine and a delicious slow-cooked lamb meal. We went through our photos from the day and chose three of the best from Sara. I was happy enjoying the chats, wine and picking up lots of tips from Celia. Sara’s fantastic photo of the seals was submitted into the local newspaper and subsequently published. Result!
View from The Yellow House
Our final full day was spent exploring Union Hall, Lough Hyne and Baltimore Harbour. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner in Richy’s Restaurant in Clonakilty followed by craic agus ceol in DeBarra’s pub, one of the finest music pubs in Ireland. Trad music sessions are held in DeBarra’s every Monday night and on the night we visited the owner was celebrating the birth of his first grandson, offering everyone a drink to wet the baby’s head! Only in Ireland. A great night to finish off a lovely weekend and we learned how to professionally photograph a trad session to boot!
Over the course of the four days, Celia encouraged me to try out her pro-cameras, she taught me the basics and shared lots of great tips. Feeling a little more confident, I took some shots of the trad session with Celia’s Olympus pro-camera. I no longer felt intimidated. I was hooked and a pro-camera has been added to my Santa list!
Union Hall, West Cork
Baltimore Beacon, West Cork
DeBarra’s Pub, Clonakilty
This is a lovely break away not just for those interested in nature and photography but also those seeking to try something new. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. Celia’s hospitality is second to none and all food served is locally produced and sourced. It was Sara’s first time in Ireland and she told us she had ‘experienced a real taste of Ireland’, ‘felt part of the community’ and found the ‘friendliness overwhelming’! Sara, if you’re reading this…come back soon and stay longer, we’ll look after you.
The four-day all inclusive photography workshop costs €590 (subject to exchange rate). This includes accommodation, all meals, tours, use of photography equipment and transfers to and from Cork Airport. Bookings for 2016 Autumn workshops in September and October are open. To book and find out more click here.