Rugged Landscapes of the West of Ireland

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Rugged Mountains of the West of Ireland Rugged Mountains of the West of Ireland

The West of Ireland, it's the place that I photograph most often in Ireland along with the Antrim Coast and Dublin.

Here, a typical western scene of rugged mountains, very often coated with a soft green of grass and, here where you see the reddishness, bracken that has died back for the winter. 

Bracken is a type of fern Pteridium that dates back some 55 million years, is highly invasive and can cause cancer in humans (only if eaten) and is poisonous to animals (again only if eaten).

Bracken creates its own ground shade preventing shrubs and trees from establishing like a forest canopy in miniature.

In the landscape, in winter, it gives a characteristic reddish-brown look to hillsides and open ground that combined with golden sunrise or sunset light gives a warming glow to the treeless Irish countryside as seen here until spring arrives again.

A 9th Century Irish poem refers to bracken and its characteristic autumn / winter colour:


My tidings for you : the stag bells, Winter snows, summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun, Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone

The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry. Cold has caught the wings of birds ;

Season of ice—these are my tidings.


And in the late 1930s, a story from County Cavan:

Locally it is believed that the herb known as the "bracken", (which seems to me to be nothing other than the wild fern) is said to blossom and seed all in one hour, the hour being that from twelve to one o'clock on the night of the 21st (or 2th) of June. Of course to all appearance the bracken or fern never blossoms.

The person who succeeds in catching the seed is supposed to be all powerful. In order to catch it a person must go at its blossoming hour, mentioned above, and stand inside a circle of the brackens which he has carefully placed around him. While waiting inside this circle for the lucky hour, he is supposed to be tempted very strongly by the "Good People" (fairies) to leave the bracken-circle. They offer him all sorts of attractions from outside the ring in the endeavor to allure him out of it; for for once he leaves the ring, he fails to catch the bracken-seed.


And there is a lot in that story from Cavan, brackens like all ferns do not actually have seeds, nor flowers, but spread by spores (sporangiforms) and rhizomes.

Join me, Panoramic Ireland, to photograph and to learn more about the Irish countryside on a photography tour in 2021. No deposits are required to reserve a day for when we can travel again.

Last modified on Friday, 01 January 2021 00:03
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

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