Category: Travel Photography

Proleek Portal Tomb, Legananny Dolmen and Binder’s Cove Souterrain

On our short trip to Northern Ireland we ended up seeing prehistoric and historic sites (as usual) and these are three of them. 

The first one is just South of the border in the Republic of Ireland. Proleek (’obscure’) Portal Tomb is a large structure over twice my height, which was likely built by farming communities around 3000 BC and would have had a burial mound around it. The large stones served as an entrance to the tomb. 

The second one is called ‘Legananny Dolmen’ and is found in County Down. It is much smaller, but also impressively held up by pointy stone pillars. ‘Dolmen’ probably comes from the Breton word ‘tolmen’, meaning ‘stone table’, which refers to the flat stone on top. Again, built by the same type of people around 2500 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding area derives its name from this dolmen, which means ‘The Pillar Stone of Anya’. Anya is a mythological mother goddess, who the legendary warrior Finn MacCool fell in love with.  

Just a few miles from Legananny Dolmen is a souterrain, known as ‘Binder’s Cove’ or locally as ‘Finnis Souterarrain’. This is probably a left-over from early medieval Christian times, when people lived in ring-forts. Souterrains generally ran below or near ring-forts and were likely designed to protect people from raids with a narrow entrance, which could be easily defended. This particular one is likely from the 5th century AD. The main tunnel is 30 meters long and about 1.5 meters high (ducking is essential) with some alcoves branching off, which may occasionally have been used for storage. 

Northern Ireland vlog on Youtube. 

Slieve Croob and the surrounding countryside, Northern Ireland

Slieve Croob can be translated to ‘Mountain of the Hoof’ and though it is not very high (534 m), it is apparently over 380 Million years old, even older than the Mourne Mountains, which you can see looming on the other side. This whole area was once shaped by big ice sheets pushing down from Donegal during the Ice Age. On top of Slieve Croob you find the 12 Cairns, which are Neolithic burial chambers (possibly put together from one big one originally). Neolithic farming communities would settle in the fertile valleys below between 4000BC and 2000BC and they have erected many impressive stone structures all around the area. Slieve Croob was also traditionally the place where Lughnasa was celebrated, the festival dedicated to the Celtic sun god Lugh. It was celebrated in August to prolong the period of sunshine into the harvest months. People would pick bilberries (also known as ‘blaeberries’, giving it the name ‘Blaeberry Sunday’) on the way up and then sing, dance and play the fiddle. This was done on Slieve Croob well into the 1950s.

A Northern Ireland vlog is up on Youtube. 

Newport-On-Tay 

On the way home from St Andrews we stopped in Newport-On-Tay and although it is a small town and we didn’t stay long, I still enjoyed walking along the Firth of Tay and the great view over the Tay Road Bridge and Dundee.

St Andrews road trip on YouTube

St Andrews

In October 2019 there was a photography festival in St Andrews and since I’m a photographer, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to finally visit this town, which is well-known for its university. We only spent a day there and had a stroll around the town centre and along the pier. First, however, we went into the Holy Trinity Church, where the Protestant reformer John Know held his famous ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ sermon on the 4th of June 1559, which led to the ransacking of St Andrews Cathedral. There is also a castle, where Protestant reformers set up the first Protestant congregation in Scotland in the 1540s, among them John Knox as their religious leader. After being besieged by the Scottish and French army, they eventually had to give up and were exiled and punished. John Knox, however, managed to return to Scotland to finish his reformative task many years later. Overall, St Andrews has a great atmosphere and architecture, which reminds me a little of Edinburgh. 

St Andrews road trip on YouTube

St Andrews Cathedral

Built in 1158, the cathedral became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church and seat of the Archdiocese and Archbishop. At a length of 119 meters (390 ft), the ruins suggest that this was the largest church built in Scotland. So what happened to this once magnificent church? On the 4th of June 1559, the preacher John Knox, the central figure of the Scottish Protestant Reformation, held a sermon in the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity, which incited a riotous mob to march on the cathedral and strip its insides of its wealth. As a result of the Reformation, Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th Century and the church fell into disuse. People would carry off the stones to re-use for new houses and the cathedral quickly turned into a ruin. It is now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland, but most of it can be seen for free. 

St Andrews road trip on YouTube

St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland

This island can be reached via a ‘tombolo’, which forms this interesting X-shape. (A ‘tombolo’ is a strip of land, often created through deposited material over time, which attaches an island to the mainland, creating a ‘tied island’.) There you find the remains of a 12th Century chapel, dedicated to St Ninian. On the 4th of July 1958 a local schoolboy by the name of Douglas Coutts discovered treasure under a slab marked with a cross on the chapel site. It turned out to be 28 pieces of Pictish silver artefacts, many of them jewellery, and the jawbone of a porpoise. This treasure was likely hidden during a Viking raid around 800 AD. The original items can be seen in the National Museum of Scotland.  

Video footage here. 

Northmavine Peninsula coastline, Shetland

After going up Ronas Hill we wanted to explore some more of the area that we could see from the top of the hill. The day was ending and we were quite tired, so we only saw a glimpse of the rock formations and sea stacks, but what we saw was very impressive, especially bathed in the light of the setting sun. The stretch between Hillswick and Tangwick is particularly beautiful, which is what you see in the first four pictures, including the peculiar pointy rocks known as ‘The Drongs’ (4th photo, also visible from the top of Ronas Hill). Then we drove over to the Eshaness area and stopped at Tangwick to watch the seals relax among the rocky shore. 

Shetland Day 5 

Our whole Shetland trip in a playlist

Shetland Museum & Archives, Lerwick

This is a very enjoyable museum with just the right amount of things to see without being too over or underwhelming. Also, it’s free to visit! It spans from prehistory to modernity. I included some of my favourites here, but I also filmed plenty more.  

Shetland Day 5 on Youtube

Walk to Muckle Flugga, Shetland

We took a whole day to spend on Unst, as we needed to get the ferry first to the island of Yell, then from there the ferry to Unst. We drove straight up North and started of at the car park for the Hermaness National Nature Reserve to make our way to see the northernmost part of Britain. I have looked at maps before and noticed a place called ‘Outstack’ and thought to myself: Yeah, I want to go there. Maybe some other time. It is a tiny island and you probably can only get there by boat, but I still got to see it. Outstack is the very last bit of Britain before the North Pole. Of course the walk up there was stunning. We had to take care to not fall off the cliffs but they were absolutely scenic, just as Orkney’s cliffs had been. It took us roughly 2 hours to get up to the view point. Probably my favourite part of our Shetland trip. 

There was a gannet colony living along the coast as well, but I put it in a separate post. 

Unst travel vlog here. 

Gannet Colony, Hermaness National Nature Reserve, Shetland

Here are some close-ups of the gannets we saw along the way to Muckle Flugga and some dramatic waves crashing into the rock. 

Cliffs of Unst and Muckle Flugga post

Unst travel vlog here.