Landscapes of Ireland, then and now

Cliffs of Moher

Sculpted over millennia by natural and human forces, the landscapes of the island of Ireland have offered dramatic photo opportunities ever since the birth of the camera.

These images from the collections of Ireland’s memory-keeper, The National Library of Ireland, show that the iconic Irish scenery is timeless, varied and stunning.

1. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
A wonder of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site in The Burren, County Clare. The sheer size of this Irish landmark and the natural beauty, wildness and ruggedness of the coastline always impress even the most well-travelled. The cliffs rise to over 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and such is the imposing height and views out to sea, it feels like you can almost see the faint outline of the east coast of America on a clear day.

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The Cliffs of Moher – Co. Clare

2. Devenish Island, County Fermanagh

Lying just downstream from Enniskillen, Ireland’s only island town, Devenish is one of the many islands scattered around Lough Erne, a lakeland paradise in County Fermanagh. St Molaise founded a monastic settlement here in the sixth century and during its history it has been raided by Vikings, burned, and flourished again as a parish church site. A feeling of timelessness and tranquillity pervades the island, and among the many interesting monastic ruins to explore is a perfectly preserved round tower, which can be climbed using internal ladders. 

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Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
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3. Clifden, County Galway
This quintessential Irish town is the largest in Connemara and the unofficial capital of the ruggedly scenic region. Set against a stunning backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountain range and ocean, the town today brims with stylish restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and quaint Irish pubs where traditional music and culture thrives. The National Gallery of Ireland’s archived colour photo of the town was taken in the 1960s.

Old Cliften Galway Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
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4. Hook Lighthouse, County Wexford
Built 800 years ago, Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world and truly one of a kind. A good weather visit offers fantastic views from the top of the tower over the surrounding Irish landscape. On a stormy day you can get a real feel for the treachery of the ocean and the importance of the light to the safety of mariners. Year-round guided tours of the medieval tower are one of the top things to do in Ireland’s Ancient East.

Hook Lighthouse – Image Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
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