independent

Friday 18 August 2017

Ireland's ancient east

Mourne Mountains from Greenore, Co Louth.
Mourne Mountains from Greenore, Co Louth.

Margaret Roddy

Louth and Meath feature prominently in a new book from leading Irish publishing house O'Brien Press highlighting the beauty of Ireland's Ancient East.

Photographer Carsten Krieger was commissioned to produce the book, having previously worked with O'Brien Press on a book about Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. This proved so successful that it was decided to publish another book linking in with Failte Ireland's campaign for Ireland's Ancient East.

The Co Clare based photographer was initially given six months to work on the book, but as the vision for the Ireland's Ancient East campaign developed, the project grew and he embarked on a journey following stories which make up what he calls 'a trial of breadcrumbs'.

'There are few countries where history is such an obvious part of daily life as it is in Ireland,' he writes in the introduction. 'There is hardly a road or path that doesn't lead past an old church, the ruin of a castle or the remains of an ancient homestead.'

'Ireland's Ancient East' is a beautiful book which captures this perfectly, with glorious photographs of ancient ruins, lush landscapes and brooding skies. It's Ireland at its best, the Ireland which tourists and emigrants crave, and the Ireland which we, living here, often fail to appreciate.

The book is the culmination of one and a half years work and a lot of travelling. 'The locations are more or less based on the Failte Ireland concept and I started with well known places like Clonmacnoise and the Rock of Cashel and then spread out to look at the rest of the region,'explains the photographer.

Just as the Failte Ireland marketing campaign is divided into sections or stories, Carsten's beautifully illustrated book is also based around themes, including The Cradle of Civilisation which takes in Counties Louth and Meath, including the great passage tombs of the Boyne Valley, Proleek Dolmen at Ballymascanlon, the Cooley peninsula, which formed the backdrop for 'one of the greatest stories in Irish mythology: 'Tain Bo Cuailnge: The Cattle Raid of Cooley', and the Norman castles of Carlingford and Roche, as well as the monastic settlements of Mellifont and Monasterboice, The Battle of the Boyne site at Oldbridge Estate.

Like most landscape photographers, he prefers to shoot during the 'golden hours' of sunrise and sunset but the deadline imposed by the project, meant he had to make the most of the available light where ever he was. 'I'd pick my day and go to a location and just have to live with the conditions. In the end I think it worked out for the better as I got a lot of different moods and seasons, so the end product is better to look at.'

When he travelled to Carlingford, for example, he recalls the forecast being for a bright and sunny day. 'However, when I arrived that morning it was dark and drizzling but that worked out fine as the Christmas lights were up, and it added to the atmosphere.'

He also researched and wrote the text for the book, explaining 'Diving into the history and folklore books was time consuming but also very enjoyable. Putting all that newly acquired knowledge into my own words was a bit of a struggle in the beginning but over time I started to enjoy the writing process and slowly but surely the book began to take shape.'

Published in paperback, 'Ireland's Ancient East', is available for pre order from O'Brien Press at €14.99

The Argus

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