During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit
“When I was younger, we used to spend weekends and holidays in Mayo. Dad is from South Mayo, where you can see the Partry Mountains and Croagh Patrick as well as a couple of lakes. My Mam is from North Mayo at the bottom of Nephin and looking back towards the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. I used to hate leaving the west to go back home because I had some sort of connection with the scenery.
As the years went on myself and one of my best friends would be always sending each other photos of different places on WhatsApp as we both have an interest in scenery. The odd day we would have ventured off to different places.
The Summer of 2017 was the year I got properly into scenic photography. Myself and my girlfriend Lorna said we would go down and visit my Granny in Mayo. I said I would show her some of the Mayo Coastline and we basically did a big tour from Louisburgh to Achill Island, found out about the Wild Atlantic Way and I took a serious number of photos.
Poor Lorna was getting impatient and couldn’t understand why I would keep stopping the car taking photographs as she wouldn’t have been really into scenery. I think I’ve transformed her and her photo skills have improved dramatically since.
I would get a buzz in life when we won Gaelic football matches with the club or if I was watching Liverpool or Kildare win. But that summer I discovered a new buzz. Coming across places in Ireland, not known to many, but which are some of the most magnificent places on the Island. Some of those places you would have all to yourself. There was something about it that would make my adrenaline pump.
The obsession more or less took off from then. Up to now I’ve travelled the Wild Atlantic Way from Ardara in Co. Donegal all the way down to Kenmare in Co. Kerry, and also another chunk from Baltimore to Kinsale in Co. Cork. I have also travelled around to most counties and last summer I did Inishbofin off the coast of Galway with Marcus Duke and Cormac Daly.
All of this has made me realise there is so much places to see in this country that we would have never heard off. Some of them are absolutely spectacular. I have come across hidden waterfalls in caves, waterfalls that you think you would only see in the Amazon, beaches that have no one on them but wouldn’t look out of place in the Maldives, and windmills like you would see in the Netherlands.
Some days I will just decide to set the alarm early, head off in the car, and Google attractions in the county or area I’m heading to. It’s a great way to shut yourself off from the world.
Due to me clogging up my own Instagram stories, and with a bit of encouragement from a few friends, I decided to bite the bullet and set up an Instagram page displaying photographs of the different places I have travelled. I called it The Irish Galaxy as I take most of my photos on a Samsung Galaxy phone. I post the pictures up with a bit of a background behind each photo to make it interesting for people who want to visit there. I try to post 2 or 3 photos a week.
I also take Instagram stories of everywhere I visit and put them into a highlight with the County it is in. I am delighted with the way the page has been received by everyone and it takes my mind off teaching or football during the year.
Last Christmas I got a camera as a present and I’m hoping to upskill myself and increase the quality of photographs I take in the future.
During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit.
If you’re looking for a place to travel to in the local area or around the country, check out my travel page and you might get a few ideas” – Mark Durkan