Raymond Fogarty, author and photographer of From the Air – Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, chats with us about his journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, his inspiration behind it and what he found along the way.
Ever since I was a boy, I was enchanted by the Irish landscape with its rich heritage and timeless beauty. To me, Ireland was its own little planet with its ever-changing scenery that beckoned to explore beyond the horizon. When the Wild Atlantic Way touring route was announced, I immediately wanted to travel there. Never before had I seen a definitive compilation of locations along the west coast and, with my new drone hobby and the opportunity to see beyond that Irish horizon, it made for an irresistible proposition. I was already in awe at seeing Cork city from above; and delighted to see the reactions of others at this new perspective. So now, I had a chance to do this – to have the adventure of a lifetime, and to see the places I knew and the places I’d never seen before, from the air.
I gave up smoking in 2013, to improve both my health and my finances. It wasn’t an easy challenge, so I gave myself an additional incentive at the outset: I would use the money saved to embark on a new hobby. My first thought was to invest in a fully featured telescope, and to explore the night sky. But around then I became aware of drones, and was blown away at the aerial photos and videos that were beginning to appear online. Rather than explore the universe, I resolved instead to get a drone and explore Ireland from the air. I was always fascinated by gadgets and technology, and I love photography, so drones ticked all the boxes for me.
I purchased a DJI Phantom 2 drone with a GoPro camera in early 2014. Flying it took a bit of practice, patience and planning, particularly on the west coast where weather conditions can be unpredictable. When flying, a number of factors have to be considered, such as temperature, wind speed and direction, and just making sure that it’s safe to fly. The Irish landscape, however, is hugely rewarding, with its many shades of stunning colours in any season, constantly shifting and changing throughout the day.
One fantastic bonus on my journey along the west coast was the people I met on the way. People always seemed to be on hand when I got into a little trouble. When my car got stuck in the muck near Loop Head lighthouse, a local man contacted a nearby farmer, who promptly came along with a tractor and extracted my car from the mud. On Bere Island, when I missed the last ferry back, a lovely lady made me sandwiches and tea, which was great since all the shops were closed!
On Inis Mór, my driver brought me to Iron Age ringfort of Dún Eochla. He pointed out the nearby remains of a nineteenth-century lighthouse, and explained to me that despite this being the highest point on the island, it had not been the right place to put a lighthouse. The views here are spectacular, and perhaps the scenery had influenced the engineers’ logic!
At Galley Head, I met a beautiful white Labrador dog, who followed me all around the area. I thought he was just being friendly, but I think he was also interested in my drone! When I returned four years later, there he was again, greeting me like an old friend.
Some of my favourite places on the Wild Atlantic Way include Bere Island, County Cork, the drive through Conor Pass to Dingle, the ancient monuments of Inis Mór on the Aran Islands, and the raw wilderness of Mayo’s Mullet Peninsula. At these places, I discovered the essence of Irish beauty, hospitality, culture and heritage that even surpassed my imagination.
To have From the Air published is a great personal achievement. And to have done it as a result of buying my first drone with the savings from quitting cigarettes makes it all the more satisfying. It is a pleasure for me to share my perspective of Ireland with others, and hopefully to inspire others to visit our glorious west coast.
Raymond Fogarty, May 2019
From the Air – Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is available to buy here and in all good bookshops!