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Early evening at Ballintoy Harbour

A perfect summer’s evening. While much of the country was listening to the England vs Algeria football match, we had most of the north Antrim coast to ourselves. I’d rather enjoy this view over a game of football any day…

Ballintoy‘s long been a family favourite: a wonderfully diminutive harbour, nestled between fantastical rock formations. I’ve always loved the eccentric detail of Bendhu house, the solid understated character of the parish church, and the limestone cliffs and workings.

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, or see the location in Google Earth.

The Dark Hedges: along the Bregagh Road in County Antrim

The Dark Hedges, Bregagh Road, Armoy, Co. Antrim

These spectacular views are of the Bregagh Road, between Stranocum and Armoy in County Antrim. The ‘Dark Hedges‘, as it’s affectionately known around those parts, is a long avenue of beech trees running down the gentle undulations of this minor road. My mum had heard about this place – popular with couples getting photographed on their wedding day – from a friend who spoke vividly about seeing it in the moonlight as a child. Neither of us had been here before, and after driving about the area for a while we eventually found it with some help from Google Maps on my mobile.

The long lines of trees are incredibly striking, at this time of the year the leafy boughs arch across the road almost as far as the eye can see, creating a the impression of a vaulted canopy. The trees have become much more well-known in the last few years, their fame spreading as a result of their obvious attraction to photographers. Although it’s a fairly quiet road I had to abort several attempts at these panoramas due to cars driving slowly along the arched avenue… other folk were out enjoying the view too.

Since shooting here in 2010, the location has become even better known internationally, as it’s been featured in the hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones‘.

Look around the image above to explore the Dark Hedges in a panoramic 360° view.

Flowering heather

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At this time of the year the heather starts to flower, adding a lustrous, purple fuzz to the hilltops. Norland Moor is a great vantage point over Halifax, and is home to an almost uninterrupted sea of heather, accompanied by the sound of thousands of buzzing honey bees.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

Mount Stewart House

Mount Stewart, historical seat of the Marquesses of Castlereagh, on the Ards Peninsula in County Down. Now a National Trust property, the gardens have been immaculately restored to their former glory. Look below at the main house from the Italian and Irish gardens respectively.

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

Scrabo Tower, above Newtownards, Co. Down

I’m starting to make a habit of shooting panoramas from random follies: perhaps there’s a gap in the market I’ve found to exploit. However when the view’s this good, who’s complaining?

I’ve vague memories of once climbing up Scrabo Hill towards the tower when I was a kid, but despite growing up relatively close by, I was never able to climb up the tower itself. Closed for much of the Troubles, Scrabo Tower was the monument on the hill above Newtownards which watched silently as we made family trips towards the Ards peninsula and Strangford Lough. Newtownards was the home of the Lee factory seconds shop and Woolco, an ill-fated Woolworths-owned superstore in the 70s: cue family shopping expeditions galore. In the monochromatic and often fearful 70s, this was the last hurrah of global retail culture before the delights of the country and seaside beyond. I was always happier with a shrimping net and a a lucky bag than a pair of hardwearing brown corduroy trousers…

Part of me could look enviously upwards because Scrabo Tower, made more mysterious by its unapproachability, sat upon a glorious perch above some of the delights of County Down. The rich, perfectly manicured fields around Comber, Norn Irn’s vegetable heartland (as an expatriate my heart beats a little faster at the thought of Ulster Sceptres or Kerr’s Pinks from Comber… perhaps the perfect buttered spuds). Looking further afield, across verdant egg-shaped drumlins to St Patrick’s historic townlands; across the mosaic of half-hidden islands in Strangford Lough, to the beaches and villages scattered along the arm of the Ards Peninsula, Scrabo Tower has stood impassively atop this volcanic plug for over 150 years. What a view it’s had in that time.

Click below for a series of fullscreen 360° views of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

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