I love getting the chance to explore new places. Their sheer newness can inspire simply because they are fresh to me. Like so many landscape photographers, I can’t wait until the day that I get to explore the magical landscape of Iceland, for instance. I’ve seen so many wonderful photographs taken by others that I can easily imagine myself standing on the charcoal black beaches, looking up at the rugged mountain-scape, with an stunning aurora display sparkling overhead across the sky.
One day I will be there. But until then, I’m determined to explore the beauty right under my nose. And one such place that keeps calling to me is Cavehill. A mere 15 minutes’ drive from my house, it is the cliff-edge of the Antrim Plateau that overlooks Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast. All my life I have driven past it on my way in and out of the city, looking up at the jutting prominence known locally as Napoleon’s Nose, standing out unashamedly against the silhouette of the rest of the mountain.
It’s a place I know so well. And a place that I visit often. Whether at night, with the stars above and the lights of the city sprawling out below. Or at dawn, as the sun rises over the east of the city, its light often squeezing through gaps in the cloud above and before me, bathing the scene in front of me in golden hues of early light. Or whether it’s when I can look down on top of the cloud, when Belfast is shrouded in fog. From the vantage point of Cavehill, it looks more like the city is drapped in the softest of cotton wool. Each time I head up, that oh-so-familiar view looks different.
This is the wonder of the place that is close to home. All landscape photographers know that the one magic ingredient that gives life to an image is light. But it’s also the one thing you have least control over. When visiting somewhere foreign and exotic, often on a tight time scale, the light is what it is. You just have to make do. But when the location is close to home, you can watch the light, you can anticipate what it might do, and you can go back. Often. And more often than not, you’ll be lucky. And you’ll discover the most beautiful of sights right under your nose. Or, indeed if it’s Cavehill you’ve climbed, under Napoleon’s nose!
The longer way up Cavehill is from its eastern flank. Head for Belfast Castle and follow the marked route up the hill. You can either head straight up across a steep gravelly slope, or take the longer but more gentle route around the north side of the mountain. Either way, you’ll be heading for Napoleon’s Nose (aka McArt’s Fort), where you can enjoy amazing views of the city below – if the clouds are clear! Alternatively, the quickest way up to the top is via a car park on the Hightown Road. A brisk walk takes you to the top in about 15 minutes. Perfect if it’s sunrise you’re chasing!
Destinations are supplied for information only and are used at your own risk. Always take proper precautions when out in the Mountains and make sure you are equipped for all weathers. It is wise to let someone know your route before you head out. Do you have a favourite photographic location, why not submit your own adventure.