A Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island

The Llŷn Peninsula sits on the very north western corner of Wales.

We (like many others) have always referred to it as the pig’s ear — think of Wales as the head of a pig in profile and the Llŷn Peninsula looks like the ear flopping over its brow…

Being one of the extremities of the UK mainland, the Llŷn certainly has a whiff of the outcrop about it — a stronghold of the Welsh language, it can appear rather mysterious to the outsider.

Let’s say that the music certainly stops when a man and his wife clearly not from these parts walk into a local bar!

A Utopian Presence…

So, if the Llŷn Peninsula has a whiff of the outcrop about it, then how could I possibly put Bardsey Island into words?

Bardsey Island, Lleyn Peninsula, Wales

Lying the best part of two miles off the tip of the peninsula, Bardsey sits on the horizon, tempting onlookers with its Utopian presence.

The shape of it alone seems so perfect — I’ve sat for hours on the craggy peninsula, marvelling and daydreaming at such a beautifully simple and seemingly tranquil piece of land.

Steeped in history — with evidence of human activity dating back some 3000 years — 20,000 Celtic Saints are said to be buried on the island, stemming from a time when three pilgrimages to Bardsey were declared the equivalent of one to Rome.

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of an Archival Pigment Print of the above image — my first offering, available to buy exclusively on these pages.

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

The Archival Pigment Print of Bardsey Island, signed numbered and embossed…

Shot on 5×4 film back in 2002, the quality and detail within this photograph is extraordinary.

The prints are made using the very finest methods available, notably my favourite combination of HP Vivera Pigment ink and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm (you can read more on the Print Process page using the menus above).

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

Each print is titled, numbered and signed by me on the reverse in pencil…

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

…and carries my embossed mark in the bottom right hand corner.

If you would like one of these very special prints, you should find everything you need to know here.

If there’s anything else you would like to know, please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help.

My First Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island…

Into the Mystic, Condé Nast Traveller Magazine, May 2003I was first introduced to this part of the world back in 2002 when Condé Nast sent me on a mission to photograph the area.

The article was published in May of the following year and it was, without question, my favourite week of commissioned photography.

Condé Nast put us (me and my assistant) up in the gorgeous Georgian restaurant with rooms, Plas Bodegroes (pronounced Plass Bod Egg Royce).

I fell in love with the place, now an all-time favourite short break for my wife and I — a rare treat every few years or so…!

My Second…

To offer you a glimpse of what it’s like to set foot on Bardsey Island, I’ve put together a collection of photographs on Behance from my second pilgrimage — this time a short break with my wife.

Jack Lowe on Bardsey Island, Lleyn Peninsula, Wales

A (rare) photograph of me during my second ‘pilgrimage’ to Bardsey…

Those blues are rich, aren’t they?

Well, I kid you not, this was one of the most spectacular days we have ever experienced — with such searing sunshine and deep, deep blues we could have been anywhere in the world.

I read somewhere that with so much sea and so little land, the light appears to dance here. That sums it up pretty neatly!

So, I’ve now made two pilgrimages to Bardsey Island — I can’t wait for my third, my equivalent of one to Rome (but I’d surely like to go there too)…

Useful Publications

The flora and fauna is stunning on Bardsey Island — we saw rare Alpine Choughs, a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons circling around the cliffs below us and a Manx Shearwater (deceased).

At macro level, the range of lichens, plants and insects is extraordinary.  Remember the Collin’s Gem series of books? Well, they’re still going strong and we always have them to hand.

And with such Celtish history on the island, a pilgrimage to other sites might well be in order!

Ordnance Survey Maps of the Llŷn Peninsula

The OS Landranger map of this area is always easy to remember — it’s sheet No.123!

From the beautiful Explorer range of OS maps, sheet No. 253 covers the western end of the peninsula…

Book a Day Trip!

Why not pay a visit yourself?  You’ll find all the information you need to know here.

The First Digital Negatives

You may have read in my first proper post, Remembering Ardnamurchan, a week or two ago that I plan to gradually release Platinum/Palladium Prints of my work over time.

Well, after so many years, it’s been wonderful working on my own photography once more.

I’ve now made the first set of Digital Negatives and handed them to my friend and colleague, Richard Freestone of 139 Printroom, to work his magic — I’ll keep you posted as to when they are ready…

What’s a Platinum/Palladium Print?

“What’s a Platinum/Palladium Print?” I hear you ask!

You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve made a new page that explains all — click here to learn more…

HP Digital Negative for Platinum/Palladium Printing

A Digital Negative, among the first of my photographs to be made into a Platinum/Palladium Print — 10 points if you can tell me the location (leave a comment)!

Remember, 10 points if you correctly guess the location of the above image — leave a comment!

The Lake District and I

Back in June (remember, when it was really raining?) we went camping with a bunch of friends in Dodgson Wood, on the banks of Coniston Water.

This weekend, I finally made the time to go through the photographs and collect a few of them together.

I thought I’d share a handful with you here as I reminded myself that, on this trip, I became more enchanted by the Lakes (I’m one of those people who prefers Scotland).

For the first time in years, I took a stroll alone on the hills for a few hours where my senses were treated to some extraordinary scenes.

Some held beauty in their dankness (think Crow Crag of Withnail and I fame) whereas others were much more classical in their approach — especially when crepuscular rays bathed the landscape in warm, glowing pools of light…

Old Stone Farmhouse, Near Coniston Water, The Lake District

This scene puts me in mind of Crow Crag — ever seen ‘Withnail and I’…?

Peel Island, Coniston Water, Swallows and Amazons, The Lake District

Looking over Peel Island on Coniston Water, focal point of ‘Swallows and Amazons’…

Crepuscular Rays over Coniston Water in The Lake District

Crepuscular rays shine upon some of the locals…

Camping in the rain, Dodgson Wood, Coniston Water, The Lake District

Camping’s often not so good in torrential rain…

To clarify the earlier Withnail and I reference, take a moment to sit back and enjoy this trailer I unearthed from YouTube…

Ordnance Artworks

The Ordnance Survey maps I mentioned in my last post really are extraordinary.

We’re so fortunate to have such beautiful artworks made for us…

This photograph is taken from the Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398, a particularly fine example.

Have a Favourite…?

Do you have a favourite sheet number you like to pore over?

Leave a comment and let me know — I may have to add it to my small but growing collection!

North Morar, Scotland, Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398

North Morar, Scotland | Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398

Photograph of Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398:

Remembering Ardnamurchan

Recently, with our boys away, my wife and I set off on a small road trip. We headed north from our home in Newcastle, bound for the west coast of Scotland.

Back in our youth, before we knew each other, we were both very fond of Scotland — well, I was born there — and for years Kath has been keen to return to Camusdarach, the coastline where she enjoyed family holidays as a child.

Now, one of the things I love about human life is the infrastructure we build for ourselves. Not all of it, but some of it.

I love the machinations, how it all comes together in order to move people around. My friends and colleagues will know that railways tick the biggest box for me but I also got pretty excited when I learned that we were making use of the Corran Ferry on this little road trip of ours.

Waiting for the Corran Ferry at the Corran Narrows on Loch Linhe, Scotland

Waiting for the ferry to arrive at the Corran Narrows on Loch Linhe, Scotland

From the photograph above you can see that the crossing is very short but it’s certainly one of those wonderful pieces of infrastructure that I so enjoy.

I captured the scene on my iPhone and processed it using Nik’s fantastic Snapseed. You can see this image on my Instagram feed too, if you’d care to join me.

The ferry powers against the current (ferry glides) to reach each side and I noticed that the loading ramp is specially angled so that it can sit against the flow while vehicles drive on and off.

As I watched the water boiling past, herons flew up and down, seemingly so close to touching the surface; I relaxed when I realised they probably knew what they were doing.

Memories also started to flood back of the last time I was at the Corran Ferry. It was with my Dad, Step-mother and Sister (then a toddler). We were travelling to spend Christmas with friends on Ardnamurchan way back in the winter of 1995.

On my return, I knew that I would have to dig out the photographs from my archive. I did that, loved what I found and I’ve scanned the prints to share them here with you.

Here’s how the Corran Ferry looked in that freezing winter of ’95, as captured by my Dad…

Waiting for the Corran Ferry at the Corran Narrows on Loch Linhe, Scotland

Waiting with my Dad’s old Saab 95 to board the Corran Ferry, Christmas 1995

Waiting for the Corran Ferry at the Corran Narrows on Loch Linhe, Scotland

Like a film set, the water steams with cold at the Corran Narrows, Loch Linhe, Scotland, 1995

Once we’d made the icy crossing, we headed along the A861 from the ferry and then the B8007 to our friends’ home.

My lasting memories are of the snow, the ice, the cold, the starry nights and the magical climb of Ben Hiant on Christmas Day.

And let’s not forget the lovely sounds of my trusty old Nikon F3HP, which is now resigned to simply looking handsome on my studio shelves…

Nina and collie dog, Ardnamurchan, 1995

My Sister (two years old at the time), Ardnamurchan, 1995

Climbing Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan, Christmas Day 1995

Climbing Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan, Christmas Day 1995

Climbing Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan, Christmas Day 1995

The climb as captured by my Dad…

Time to Print…

Both my trips to this area in 1995 and last week have been perfect. We plan to go back again and again.

Perhaps most of all, I enjoyed making the time to nurture my own photography. This week, I have been collating the images and making digital negatives of a selected few in readiness for creating Platinum/Palladium Prints, which I will show you once they are ready.

Not sure what I’m talking about?

Don’t worry, all will become clear in time as I beef out the pages of this new blog with photographs and descriptions of the processes involved.

Our Route to Camusdarach…

The journey we planned worked well for us. If you think you’d like to pay a visit, you might find the following helpful…

We drove north from Newcastle on the A68 via Jedburgh (narrowly dodging horrendous rain storms and flash floods as it transpired), eventually making our way to the epic scenery of Glencoe on the A82.

Of course, we then took the Corran Ferry (£7.00 for a single) and joined the A861, breaking our journey at The Strontian Hotel on Loch Sunart.

Beyond Strontian, we stopped off for a few short walks (there are many dotted along the route) on our way to Camusdarach campsite.

Our return journey was similar but we took the faster route via Fort William, avoiding the Corran Ferry, breaking the journey at the beautiful Knockderry House.

I’m a little addicted to TripAdvisor (particularly the 1 Star reviews!) and you can see my reviews of these locations there…!

Many Britons have yet to discover the truly stunning locations we have right here on our doorstep, so let’s not talk about it too much, eh?

Helpful Publications…

We found these publications helped enhance our travels…

As I mentioned on Twitter recently, we’re so fortunate in the UK to have the Ordnance Survey making such detailed maps for us. We used these three on our trip — the Explorer range are particularly detailed for fans of the great outdoors:

The short walks I mentioned?  We found those in Walks Mallaig and Ardnamurchan (Hallewell Pocket Walking Guides):

Dreaming of the Future…

For idle moments, I took this book from my shelves at home in the hope that I might rekindle another side of my life, kayaking.

I had a good read of this whilst lying in the tent and dreamed of the future: