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Ireland's Forty Shades of Green

Updated on August 12, 2013

The Emerald Isle Is Almost Green All Over

Ireland gained its poetic name, 'The Emerald Isle' due to its lush countryside. All that rain combined with the influence of the gulf stream makes for well-balanced conditions helping to produce so many greens. Whether there are forty shades or not doesn't matter - the main thing is it's mighty GREEN!

Being a rural country the evidence of grass and leaves, hedgerows and trees are all around - the canals and rivers that flow through some of the towns and cities have lush aquatic plants growing along their verges mixed with the occasional empty plastic green bottle!

About the only famous Irish thing that isn't green is of course good old Guinness, it's black. But green and the black stuff have always gone together, at least in Ireland they love each other!

I plan on giving you a whistle-stop tour around this fair green isle, we'll stop off and have a look at some well known attractions the country has to offer.

Title Image: Green Grass of Home available from

Created on 4 April 2013

All photos © Rob Hemphill

Ireland 40 shades of green
Ireland 40 shades of green

Forty Shades of Green

Where did it come from?

Whenever anyone thinks of Ireland, they most probably think of the shamrock, the Emerald Isle, the leprechaun or the "Wearing of the Green" and perhaps 36 other shades of green. But where did the "Forty Shades of Green" come from?

The Song

You may be surprised to hear that it was Johnny Cash who first penned the phrase "Forty Shades of Green" when he wrote his signature song of that name in 1959. He fell in love with Ireland and celebrated it by penning an entire album in celebration to the country. However many songs from that period seem to come across as being over sentimental and overdone for today's taste - but isn't that that what Ireland is all about?

When he wrote the song he confessed, "most of all I miss a girl in Tipperary town, and most of all I miss her lips as soft as eiderdown". There are also numerous other Irish connections in the song, such as Cork, Dingle, Donaghadee, Skibbereen, Shalimar, Larne and the Shannon. Cash saw the Ireland of old when times were tough and "the farmers drain the bogs and spade the turf".

Following Johnny Cash and his "forty shades of green", Bob Geldof with the "Boomtown Rats" wrote a song about the Northern Irish "Troubles" entitled, "sixty shades of red".

Article source: Why does Ireland have Forty Shades of Green?

Lyrics source Yahoo Answers

Johnny Cash - Forty Shades Of Green

Location Map of Attractions

This map shows all the visitor attractions outlined in this article.

the Burren landscape
the Burren landscape

The Burren

Alpine plants growing in Ireland!

I've already written about the Burren in the west of Ireland, but am returning to it here, as it's one of Ireland's natural wonders, and anyone who's visited will know what I'm talking about. The word 'Burren' means great rock, and that's exactly what it is, but not just one rock it's about 250 sq km of limestone rock in a Karst landscape.

You're probably wondering what gray limestone rock has to do with green Ireland! First, let me tell you about the geology of the area.

The gentle rolling hills of the Burren are made up of limestone pavements with loose sections of rock called 'clints' and narrow channels in the pavement called 'grykes'. 350 million years ago, the limestones were laid down as sediment within a tropical sea, and fossils of sea shells, sea urchins and corals can still be seen to this day.

The Burren was overrun by ice during the last Ice Age ten thousand years ago which sculptured the rock into what is seen today. However the bedrock is much older than that as can be seen from karstification (solutional erosion) which allows for the formation of extensive subterranean drainage.

Burren landscape
Burren landscape

View across the Burren Landscape

Photo: © 2012 Rob Hemphill

Frommer's Ireland Day by Day (Frommer's Day by Day - Full Size)
Frommer's Ireland Day by Day (Frommer's Day by Day - Full Size)

The Frommer's Ireland Day By Day is a fantastic book that you won't want to put down. It's one of the best guide books to Ireland that I've read. With 504 pages covering Irish history, facts, maps and photos, not to mention pubs and restaurants too. Any photographer will be happy with the quality and production of the photographs.

Lonely Planet Discover Ireland (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Discover Ireland (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet is renowned for the quality of their travel guides. This guide divides the country up into 7 color coded sections with the outer edges of the pages being colored in relation to its section.


Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary
Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary, Ireland

Photo: © 2013 Rob Hemphill

I live about 20 miles from a small mountain called the Devil's Bit, it's like what its name implies as if the mountain has had a bite taken out of it. According to local myth where St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, this bite was spat out 20 miles south to make the Rock of Cashel. It's reputed that in the 5th century Cashel was the site where the conversion of the King of Munster (an Irish province) by St. Patrick took place.

The Rock of Cashel then became the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for many hundred of years before the Norman invasion. The buildings that can be seen on the site today date from the 12th and 13th centuries.

The day I visited, this lovely double rainbow arced its way across the site, it seemed so poignant at the time, and I was like a rabbit running around taking photographs!

The Rock of Cashel visitor guide

Visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Rock of Cashel

Queen Elizabeth II - Her Visit to the Rock of Cashel

20 May 2011

Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit the Rock of Cashel on the final day of her extraordinarily successful state visit to Ireland. The Queen arrived by helicopter to the popular site, which is perhaps the most visited of all tourist attractions in Ireland, where antiquity experts gave her a guided tour. She was dressed in a particularly appropriate green dress - also appropriate for this lens (40 shades of green!)

The formal name of the Rock of Cashel is better known just as St Patrick's Rock.


The Twelve Bens, Co. Galway, Ireland

Photo: © 2012 Rob Hemphill

Connemara is situated on the west coast of County Galway and has to be one of those memorable and remote places you could find.

My family and I have been holidaying in the region ever since we were children and my father has done the same, spending time as a small boy here in the 1930s. It's a truly romantic area full of charm and beauty where the sheep often refuse to budge off the road to allow the traffic through. By touring around Connemara you're surrounded my mother nature at her best, so feast on the views and drink in the atmosphere - I think you'll love it!

Killary Harbour

Killary Harbour
Killary Harbour

Killary Harbour in the west of the Connemara region

Photo: © 2012 Rob Hemphill

Killary Harbour is a deep fjord more than 45 metres deep and 16 km long which divides the counties of Galway and Mayo. It's one of three glacial fjords that exist in Ireland.

It was one of the original locations in Ireland where oysters were cultivated and still are to this day - the floats can be seen in the picture.

These photos were taken near the attractive village of Roundstone. Anyone planning a trip to Ireland should think about coming to this area. You'll see the rugged Twelve Bens (or Twelve Pins) mountain range running through the whole region.

The area is popular for artists and writers alike, and the John Ford film 'The Quiet Man' with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed in the eastern part of Connemara in 1957. Many people like to visit the Quiet Man Bridge where the filming took place.

One particular thing about Connemara you're sure to notice is the ever changing light which keeps changing the mood of the landscape. The area certainly is a photographers and artists dream.

|Connemara National Park is located in Letterfrack just north of Clifden where visitors can go back in time and see how early man coped in this part of Ireland. It's a fascinating insight into how difficult times once were trying to live off bog land and mountains.

Connemara in my eyes is the real emerald of Ireland.

Connemara Marble
Connemara Marble

Connemara Marble

Green veined glory

Marble has been mined in Connemara for a very long time, it's is one of Ireland's oldest indigenous industries. A marble quarry in Streamstown just outside Clifden in the western part of the region was opened in 1822. Marble from this quarry adorns the floor in Galway Cathedral as well as the Senate Chamber walls of the State Capital Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the U.S.A.

There is a tourist centre in the village of Moycullen west of Galway city which sells jewelry and other small marble artifacts that originated from the Streamstown quarry. This is where you'll find Connemara marble jewelry fashioned into various designs such as the shamrock, the harp, Celtic Cross and the Claddagh ring.

It's possible to see master craftsmen at work at this centre busily cutting and polishing the marble. Other available marble gifts items are clocks, cheese boards, marble eggs and chess boards and all are on sale.

Image of Connemara Marble

Galway Oyster Festival
Galway Oyster Festival

Galway International Oyster Festival

A moving story!

In the fall of 2012, I went along to the International competition armed with my camera, and had an enjoyable day meeting and talking to contestants from all over the world. As far as I can remember there were about 32 entrants who qualified for the final having previously won national titles in their own countries.

It was interesting talking to many of them and hearing how they approached the challenge of shucking and presenting the finished 12 oysters for inspection. Armed with a variety of types and sizes of shuck knives, they all had their own way of removing an oyster from its shell. I noticed that several of the contestants had numerous band aid plasters on their fingers, so shucking has its difficulties!

Galway mural of a lady selling eels

Tsunami experience

The entrants who caught my attention were two young men from Japan seen pictured above. As I talked to them I realized that I was in conversation with two very brave, lucky and special young men.

These guys had been oyster farmers off the coast of Japan when the tsunami hit in 2011. Not only did they lose their entire livelihoods, they also lost their entire villages where they lived. The kimono draped over the shoulders of one of the men above is all that he managed to recover from his village in the aftermath of the tragedy.

What connects this story to the Galway Oyster Festival is that the organizers heard about their fate and offered them a lifeline in funding to re-establish oyster beds off the coast once again. They traveled to Ireland with renewed hope for the future and have formed a green friendship with the Emerald Isle. Here's to their success and I was moved by their plight and their courage to recount this tale.

Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, 27th - 29th September 2013

The Shamrock

The Shamrock along with St. Patrick are well known symbols of Ireland. It is thought that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity. The name shamrock comes from the Irish word seamróg, which means "young clover". In Victorian times, this trefoil was traditionally used because of its rich medicinal properties.

It has been extensively used as a symbol in Ireland throughout the past two centuries appearing on buildings as decoration, and also on china, glass, jewelry and Irish lace. It features on numerous emblems in both North and Southern Ireland, especially those of state organizations.

Image and more about The Shamrock on Wikipedia

An Englishman thinks seated; a Frenchman, standing; an American, pacing; an Irishman, afterward.

Austin O'Malley

Source: All Great Quotes

Glendalough in Co. Wicklow

Glendalough Ireland
Glendalough Ireland

The Round Tower in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland

Photo: © 2011 Rob Hemphill

People have been visiting the 'the valley of the two lakes' in Glendalough for its spectacular scenery, and its history and archaeology for thousands of years.

Glendalough is probably best known for its famous Monastic Site with Round Tower where visitors are enthralled by the beauty of the scenic lakes with walks and trails. It's a truly inspirational area is one of the most visited places in all of Ireland.

St Kevin, who was a hermit priest founded the Medieval monastic settlement in the 6th century. He was a descended from of one of the ruling families in the province of Leinster. Glendalough flourished for six centuries and according to Irish Annals the decline came with the deaths of abbots as well raids upon the settlement. St. Kevin died in 618AD.

jaunting car ireland
jaunting car ireland

Jaunting Car in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland

Photo: © 2011 Rob Hemphill

This jaunting car transports visitors between the scenic lakes and the Round Tower in Glendalough. It once used to be the method of conveying people in rural Ireland.

American Tourists in Ireland

Enjoy the Excitement of a Spin in a Jaunting Car

Buy at

This postcard was sent by a Mr. Brown from Dublin, Ireland

to a Mr.Cserey in Hungary on the 14th January in 1901.

The Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland

The Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland (The Most Beautiful Villages)
The Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland (The Most Beautiful Villages)

I sent this book to some friends before they came on a visit to Ireland. They were so happy to get a glimpse of the beauty of many of the villages around the country.

The photography is quite brilliant, and the articles are informative, so you'll find plenty of info on where to stay and what to do in this picturesque country.

An ideal present for anyone planning a visit to or returning from the Emerald Isle.


40 Shades of Green

Vol. 3-40 Shades of Green
Vol. 3-40 Shades of Green

This is a cracking album with 340 tracks of Irish music from many of the well known top performers in Ireland like The Fureys, Foster & Allen, Daniel O'Donnell, Mary Duff and Isla Grant through to the newer stars of Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizzell, Mick Flavin and Patrick Feeney.


Cliffs of Moher - Ireland's top visitor attraction

The Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare, Ireland

Photo: © 2013 Rob Hemphill

The stunning Cliffs of Moher are located on the western seaboard of County Clare just to the south-west of the unique Burren region. At their highest point, they rise to 700 ft above the Atlantic Ocean just north of O'Brien's Tower. This tower was built by Sir Cornelius O'Brien in 1835 to impress all the female visitors - I bet it did that alright!

More than a million visitors come to see one of Ireland's natural wonders, and recently a new visitor center costing 32m Euros has been tastefully constructed, mostly underground so as not to spoil the scenic area. It's not easy developing natural tourist hotspots; however this project has been a triumph.

Buy from

I have been to the cliffs several times in the past 40 years, and it's always been awe inspiring and thought provoking. 20 years ago a visitor could just preamble up to the cliff area and onto the main overhanging ledge, crawl on their stomach and peer over the edge. But following many tragic accidents, the authorities have made this old viewing area technically out-of-bounds. But saying that look what happened in 2006 - Cliffs of Moher ledge collapses into sea.

If you ever saw the film of Ryan's Daughter by David Lean, the opening sequence of the film, showing a parasol being dropped over the cliffs, was shot here.

In good weather, the Aran Islands in Galway Bay can easily be seen, as can the Maumturks and Twelve Bens mountain ranges to the north in Connemara. Boat trips to the islands and to view the cliffs from below are available from nearby Doolin.

See more on the Cliffs of Moher

Visited Any of These Before?

Have You Visited Any of These Places?

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A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

George Moore

Brook Kerith.

Source: All Great Quotes

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher

I can remember driving my Mini here in the 1970's just like in this picture!

This useful booklet gives some great information about the cliffs and the surrounding area.

In 2007, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre opened to the public. This new eco-friendly underground building contains restaurants and a gift shop, and also a new exhibition, entitled Atlantic Edge. Improvements and extensions have been made to the pathways along the cliff edge with steps allowing a generous viewing area.


Which Attraction Looks The Most Interesting?

If you could only visit one of these attractions, Which one?

See results

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    • norma-holt profile image


      4 years ago

      Its not something I will ever do but I feel I know a fair deal about Ireland thanks to lenses like this one, Great work and nice pics while the documentary is extremely well done and I love the additional bits.

    • profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 

      4 years ago


    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not been to Ireland yet but we're planning to go.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ireland is fascinating! Would like to go there. Great lens, bud!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have always wanted to visit ireland. Years ago, a man became ill on a flight back to the States. We made an emergency landing in Shannon Ireland. It was raining hard as we landed and they would not let us debark. For over an hour we sat on the tarmack with the doors of the plane open. In that time, the rain cleared and a beautiful sunrise greeted us over some of the most beautiful green fields I have seen. I would love to go back and see them up close.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      I would love to visit these places in person.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful photography, Rob3...You're a master! Ireland is one place in the world I would like to visit before...

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      5 years ago

      Love your pictures, and I know that Ireland is a harmony of greens... but your presentation is the real proof.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Oh my, but to feast in the beauty of Ireland's forty shades of green! You know, my time is nearly mine and it would be lovely to pay a visit to Ireland some day. Delightful, my dear!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful country with us!

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      I do have some tiny Irish roots and would love to visit the country.

    • Karli McClane profile image

      Psycho Free Zone 

      5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful lens!

    • hoffmannjames profile image


      5 years ago

      I had heard that Ireland was a beautiful land but I had no idea just how beautiful until I found your lens.

    • fifta profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the rainbow over Rock of Cashel, majestic!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Just got few very nice flashbacks from Ireland :)

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      I spent 2 weeks in Ireland and could not agree more with what you are describing here. Truly a green country and worth visiting by everyone. Thank you for sharing!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Breath taking beautiful photos of Ireland. It must be a wonderful place to live, I would love to visit. Aw, what a great vacation that could be. Excellent green, green grass of home, Congratulations on the Purple Star. :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was in Ireland for the first time about a month ago! I wrote a few lenses about my trip. We visited mostly south western Ireland, staying in Killarney & Adare. We did make it to see the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher on our final day though!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I must really visit Ireland one day!!

      Great lens. :-)

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 

      5 years ago

      Fabulous lens on one of my favorite topics -anything travel related. Some great pics, many of which got pinned. btw - you have 3-4 that are showing "removed by owner" - the Photobucket ones.


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