In the late 18th century, James and Grace Lynd Stuart planted over 150 beech trees leading to their Georgian estate, Gracehill House, hoping to impress approaching visitors.

Today, people worldwide are attracted and fascinated by the natural, ethereal beauty of the Dark Hedges.

What a morning! It was one of the few sunny, blue-sky mornings of our Ireland road trip adventure. My friend and travel companion, M, and I thoroughly enjoyed the short drive from our lovely B & B to this immensely popular site out in the middle of rural Northern Ireland near the village of Balleymoney.

Earlier, while refilling our coffee cups at breakfast, our host strongly urged us to “get there as early as you can, ‘cuz it fills up real fast with the tourists.” Excellent advice, that, as it turned out.

We arrived at the sparsely-marked neck of the woods about 8:30 and were pleasantly surprised to find only two cars parked on the side of the road near the entrance to the lane. A quick thinker as usual, M suggested, “You jump out with your camera and I’ll drive up the road and park. I’ll walk back down and meet you.” She didn’t have to tell me twice.

As luck would have it, her words were heaven-sent. Scrambling out of the car, I ran the short distance in front of the previously parked cars, and quickly clicked off about three shots. I could only hope that the camera’s settings were right.

… tourist-laden cars and selfie sticks …

 

Not three minutes later, a bevy of vehicles, large and even larger, filled the little road’s shoulders. Doors opened, spewing people out in all directions in every imaginable color, size, attitude, and interest level.

The comparative quiet and mystery of the place dissolved as quickly as wind-driven smoke. Selfie sticks cropped up in bunches, while those who only wanted a picture of the stunning tunnel of trees sans clueless sightseers sadly waited for them to move on. But by that point, capturing a non-people’d image that morning was impossible.

M and I remarked how extremely grateful we were of our host’s excellent advice as we exited the stately tunnel of trees and yakkety tourists, and away from the crowded hubbub behind us.

 … wise and a knowing presence …

The Dark Hedges is an extraordinary place with an almost palpable presence of age and wisdom about the comings and goings of men.

I’m sure in the quiet of a moonlit night, one might almost hear the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves as they pull fine coaches headed for the brightly lit grand home at the end of the lane. I imagine ladies riding down that mysteriously stunning avenue in their voluminous satin gowns, with feathers and jewels in their coiffed hair, while chatting quietly with their gentlemen companions who wear black top hats and hold canes at their side for no reason other than to give off a distinguished air….

….

Returning to the present, a contemporary note for those who may not be aware: this natural phenomenon of twisting, interlocking branches took stage in the popular HBO series, “The Game of Thrones,” in 2011. The literary series of the same title was written by New Jersey, USA born author, George R.R. Martin.