The 25 Most Beautiful Books of Irish Photography

photo of green fields in Ireland

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Mythology, by definition, offers an often fantastical explanation for the origins of a people and the land they inhabit. So it is perhaps not surprising that a land so verdant, so rich in natural beauty, and indeed, in many corners, so treacherous as Ireland would inspire one of the world’s most vast and varied mythologies.

While the origins of Irish mythology are rooted in its broader Celtic progenitor, there’s no denying the influence the Irish landscape played in shaping the stories of the Irish gods, heroes, and monsters into their final, familiar forms.

It’s also important to remember that when the Goidelic-speaking Celts (a.k.a. Gaels) arrived in Ireland sometimes between 500 and 300 BCE, they did not enter a purely natural world devoid of human interference: Since 7,000-6,500 BCE, the island’s first inhabitants, whoever they were, had been littering the landscape with massive stone structures (dolmens and cairns) and earthen burial mounds (tumuli). These man-made features were considered liminal spaces by the invading Gaels and reimagined as portals to the Celtic Otherworld—the doorsteps of the Irish gods themselves.

Thus, when one considers the mystical beauty of Ireland, it is a beauty we must attribute not only to Mother Nature, but also to the people of Ireland. The people preserved the land, they added to it and subtracted from it, poured their blood and sweat and tears into it.

The following list is a celebration of those people and their land. The books I’ve curated below feature photographs of Ireland ranging from modern, aerial views captured by drone, to shots that date back to the very dawn of photography. Interspersed among the entries are quotations from authors and poets who’ve attempted to do the impossible—to put the vast beauty of Ireland shown in photographs, and seen with the naked eye, into words.

The 25 Best Coffee Table Books Featuring Stunning Photos of Ireland

“They say the clouds are lower in Ireland…I say Ireland is closer to Heaven.”

Michael Vatis

1. Ireland: A Luminous Beauty

by Peter Harbison & Leslie Conron Carola

Per the publisher: “A collection of stunning full-color photographs by some of Ireland’s finest landscape photographers with concise text blending history, myth, and a sense of place. Many of the photographs were taken in the early morning light or as the sun set. That hour after sunrise and before sunset, with the sun low in the sky, is known to photographers as the golden hour and favored for its soft, diffused light. We take a journey to one of the most beautiful places in the world. From the ancient stone monuments of the Boyne Valley to the treacherous stone steps of Skellig Michael.” Learn more…

“Ireland is so saturated with green that it’s the things that are not green catch one’s eye: the roads, walls, shorelines, even sheep, seem to have been placed as contrast, strategically positioned to organize the vast expansion of green.”

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

2. Old Ireland in Colour

by John Breslin & Sarah-Anne Buckley

Per the publisher: “Old Ireland in Colour celebrates the rich history of Ireland and the Irish through the colour restoration of stunning images of all walks of Irish life, and the Irish abroad, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the chaos of the Civil War to the simple beauty of the islands, each image has been exquisitely transformed and every page is bursting with life. Using a combination of cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology and his own historical research, John Breslin has meticulously colourised these pictures with breathtaking attention to detail and authenticity.” Learn more…

“When I come out on the road of a morning, when I have had a night’s sleep and perhaps a breakfast, and the sun lights a hill on the distance, a hill I know I shall walk across an hour or two thence, and it is green and silken to my eye, and the clouds have begun their slow, fat rolling journey across the sky, no land in the world can inspire such love in a common man.”

Frank Delaney, Ireland

3. Best-Kept Secrets of Ireland

by Kevin Eyres

Per the publisher: “Ireland is a stunning country, with gently rolling hills, moody lakes and abandoned castles. The landscape recalls an ancient past but the vibrant Irish cities and towns speak of a modern state that combines the richness of the past with the diversity of the present day. This gorgeous book presents the multifaceted views of this intriguing land, with beautiful photographs and fascinating accompanying text.” Learn more…

“What is it about the Kelly velvet hillsides and the hoary avocado sea,

The vertical cliffs where the Gulf Stream commences its southern bend,

Slashing like a sculptor gone mad or a rancorous God who’s angry,

Heaving galaxies of lichen shrouded stones for potato farmers to tend,”

David B. Lentz, Sonnets from New England: Love Songs

4. Ireland: A Visual Journey Around the Counties of Ireland

by Peter Zoller & Michael Diggin

Per the publisher: “This book is a collection of 300 contemporary images of the natural beauties of Ireland, covering every one of the 32 counties. The photographs are taken by two of the country’s leading landscape photographers, Peter Zoller and Michael Diggin. The Photographer Michael Diggin is an internationally renowned photographer based in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Peter Zoller is a freelance photographer. He was born in Frankfurt but came to live in Dublin over twenty years ago. He now lives in Kenmare, Co. Kerry.” Learn more…

“Ever been trapped in a car during a particularly brutal thunderstorm? The cliffs are that kind of beautiful. Think drama, rage, and peace all packed up into one stunning package.”

Jenna Evans Welch, Love & Luck

5. Ireland (Visual Explorer Guide)

by Martin J. Dougherty

Per the publisher: “This beautiful guide celebrates the island’s most evocative and beautiful places, whether in nature or man-made, from the miles of near-empty beaches to the Mourne Mountains in County Down, from the pretty fishing towns of County Cork to Dublin’s elegant Georgian streets. Featuring images from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Ireland ranges widely across landscapes and history, from rugged cliffs and rolling hills to mysterious stone circles, magnificent cathedrals and ruined abbeys; and from medieval forts and castles to grand Victorian follies and villages abandoned during the Potato Famine.” Learn more…

“In the beautiful sloping hills of Connemara in Ireland…faeries were believed to have been just as beautiful, peaceful, and pleasant as the world around them.”

Signe Pike, Faery Tale

6. Mystical Moods of Ireland, Vol. I: Enchanted Celtic Skies

by James A. Truett

Per the publisher: “By bestselling Author/Photographer James A. Truett, this book features soulful images of spectacular Irish sunrises, the legendary Irish mist and castles and cottages in the brilliant green hills and meadows of counties Clare, Galway, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick. Whether you’ve visited Ireland before, are planning a trip, or you just feel drawn to Ireland through ancestry or fascination with its mystical natural beauty, you’ll love this collection of images capturing the enchantment of Irish skies and luscious countryside.” Learn more…

“The pub door swings open when a man enters. A window of moonlit sky and sea illuminates the darkened pub, and a surge of cold ocean air charges its way inside. It’s as if Cuchulainn’s raging soul had passed through the doorway.”

Laura Treacy Bentley, The Silver Tattoo

7. Dark Ireland: Images of a Lost World

by Richard Fitzgerald

Per the publisher: “These evocative images of rural life form a narrative thread with the not-so-distant past. Fitzgerald’s camera focuses on the back roads of the countryside, and records intimate moments of people in their cottages and farms. The dimly-lit rooms of Ireland prior to the arrival of electricity are eloquently remembered in his first-hand account of his childhood years; his early experiences observing light and shadow in a world illuminated by candlelight. The result is a unique album that is both compelling and graceful.” Learn more…

“They entered the wild country. Broken fences. Ruined castles. Stretches of bogland. Wooded headlands. Turfsmoke rose from cabins, thin and mean.”

Colum McCann, TransAtlantic

8. Castles of Ireland

by Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald

Per the publisher: “Castles are the most familiar medieval landmark across the Irish countryside. Their often romantic appearance belies their turbulent history and their lore abounds in stories of sieges, betrayals and daring escapes. From the earliest stone castles such as Dublin Castle to the fortified manor houses such as Red Hugh O’Donnell’s Donegal Castle, each has a fascinating and individual story to tell. Castles of Ireland brings the reader on a tour of more than sixty castles, from the biggest and most well-known to dramatic and atmospheric ruins which had a role to play in shaping Ireland’s history.” Learn more…

“I have always been a lover of the sun, even if, through spending a lifetime in Ireland, I have had little personal connection with it.”

John Boyne, A History of Loneliness

9. Ireland: One Island, No Borders

by Elizabeth Billups & Gerry Adams

Per the publisher: “Ireland is a place of mystical, enduring appeal, especially for the many millions of Americans who claim its special heritage, more than one in six according to the last U.S. Census. But Ireland has also become an international place of pilgrimage and discovery for all who venture there. This unique collaboration between Elizabeth Billups, a Santa-Fe-based photographer and activist, and Gerry Adams, the renowned leader of Sinn Fein, reveals a side of Ireland―and of Gerry Adams―not often portrayed in the guidebooks or magazines or news media.” Learn more…

“The gorse was in bloom, the fuchsia hedges were already budding; wild green hills, mounds of peat; yes, Ireland is green, very green, but its green is not only the green of meadows, it is the green of moss – certainly here, beyond Roscommon, toward County Mayo – and Moss is the plant of resignation, of forsakenenness.”

Heinrich Böll, Irish Journal

10. Ireland: Discover Its Beauty

by Carsten Krieger

Per the publisher: “A full photographic tour covering the whole of Ireland. Carsten Krieger’s renowned evocative landscape photography is complimented by more intimate shots of craftspeople going about their daily work. Coastlines, rivers, mountains, towns, from scenes that have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years to a vibrant, modern Ireland are captured through his lens. Carsten Krieger’s unique images of the Irish landscape are highly acclaimed and he is the author of several books of landscape photography. His photographs have also been published in magazines and calendars and he also exhibits in Ireland and abroad on a regular basis.” Learn more…

“Round these men stories tended to group themselves, sometimes deserting more ancient heroes for the purpose. Round poets have they gathered especially, for poetry in Ireland has always been mysteriously connected with magic.”

W. B. Yeats, Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

11. Spectacular Ireland

by Peter Harbison

Per the publisher: “Through words and stunning images, the Emerald Isle is brought to life in Spectacular Ireland, a magnificent collection of 140 color photographs by some of Ireland’s best landscape photographers and elegant text by Peter Harbison, one of Ireland’s most distinguished voices and renowned archaeologists. This handsome volume celebrates Ireland, a small island country of extraordinary beauty, fascinating history, and evocative myths, where old and new thrive together. From ancient standing stones and breathtaking pastoral scenes to energetic cities of architectural sophistication, we take a photographic tour reflecting the soul of this spectacular island.” Learn more…

“Unnamed buds appeared overnight along ivy-covered walls; plain cottages awoke to bursts of magenta, sienna, and lilac flowers that had been slumbering far too long under moss-ridden stones. The soggy grass of surrounding glens rippled with tones of gold, baking in the sun, while the sky over Ballinacroagh took on a shade of untouched blue that previously had been seen only in the cobalt of Pompeii murals.”

Marsha Mehran, Pomegranate Soup

12. The Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland

by Christopher Fitz-Simon & Hugh Palmer

Per the publisher: “Clusters of white cottages huddled between hills of an unbelievably rich green, villages of a single street, dazzling in their array of color washes and picturesque shop-fronts―such are the villages of Ireland, which to this day are living working communities. The most beautiful of these villages are captured here in Christopher Fitz-Simon’s sensitive commentaries and Hugh Palmer’s evocative photographs. This is a journey full of rural gems, some famous, others less so. Here are the colored coastal villages of Cork, their vibrant houses sloping down to a sea that so many Irish people crossed to found other communities in America.” Learn more…

“There was a certain untamed energy about the west of Ireland – full of tragedy and struggle, sown with the flesh of the departed.”

Rhian J. Martin, A Different Familiar

13. Lost Ireland

by Orla Fitzpatrick

Per the publisher: “The latest in this series takes a look at the most cherished sites of the country that time, progress, and fashion have swept aside. Since the dawn of photography in the mid-19th century, the face and economy of Ireland has changed dramatically, from a rural farming community to a rising industrial and tech-savvy “Celtic Tiger.” It has also shaken off British rule and found itself embroiled in a bloody civil war. Featuring some of the most famous sites from across the 32 counties of Ireland (including locations used in “Game of Thrones“), this collection of photos shows the buildings, institutions, and infrastructure that have been lost along the way.” Learn more…

“A landscape fossilized,

It’s stone-wall patternings

Repeated before our eyes

In the stone walls of Mayo.”

Seamus Heaney, North

14. From the Pope to a Flat White, Ireland 1979–2019

by Martin Parr

Per the publisher: “Martin Parr (born 1952) has been taking photographs in Ireland for 40 years. His work covers many of the most significant moments in Ireland’s recent history, encompassing the Pope’s visit in 1979, when a third of the country’s population attended Mass in Knock and Phoenix Park in Dublin, to gay weddings in 2019. Parr lived in the West of Ireland between 1980 and 1982. He photographed traditional aspects of rural life such as horse fairs and dances, but also looked at the first hints of Ireland’s new wealth in the shape of the bungalows that were springing up everywhere, replacing more traditional dwellings.” Learn more…

“The glow of a late autumn sunset covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who drowsed on the benches; it flickered upon all the moving figures – on the children who ran screaming along the gravel paths and on everyone who passed through the gardens.”

James Joyce, A Little Cloud

15. Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of Our Changing Times

by James Fennell & Turtle Bunbury

Per the publisher: “Award-winning photographer James Fennell and bestselling author Turtle Bunbury once again journey the length and breadth of Ireland to bring us an extraordinary, powerful new collection of poignant interviews from ordinary men and women who share with us their memories, providing us with an invaluable link to the past. Through words and stunningly evocative photographs, we meet the people of Ireland who lived through adversity and hardship during the formative decades of independent Ireland, yet whose courage, kindness and humour remains intact.” Learn more…

“These are the ashes of fiery weather,

Of nights full of the green stars from Ireland,

Wet out of the sea, and luminously wet,

Like beautiful and abandoned refugees.”

Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems

16. Return to Sender: Revisiting John Hinde’s Ireland

by Paul Kelly

Per the publisher: “John Hinde was a pioneer of colour photography and one of the most successful postcard publishers in the world. His largest collection of postcards celebrated Ireland. He portrayed an island brightened by his imagination, a place where children were red-haired and freckled, the sun always shining, and the sky forever blue. His idealistic images were to become the stereotypical portrayal of Ireland for many years, and to this day elicit feelings of nostalgia from viewers worldwide. Return to Sender pairs Hinde’s iconic, instantly recognisable postcards from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s with corresponding contemporary photographs.” Learn more…

“He decides it is better to die in Ireland than in Paris because in Ireland the outdoors looks like the outdoors and gravestones are mossy and chipped, and the letters wear down with the wind and the rain so everyone gets forgotten in time, and life flies on.”

Alison MacLeod, All the Beloved Ghosts

17. Ireland Ever: The Photographs of Jill Freedman

by Jill Freedman, Frank McCourt, & Malachy McCourt

Per the publisher: “A photographic portrait of the Irish landscape and its people commemorates traditional regional life with a range of duotone photographs, complemented with texts by best-selling Irish-American authors including Angela’s Ashes‘s Frank McCourt and Singing My Him Song‘s, Malachy McCourt. 35,000 first printing. For a country so identified with the color green, it seems odd to photograph Ireland in black and white. Freedman’s approach, however, brings out the spirit of the Irish people and landscape in less familiar ways. The stone cliffs and walls of The Burren in County Clare spread solidly over two pages, and a robust man sets off rowing under a darkened sky in Dingle.” Learn more…

“Summer means the river’s shallow,

Thirsty horses nose the pools.

Long heather spreads out on bog pillows.

White bog cotton droops in bloom.”

Marie Heaney, The Names Upon the Harp: Irish Myths and Legends

18. Kerry: The Beautiful Kingdom

by John Wesson

Per the publisher: “The Kingdom of Kerry is both a visitor’s and a photographer’s delight. Everywhere you turn, in every season, there’s a feast for the eyes, from magnificent sunsets to huge Atlantic waves to the bare trees of winter. Discover miles and miles of beaches, rugged peninsulas, inlets and cliffs, as well as mountains, lakes, sheep and wild goats. The soft rains produce an abundance of flora, like bog cotton and fuchsia, while the lush, sweet grass is perfect for Kerry’s famous dairy farming. The towns, like Killarney and Tralee, are lively and welcoming, and the people are proud of all things Kerry, from their Gaelic footballers to their writers and artists.” Learn more…

“From the moment I crossed the mountain, I fell in love with the place, which was more beautiful than any I’d ever seen. And with a way of looking at life that was deeper, richer, and wiser than any I’d known before.”

Felicity Hayes-McCoy, The House on an Irish Hillside

19. The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks: People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range

by Valerie O’Sullivan

Per the publisher: “Captures the rich heritage and traditions of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, a 19-mile stretch of mountains along the eastern boundary of the Iveragh Peninsula, Ireland. The images capture these untamed hills, as well as the resilience of the people.” Learn more…

“It was our basic Irish summer day, irritatingly coy, all sun and skidding clouds and jackknifing breeze, ready at any second to make an effortless leap into bucketing rain or blazing sun or both.”

Tana French, In the Woods

20. Ireland: A Photographic Tour

by Carol M. Highsmith & Ted Landphair

Per the publisher: “Ireland is a spectacular new addition to the series, with warm words and gorgeous photographs that perfectly capture the Emerald Isle’s unique spirit.” Learn more…

“The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

21. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

by Carsten Krieger

Per the publisher: “Take a photographic journey down Ireland’s Atlantic coast from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south. This beautiful book showcases the west coast in all its wild beauty: dramatic views, abundant nature and wildlife, lighthouses, harbours and quaint seaside villages, as well as heritage, history and people. The Wild Atlantic Way is a fully-signposted route along the west coast of Ireland that brings the visitor to some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery and liveliest towns: from surfing in Rossknowlagh to birdwatching at the magnificent cliffs of Moher.” Learn more…

“The sun is setting in a burnt orange sky; the cliffs are black silhouettes; the sea, liquid silver.”

Laura Treacy Bentley, The Silver Tattoo

22. From the Air: Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

by Raymond Fogarty

Per the publisher: “The Wild Atlantic Way covers 2500km, passing through an incredible variety of landscapes – from the verdant forests of Cork to the lunar landscape of the Burren, from rugged headlands and wild mountainsides to lazy rivers and brooding castles. Raymond Fogarty’s spectacular drone photography brings a new and thrilling aerial perspective to one of the world’s longest coastal touring routes. Ireland’s west coast is blessed with many examples of days gone by – where Iron Age forts, medieval castles, abbey ruins and round towers add to a special sense of timelessness.” Learn more…

“In this place on my own

The sea outside wraps this house of stone

Winter hums a chilly winter tune

Brushing through the stacks of sand dunes”

Virginia O’Malley, Eire West

23. Ireland’s Western Islands: Inishbofin, Aran Islands, Inishturk, Inishark, Clare & Turbot Islands

by John Carlos

Per the publisher: “This photographic collection, infused with warmth, spans almost fifty years. The islands off Ireland’s west coast form a rich cultural landscape, the result of a unique combination of the forces of nature and humankind. It celebrates the islanders.” Learn more…

“I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk.”

John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

24. prettycitydublin: Discovering Dublin’s Beautiful Places

by Siobhan Ferguson

Per the publisher: “This beautiful collection of images will take you past Dublin’s famous landmarks – the bridge, the Liffey, the pubs – and into the pretty hidden gems waiting around every corner. From secluded mews to artisan outlets, vintage markets and tree-lined streets, prettycitydublin champions the quiet, gentle moments that allow you to escape in a bustling capital city like Dublin.” Learn more…

“It has taken almost half my life away from Ireland for me to truly feel what home really is, and it is not what I was expecting. In the end it was not a place, or a past, or any sort of single, dazzling epiphany. It was all the little things. Cold butter spread thick on sweet wheaten bread or hot, subsiding potatoes; the scent of wet, black soil; a bushy spine of grass on a one-track road; wife iron gates leading to high beech corridors; the chalky smell of a cow’s wet muzzle, and, most of all, in Seamus Heaney’s words, the sound of rivers in the trees.”

Trish Deseine, Home

25. Ireland: Travel Book of Ireland (Wanderlust)

by Elyse Booth

Per the publisher: “Experience the beauty of Ireland throughout the pages of this coffee table book. View places like Wicklow, Giant’s Causeway, Dublin, Belfast and a series of scenes featured in the Game of Thrones. Also included is my favourite road “The Kings Road” otherwise known as “The Dark Hedges”. Stand in the stunning “Long Room” library located in Trinity College, Dublin.” Learn more…

Thanks for reading!

Let me know if there are any other books of Irish photography that you think should be on this list.

P.S. Interested in Irish & Celtic mythology? Check out…

Irish Myths in Your Pocket (Celtic Pocket Guides 1)

40+ images, hundreds of fascinating facts about Irish mythology, and one Celtic Otherworld-shattering showdown between Ireland’s two greatest legendary heroes. That’s just a tantalizing taste of what you’ll find crammed into the nooks and crannies of this pocket-sized guide to Irish mythology. And when I say pocket-sized, I mean literally pocket-sized. The paperback version of Irish Myths in Your Pocket: A Tiny Little Book About Irish Legends, Folklore, & Fairytales for Impressing Friends & Family on St. Patrick’s Day and Other Special Occasions is 4 inches by 6 inches, the same size as a photograph. Learn more…

Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

“A thrilling romp through pubs, mythology, and alleyways. NEON DRUID is such a fun, pulpy anthology of stories that embody Celtic fantasy and myth,” (Pyles of Books). Cross over into a world where the mischievous gods, goddesses, monsters, and heroes of Celtic mythology live among us, intermingling with unsuspecting mortals and stirring up mayhem in cities and towns on both sides of the Atlantic, from Limerick and Edinburgh to Montreal and Boston. Learn more…

More the listenin’ type?

I recommend the audiobook Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes by Philip Freeman (narrated by Gerard Doyle). Use my link to get 3 free months of Audible Premium Plus and you can listen to the full 7.5-hour audiobook for free.

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