Photographer Carsten Krieger gives an insight into the inspiration for his book The Whispering Land, a photographic tour of Ireland’s rugged west coast with over one hundred stunning images.


The Whispering Land is all about the Irish landscape and the stories this landscape has to tell. I have been travelling and photographing Ireland for over 20 years and with every image I made there was a little story. Sometimes an image came into being because of a story I had heard, sometimes I discovered a tale about a place I had visited and photographed after the fact.
The idea to put the images and stories together came about during one of many visits to a very special place close to where I live. This place, a small bay at the Shannon estuary, is locally known as the “Drowned Forest”, a stretch of coast made of peat, embedded in which are countless old tree trunks and branches.

Today this Drowned Forest gets engulfed by the tides twice each day and with each high tide some of it is being washed away. Sometime in a distant past however this must have been a vast forest made of mighty Scots pines and graceful birch trees and covering a landscape through which a much smaller river Shannon meandered its way.

There is also a tale that tells of three brothers, local chieftains on the Loop Head Peninsula, and their sister who resided close to where today the Drowned Forest can be found. A small distance offshore and almost halfway between the Clare and Kerry shorelines, sat a small island known as Kilsteefeen, home to a picturesque farming village and fertile pastures.

The sister was kept under constant supervision by at least one of the brothers. The reason for this was a prophecy that predicted a great disaster should the sister ever marry and so the brothers kept her away from any potential suitors. However, on the other side of the Shannon lived a sorcerer who had taken a liking to the sister, whom he had glimpsed on his regular visits to County Clare. Not surprisingly, his courtship was rejected by the brothers, so the sorcerer started to brew up another plan.

Cattle raiding was a common pastime back then and sudden forays happened on a regular basis. The sorcerer took advantage of this and hired some men to steal the brothers’ cattle, hoping to lure them away from their sister. Soon after the sorcerer’s thugs had taken off with the cattle, the alarm was raised and naturally, not suspecting anything, the brothers and their guards gave chase to the thieves.

This left the sister only under the protection of the local druid who had been very much aware of the sorcerer’s amorous intentions and suspecting foul play, put some magic protections in place. These however were no match for the sorcerer who, to cut a long story short, broke the druid’s enchantments and put him to sleep. Then he took the girl, jumped in a waiting boat and started to make his way back to Kerry.

Not long after the sorcerer and the girl had left, the druid woke up and immediately realised that the sister was gone and probably already halfway to Kerry. Furious, he set out to stop the sorcerer and in his rage called upon the elements, causing the Shannon to rise up and the westerly winds to blow a gale. Huge waves rolled into the narrow channel of the estuary from the Atlantic.

The sorcerer, who was indeed already halfway across the river, saw the sky darken and a wall of water coming towards him. His muttering of counterspells came too late. The massive tidal wave swept him away and only moments later also engulfed the island of Kilsteefeen. The houses, stables and the church, along with all the island’s people, vanished forever under water.

Another story involving magic took place a bit further north in Connemara and this tale doesn’t explain sea level rise but geologic processes. The Twelve Bens and Maumturk Mountains dominate and watch over the Connemara landscape. At times their distinct dome shapes glisten silvery in the sun, at other times dense clouds shroud the peaks in flowing white sheets.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own