Carton House in Maynooth, County Kildare was once the country residence of the powerful Duke of Leinster. Today, the stately home has been transformed into a luxury hotel and the spacious grounds house two world class golf courses. The sprawling grounds of the Carton Estate are open to the public and are an excellent location for photography or even just a leisurely stroll.

I actually studied French and History at Maynooth University many years ago but never once made the twenty minute walk to the Carton Estate in my three years in the town. I must have been too busy partying and drinking beer studying very diligently and engaging in deep discussions about eighteenth century French literature with my fellow students.

Here is a selection of photographs I took in different locations around the Carton Estate over the years.

Rye Water at Dawn

Rye Water Panorama - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1sec ISO-100 24mm

We begin the series with a dawn panorama of the Rye Water Lake. This photograph consists of five separate photographs stitched together in post-processing. It was a perfectly windless morning in County Kildare with a light mist hanging over the still waters of the small lake – perfect landscape photography conditions.

Bridge on the Rye Water at Dawn - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/5sec ISO-100 60mm

For the next shot that morning, I moved to a small and slightly perilous footbridge upstream and photographed the quadruple arched stone bridge that traverses the river before it widens out into a small lake. A few mist shrouded ducks obligingly provided some interest just in front of the bridge.

Sunrise over the Rye Water - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/100sec ISO-100 24mm

A few minutes later, the sun was ready to breach the horizon. I set a wider angle of 24mm to capture the gorgeous reflections of the trees lining the frosty river bank. The little footbridge I was on had no railing and in stepping back to admire the view, I almost took an early morning bath.

The Boathouse

The boathouse at on the Carton Estate is probably the most photographed building of its type in Ireland. I think every photographer in the country has a least a couple of shots of this charming riverside building. In fairness, it’s easy to see why. With its pitched slate roof, patterned stonework, elegant arches and red detailing, the boathouse makes for a very attractive subject for photography. Sadly, it’s a little dilapidated once you get up close.

Boat House Reflection - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/15sec ISO-100 36mm

This was taken on the same morning as the last few shots. By now the sun had risen and had a bathed the whole scene in a warm golden light. This is particularly attractive during the autumn months with the warm reds, browns and yellows of the foliage. Add in the reflection in the water, and you’ve got a very picturesque scene.

Fishing by the Boathouse - Carton Estate
f/22 1/13sec ISO-100 39mm

The lake is popular with anglers and it’s common to see rowing boats out on the water early in the morning. Fishing is definitely not my forté however. I once caught a seagull who flew into my line as I cast out at Howth Harbour in Dublin. Thankfully he did eventually manage to untangle himself but I think I’ll stick to photography from now on all the same.

Rye Water Lake and Bridge

Stone Bridge on the Rye Water - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/30sec ISO-100 70mm

Most people focus their attention on the boat house but I quite like the little stone bridge over the river. In this shot, I went up a hill by the river and framed the bridge with the autumn leaves of the surrounding trees. The pathway leads the eye diagonally through the scene to the bridge.

Swan on the Rye Water - Kildare, Ireland
f/11 1/100sec ISO-100 42mm

I went closer for the next shot at waited for one of the local swans to swim into the scene. The warm golden light of the early morning is really evident here. The swan was so majestic and graceful and tasted a bit like chicken.

Trees on the Carton Estate

I love getting here at dawn when the morning mist frequently hangs over the grasslands and the still waters of the Rye Water Lake reflect the various trees that line its banks. In this section, I’m going to present some of the photos of these trees that I’ve taken during my early morning excursions to Carton. Now, I’m no dendrologist, so I’m afraid my descriptions of the trees I photographed will be limited to ‘Yup, that’s definitely a tree alright’. I may be able to say that it’s ‘big tree’ but that’s about it I’m afraid.

Tree by the Rye Water at Dawn - Kildare, Ireland
f/13 10sec ISO-100 52mm

I think the photo above illustrates why I love coming here early in the morning. The perfectly still waters of the Rye Water Lake create a perfect mirror image of the lakeside tree and its surroundings. A light mist hugs the surrounding grassland and three ducks swim into the frame at just the right moment to help complete the shot. The colours in the sky at this time are often quite stunning with pastel hues of amber and pink providing an attractive backdrop to the scene.

Tree in the Mist - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/2sec ISO-100 36mm

This composition illustrates the effectiveness of leading lines. In this case, the winding pathway gently leads the viewer to the mist shrouded tree. The ‘S’ shape of the path tends to be very pleasing in a compositional sense. On this particular morning, the dawn light had painted the clouds in a pale shade of pink. I can also confirm that this is a ‘big tree’. It also has a trunk, many branches and a lot of leaves. Hey, I’m not so bad at this!

Lone Tree on a Frosty Morning - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 2sec ISO-100 24mm

Often it’s the simple compositions that work the best. In this case, the simple left to right diagonal of the path again leads the eye to the tree. The scene is uncluttered and minimalist. Shortly after taking this shot, a wayward golf ball missed my head by about six inches. Who ever said landscape photography isn’t a dangerous activity? I required several medicinal hot whiskeys to recover from the shock.

Winter Morning Trees - Kildare, Ireland
f/22 1/1000sec1/250sec/1/60sec ISO-100 14mm

I took this shot shortly after sunrise on a chilly winter morning. Back-lit subjects can be very difficult to capture due to the huge differences in exposure from the darkest to brightest areas. In this case I took three exposures, one at -2, one at 0 and one at +2. I then blended them together in post-production in order to record as much detail as possible. If you look to the left of centre in the frame, you can see the tree that featured in the first shot in this section. Maybe I’m not so bad at identifying trees after all. That first tree was a ‘small tree’ by the way.

Autmn Morning on Carton Estate - Kildare, Ireland
f/16 1/15sec ISO-100 36mm

We move away from the lake area for the next few shots. The Carton Estate contains plenty of tree lined paths like this one. In the early morning, you tend to have them all to yourself. In this case, I pointed my lens towards the light and used the tree on the right to block out the strongest light from the sun.

Rye Water Weir and Footbridge

Rye Water Waterfall - Kildare, Ireland
f/22 1/2sec ISO-100 12mm

Further downstream, we come to a weir on the Rye Water with pretty red footbridge along the crest. In this autumnal scene, a slow shutter speed of half a second allowed me to capture the blur of the rushing water as a pair golfers cross the bridge above.

Rye Water Waterfall and Bridge - Kildare, Ireland
f/22 1/10sec ISO-100 52mm

On this particular morning, there was less water tumbling over the weir which revealed some of the details in the slippery moss covered rocks. This is one of my favourite places on the Carton Estate. It’s very relaxing to just sit here and listen to the cascading water.

Footbridge on the Rye Water - Kildare, Ireland
f/22 1/3sec ISO-100 42mm

We finish up on the footbridge itself. The rails of the bridge act as leading lines towards the tree on the far bank as it’s illuminated by the golden hour light. Unfortunately, I have no idea what type of tree this is. At this point, I decided to head off for a hearty Irish breakfast in Maynooth town as the golfers had started to arrive and the risk of serious injury from errant golf balls was increasing. In any case, I wanted to visit the local bookshop. I had a tome on dendrology to purchase, put on my shelf and then never read.

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