You know that amazing quality of light just after sunrise and before sunset? Well, photographers call it the Golden Hour (or Magic Hour), when the light takes on particular hues and becomes softer and more diffuse. There are scientific explanations, of course, but for most of us, we just know it when we see it.
The low sun produces a golden glow and anything lit by it takes on those same reddish and amber hues. The harsh midday sun, which results in glaring highlights and deep shadows, is replaced by gentler and longer shadows. Everything looks warmer, more romantic.
The perfect place to see this in West Cork is Bantry House. Because it faces due west, it is bathed in the low evening light. The construction materials, stone and brick, are warm-toned to begin with, but in the twilight hour they take on a mellow blush that is particularly entrancing. The sunsets over Bantry Bay, needless to say, are spectacular.
Waiting for Zorro
We had the perfect opportunity to observe this on several occasions. We attended a performance of Zorro on the lawn in August, and we usually take in several of the concerts at the Masters of Tradition Festival each year.
This photograph was taken during an interval at a Masters of Tradition Concert: the Library, at the back of the house, is the concert hall
Bantry House dates from the 18th century. The gardens were laid out in the second half of the 19th century in the formal continental style, with parterres, stepped lawns and avenues of statuary. The Second Earl was a great traveller and came back from his grand tour with ideas and artefacts to make the best use of the elevated site.
It was he who added the stable yards with the cupolas, and laid out the gardens, including the hundred steps. All of this was somewhat at variance with the prevailing fashions in garden design at the time, which favoured more naturalistic settings with sweeping lawns dotted with groves of trees. However, it suited the restricted site and its formality has stood the test of time.
A visit to the gardens at Bantry House is a wonderful experience. It’s open from March to October but the gates close at 5, so if you want to experience the Golden Hour, you’ll have to attend an evening event. Fortunately, these are abundant in the summer, as it’s a favourite venue for festivals and concerts.
And don’t forget to admire the sunset itself.