The very mention of such places conjures up images of the wild and mercurial Atlantic, mammoth waves crashing against rocks, and foam spraying the clifftops.
All of which, of course, provides a huge canvas for an outdoor photographer, with spectacular and varied pictures to be snapped at just the right moments.
During the course of the past two years, Valerie O’Sullivan braved some of the worst weather the western seaboard could throw at her to capture these images, while also meeting colourful and individualistic people as she went along.
The sea is the subject of the Kerry-based photographer’s new book, and the people in it are all part of the Atlantic way of life, from Cork to Donegal.
“Whether it is collecting seaweed, waiting for the waves for the perfect surf, fishing, collecting mussels, cooking, they are all connected with the values of the sea. They understand its every ebb and flow,” she says.
She meets people such as Frank and Marie O’Mahony, who run a fifth-generation business, including a shop and post office, on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork.
Also encountered are Adrienne McCarthy, of McCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere, which has been family-run for 150 years, and Richard Foran, lighthouse keeper on Skellig Michael.
“The lives of the people follow the same pattern, desperately trying to preserve their way of life, knowing and breathing the sea all their lives,” Valerie notes.
“They’re eager to converse and trade stories about the weather and to discover mutual friends along the way.”
Her work as a photographer, often driving from one end of a peninsula to another at any hour of the day or night, brings her into close contact with the force of nature.
“Looking out to the Great Blasket Island, off the Dingle Peninsula, or on top of Skellig Michael. You can get a sense how people were drawn to the sea,” she says.
“You also get an idea of the hardship these islanders and monks endured making a living and etching out a way of life in an extremely difficult environment.”
The book is enhanced by written contributions from journalists Breda Joy, Maria Moynihan, and Lorna Siggins.
* Ireland’s Atlantic Shore — People and Places from Mizen to Malin by Valerie O’Sullivan is published by Collins Press, price €24.99.