A Scotland photography trip was a good choice. When you can go anywhere for a photography trip, where do you go? Based in Europe and always balancing the budget, we thought about the obvious and popular places like Iceland, or more locally with locations we have here in Spain. Spain would be cheaper and it would be great to explore our own country, but seriously, the options are endless so how do you choose? One of the destinations on our list was Scotland. With only two of the five of us having already been there we thought “Yes, from Edinburgh to the Highlands, that would be our trip!”
We were a group of 5 photographers, having met through a whatsapp group we set about planning our trip. If you have ever tried to plan a trip with a group you might know it can be a challenge to please everyone, luckily we all had the same ideas. Edinburgh was a must and would be our first stop.
We chose the Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel, located on Cockburn St as our first port of call for this Scotland photography trip.
This hostel is located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, just a few minutes from the Royal Mile, and close to everything
“Enjoy the Scottish weather!!” we were told leaving the hostel, and they were right. The Scottish weather can be your worst enemy and we sure had our batlle with it.
Fortunately we read a great book written by Edwardo Blanco about photograph in bad weather (Fotografiar con mal tiempo, un buen momento.), and thus we were prepared for a good time.
Why to choose the Scottish Highlands for a photo tour?
The Scottish Highlands has many places that everyone should see. We wanted to focus on the Isle of Skye, which even still was a lot to cover in a week.
Skye is the largest Island of the inner Hebrides of Scotland, with tourism as it’s main industry and a lot of livestock (you can see sheep and the “Highland Cows” almost everywhere) and of course the Whisky, it makes for a great photography destination.
We started our route for the Scotland photography trip in Glasgow, where we hired a motorhome from OpenRoad Scotland
located in a nearby village called Paisley. Starting from Glasgow, We drove to the north along the west side of Loch Lomond.
Luss was our first stop to get in touch wth the camera and with the motor home.
Travelling by motor home is a great way to get around Scotland, with each town set up for campers it makes things very easy.
Loch Lomond, Luss
Our first place marked on the map was Glencoe, so we set off through the spectacular country by pasing some great little towns along the way, like Oban where we filled up with supplies to keep us moving for the next few days.
Glencoe is perhaps one of the most famous and spectacular valleys on the island. It’s location offers you stunning lights, especially with good weather it is possible to see the sunrise on one side of the valley and the sunset on the other.
Glencoe is the heart of an ancient volcano, with many options to shoot we decided we would pass by again at the end of the week on our way to Glasgow.
For this trip we had the sponsorship of the brand of gloves Vallerret
. We had some great pairs of gloves designed by photographers for photographers.
As you know, there are many brands of gloves, which are mainly are sold as sport gloves, but what we love about Vallerret’s gloves is that they are designed specifically for photographers.
Returning to the trip, after the first night in the highlands, we woke up early to take advantage of the great morning light with the aim of amazing views of Glencoe.
After a quick breakfast we continued to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous for appearing in the Harry Potter films. If you want to take a photo of the famous steam train, you will have to go from May, which is when the train starts, doing 2 or 3 routes per day.
In March it was complicated … however we wanted the perfect photo of the viaduct so we followed the indications.
As you arrive on the road, with the viaduct on the right, you will see two parking places, you have to go to the second one.
From there you have to follow the asphalted track until you reach a sign indicating how to reach the wagons.
Following the path, which passes under the viaduct first and then climbs up close to it, you can easily reach the point with the perfect views of the viaduct.
Chasing the light is always the theme of any photography trip, and thus our next mission was for a sunset shoot at the famous castle of Eilean Donnan.
There are some bonuses of travelling in low season, one being that parking is always empty and nobody gives you a hard time becuase you have the motorhome there; being able to park in Eilean Donna´s parking meant we could enjoy a great lunch there before our shoot.
The night from Tuesday to Wednesday was the worst night for our trip. The sunset before the storm was not the most beautiful, clouds, rain, wind, cold, etc so after the few photos that time allowed us to capture, we took the road. Soon we saw the white bridge that would take us to the Isle of Skye, and the next stop, Sligachan. A quaint little spot with camping facilities, a hotel, bar, restaurant and like many Scottish towns, a brewery, Cuillin Brewery
As the campsite was closed because of low season, we were allowed to be overnight in the hostel’s parking however, With the storm chasing us and arriving shortly after we did, it was impossible to take some night photos.
With our night shoot cancelled, se seized the opportunity to organise the next day. Photographically speaking wednesday was going to be big. Old Man of Storr, Kiltorck, Quiraing and Fairy Glenn were our goals, but because of the weather we knew it would be complicated.
A cyclone in the North Atlantic, between Faroe Islands and Scotland was disrupting our plans.
The North-Eastern part of the island was more exposed to the storm, while the Northwest area would be more protected, so if we followed our trip plan it would mean that we could rest from the storm the next afternoon.
We knew it was almost certain that we would be left without the photo in Old Man of Storr, and thus we accepted that we would have to go back! The Scottish weather, what can you do?
Trying to forget the storm that seemed to perpetually follow us, we set out for an early start. In Portree, which is the main village of Skye we saw the sun, and for just a moment we let ourselves believe that our luck had turned, however, I couldn’t even get the lens cap off before the storm was back. The battle was on and were back on the road.
Parking up at Old Man of Storr, there was no trace of the storm yet, so we decided to walk a bit. We were able to access the base of Old Man of Storr, took a few shots, and seeing that the cloud had reached us, it was obvious we had pushed it enough so whilst running down the hill with strong winds and hail, we were dangerously close to damaging our photography gear.
If you are wanting to head there as well and avoid getting caught in the weather, it takes about an hour to walk along the the road from the parking to the Old Man of Storr viewpoint.
Once again in the motorhome, we had to change our wet clothes before following the route to Quiraing.
Without forgetting to stop at the Kilt Rock to see the waterfeall, we arrived to Staffing where had to be alert not to miss the road to the left, which would take us along a narrow and battered road.
We continued until we saw a sign that indicated to us that the road would be closed with bad weather, so if you are thinking about going to Uig, I would suggest taking an alternative road.
Finally we arrived at Quiraing, where, despite the weather, the views are impressive. The landscape takes you to the imagination and transports you to another planet, in fact some films like Prometheus have recorded scenes in both Quiraing and Old Man of Storr. Once more, the bad weather prevented us from enjoying this magic place.
After leaving behind Quirang, we arrived to Uig, a key village of our trip for having the campsite open. We had been told that the afternoon was getting, thus we took a shower, ate something hot and cleaned the motor home.
In the afternoon, we located the Fairy Glen or Fairie Glen, “valley of the fairies”, which is the place chosen by the fairies to hide in this part of Scotland. The Fairy Glen are formed by a set of mountains and valleys that hide waterfalls and small lakes, and the most spectacular mountain is known as Castle Ewen. They also hide a few spirals formed by stones that, according to Celtic traditions, you have to follow the path that the stones mark to the centre, and there you have to get rid of some amulet or coins and make a wish… so do not forget to bring some coins to please the fairies.
Surprisingly, on Thursday the day dawned clear on Uig, and we decided to ran away to Quiraing, hoping to have more luck than the day before. This time “The Scottish weather” was on our side, and offered us a truce to enjoy a spectacular light. You only have to see the two photos to check the climatologically difference between one day and the other.
After Quiraing and a breakfast of kings, we continued to Neist Point via Uig. The road to Neist Point is not easy and involves some “proofs”. First the road, which is narrow, is a single lane road, it is full of passing places and also sheep grazing at the sides; the second proof is the staircase and huge slope that must be crossed to go down to the lighthouse from the parking; and the third one, and the more important one, the return to the parking. The first time the lighthouse was lit was in 1909, but since 1990 it has been controlled from Edinburgh, so the building is now abandoned, although it is still working. Once we reach the lighthouse, there were several important photos to photograph, so it took several hours.
At dusk, we continued our way to Portree, to slept once again in Sligachan.
In Portree we walked through the harbour and through the village, before going to dinner.
On our last night in Skye we had the opportunity to try the typical Scottish dish, Haggis. Despite our first refusal and knowledge of the ingredients, I have to admit that it is amazing and a have to try it.
That night in Sligachan the weather gave us a truce, and although the night was cold, we could take some night shots, well protected with feathers and our Vallerret
gloves, we barely notice the cold. Moreover, that night, the ice of the higher clouds offered us a complete lunar halo above the bridge and the mountains, a phenomenon that is not very usual to see.
On our last day in Skye, we had a quick visit to the Fairy Pools. The storm winning the fight we had less photos than we desired and started a journy back to Glasgow.
With more time then we had planned at first, we decided to stop at Fort August and visit Loch Ness.
We thought that visiting the Highlands without showing our respect to Nessie the lochness monster would be rude.
Following the transport of three huge windmill blades, the trip was delayed and the search for Nessie was cut short.
We arrived late to Balloch, where we slept the last night of our Highland Photo Tour.
Back in Edinburgh after almost 1,300km we needed a break and took a free tour of the old Town with Sandeman. No visit to Edinburgh is complete with out dinner at a pub where we found ourselves at Maggie Dicksons.
Here I’m going to diverge from the trip and tell you the story of Maggie Dickson, beause, well, it is worth telling;
Maggie Dickson was a young woman who left Edinburgh afer being abandoned by her husband.
Far from Edinburgh she met a boy who left her after know that she was pregnant, so she decided to hide her pregnancy because having a child as a single mother meant “The Gallows”.
She not only gave birth to a dead child, but was seen burying the corpse and thus was condemned. Ager being executed, and whilst being carried in her coffin, screams were heard inside.. She was still alive!
When they went to hang her again, a man shouted that the woman had already paid for her sin, and it was divine intervention that she had lived. She could not be judged a second time, so Maggie was free.
After that Maggie married the man who saved her life and she bought the house in front of the place she was hung, that place is now the pub.
Here we end our Scottish trip, even with a battle of the weather we still had a great time.
With Scottland now off our list of photography destinations, we are left with the question, where will be the next one??
See you soon, and I hope you found some tips for your own Scotland photography trip.
– Josh Mirravalles
To See this post in spanish you can find it at on Josh’s website: jmgfoto.com/road-trip-highlands