Back in 2020 as Lockdown 26 or whatever number it was we got up to, started to ease, I went on a Porsche Road trip as a recce for a longer shoot. Now feeling a little more protected with a double armful of vaccine, it was time to pack the landscape photography gear and head to the Scottish Highlands.
We set pointed the car North, dialled in the SatNav and headed up towards the East side of Scotland. The main destination was Newburgh Beach. This nature reserve is famous for the seabirds but more importantly for us, the Grey Seals that are visible from the shore line. The fish they were feeding on had moved a little further out to sea so the seals weren’t resting on the sands. There were still a few popping their heads up staring at us though.
From overnight on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park we continued up the East Coast towards John O’Groats. As mentioned in the Porsche Road Trip blog, this was the return visit to create landscape images for my stock photography portfolio. There were lovely things to see on the way too… even a Highland Cow on the side of Culloden Moor.
Green gentle rolling hills and glens on the East Coast now gave way to rugged rocks and cliffs. The seascapes of the Scottish Highlands are simply breathtaking. Galleries of seabirds on the cliffs had mostly left for feeding grounds out to sea, but the were noisy Fulmar dotted on the rock ledges. Duncansby Head is a great location for Puffins… I feel a return trip coming on!!
With a take-away breakfast bag from our Air B&B overlooking Scrabster harbour safely in the car, we continued West. The North Coast 500 wound its way around the coastal roads of the North Highlands. Next stop was Bettyhill before carrying on 200 miles along narrow roads towards Loch Torridon in the West.
We continued on our way nicely filled with pastries, fruits and yoghurts from our Air B&B hosts in Scrabster. Around every bend, over every brow was yet another breathtaking view that meant stopping the car. Out came the camera kit and more photos, little mileage progress but who cares!
This morning our original plan was to drive straight to the Isle of Skye… that lasted all of 15 minutes. Turned a corner and through the trees I saw a mirror!! The car was promptly thrown up a grass verge and the camera gear was out again. This was too perfect to miss… The water in Loch Dughail was ridiculously still. These shots are hand -held at 1/250 of a second, no long 30 second exposures needed here to smooth out ripples…because there simply weren’t any!!
We eventually arrived on the Isle of Skye to be greeted by a grey flat featureless sky. I had been told you want Skye wild and stormy skies… I can now see why. As we drove to the top edge of the island the clouds began to gather and boil, the landscapes came alive. It must be amazing creating images here in a storm.
Black and White or Colour…. I can’t decide…
First stop was to find a spot where I could take a long exposure of Skye Bridge. I had a shot in my minds eye to try to capture the peaceful calm of early morning by the sea. I like it…worked out pretty well I think.
The shots safely in the bag we headed off to the next landmark on my list, Eilean Donan Castle. Almost certainly the most photographed castle in Scotland, possibly even more than Edinburgh Castle.
Low cloud was wrapping itself around the glen and the mountains. You can see why it has been shot from every possible angle over the years. I still had to take my version of it though… I think night time with stars and castle lights would look amazing too.
We drove on a good many miles ahead of us. I wanted to visit the exact spot Bond shows M where he grew up, Skyfall. A few miles down a very narrow track off the A82 to map reference 56°37′10.31″N 04°55′51.23″W and you will find yourself by the 2 stones in Glen Etive. Couple of quick selfies and I was happy… sad I know but I like the films, what can I do! On the way back up the track I spotted some lads white water kayaking. I’m a motorsport photographer, this is action sport right?
Today were were heading South which would take us out of Scotland back into England and the Lake District. Over breakfast we overheard a couple taking about Red Squirrels living wild in the woodlands behind the hotel. Ahhhhh well, best made plans and all that… a quick chat to find out where to go and we were off. Buttermere would have to wait!!
Crummock Water, Buttermere and a drive home via another awesome ‘driving road’ The Honiston Pass. The Cumbrian hills around the Lake District have a totally different beauty to the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands. Softer, rounder and greener…. The sheep are different too.
That was it we were home gain. My Skoda Octavia VRS Estate was a perfect car for a Scottish Highlands photography road trip. Loads of space for camera kit and bags. Easy on motorways on cruise control while having power on tap to play a little on this awesome North Coast 500 roads. Finishing on round trip with 1973 miles, 211 litres of varying E5 or E10 unleaded produced a very respectable 42.5 miles to the gallon. Grippy winter tyres already fitted to the front of the VRS and already planning the next visit. This time I think water proofs for me and the Nikon will be required… watch this space!!