Earlier this year, as part of an extended visit to Scotland, I finally made my first visit to the Isle of Skye, one of the most spectacular parts of my home country. My travel schedule, on the road for 48 nights in a 70 day period, left me with quite a backlog of images to process and as a result it has been an unusually long time since I last posted in this blog.
My Scotland trip lasted for 28 nights and my initial plan was to start with a few days in Skye before travelling around the coast, stopping occasionally to check in with parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces along the way.
The first part of my journey, driving from Edinburgh to Skye, was somewhat complicated by some food poisoning or other temporary debilitation which left me feeling like I had a truly horrendous hangover - this seemed rather unfair considering I had not touched a single drop of the various enchanting liquids that Scotland has to offer. I passed through glorious scenery in wintery conditions without having any energy available to stop and take photographs. Thankfully the ill-effects only lasted for 24 hours and I was free to explore the scenery after a good night's rest.
For the first couple of nights I stayed at the Skeabost Hotel which turned out to be an excellent choice, a stylish and comfortable place to stay with a traditional feel to it and beautiful surroundings. My only complaint about the hotel is that breakfast included such perfectly poached eggs that it was very tempting to prioritise eating breakfast over photographing sunrise... photographers beware when staying here!
On this first day i visited the area near Sligachan, a small settlement roughly in the centre of the island, where the local highlights include the Sligachan river, an old bridge and great views towards the Black Cuillin mountains.
This was one of the more beautiful days of the whole trip, sunrise itself was a muted affair as there was thick cloud or mist but as the morning progressed I witnessed a beautiful battle between the rising sun and the dwindling clouds.
Gradually the sun started to get the upper hand as the morning progressed, I have often found that the times when there is no decisive advantage for the clouds or the sun offer much better photography conditions than those times where it is just sunny or just cloudy.
Eventually the sun became the clear winner of this battle and there followed a period of very pleasant, but less photogenic, blue sky.
Moving west from Sligachan, I took a turning near to the Talisker whisky distillery and travelled along a long single track road to a remote rocky beach. The 60m high waterfall draining into the sea was one attraction but I was also somewhat fascinated by a more grizzly sight. A sheep had met it's end on the rocks of the beach (perhaps trapped in the rocks and claimed by the tide?) and this sad event had left the sheep as a woolly skeleton on the beach. Apologies to anyone who finds the picture disturbing.
The single track roads (i.e. two way roads only wide enough for one car) with occasional passing places are a feature of a lot of the less densely populated parts of Scotland, and Skye is no exception. To start with it can be a bit of an uncomfortable experience to encounter oncoming vehicles in the middle of the road, and I guess that nobody is that excited to have the opportunity for a long reverse, but you soon get used to it, even in an unfamiliar rental car. During my Scotland trip I estimate that I drove about 1000 kilometres on single track roads in the Skoda Superb (perhaps a bit overconfident naming... but I guess they would not sell the "Skoda Perfectly Decent" in such high numbers) that I rented from Sixt.
The journey to the spectacular lighthouse at Neist Point includes a long stretch of single track driving, with the added hazard of many hundreds of sheep wandering around. Usually sheep will get out of the way of a car eventually, but not until after you have slowed down to a crawl and gradually approached to within a few metres. All of this adds to the genuine local experience, and the journey is worth it.
This lighthouse, in it's iconic location, has to be one of the world's more memorable places to visit and it was great to be able to be there during the sunset and the early evening.
The following day's weather proved to be rather variable. Those readers who are familiar with Scotland will know that variable is about as good as you can hope for, especially in late January, and from a photography point of view variable works very well as the transitions between different conditions often provide the most interesting light.
I decided to explore a bit further south in Skye and took a turning onto (of course) another single track road after following the main road to Broadford. This took me to the picturesque Loch Cill Chriosd during the most pleasant period of weather.
This was another beautiful area and I walked here for some time along the banks of the Loch and in the adjacent hills.
I continued along this road, heading for another remote beach and hoping for some interesting sunset light. Along the way I passed through some beautiful scenery and had further experience of avoiding the sheep that wanted to share the road with me, but after some time I came across a different kind of obstacle - a small herd of Highland Cattle was staring at me with the afternoon sun at their backs.
These beautiful animals were a bit of a different proposition to the sheep which it had been more usual to encounter on the roads. A quick experiment showed that inching slowly towards them did not result in them retreating... just an increase in my anxiety about the possibility of having to explain numerous horn holes to the car rental company at the end of the trip. They had a very small calf in their number and it may have been that concern about protecting the little one was behind their reluctance to move. I pulled into a side road and decided to photograph these amazing animals instead of arguing further with them about rights of way.
This situation was resolved after some time as the herd gradually drifted across to one side of the road and allowed vehicles to carefully creep past, so I continued on my journey to the village and the beach at the end of the road... by which time the weather was taking a turn for the worse.
Once again I was able to witness a battle between the sun and the storm, but on this occasion the sun would definitely be on the losing side, managing only occasionally to burst through the storm clouds for a few moments before the darkness and rain took over for the night.
I think I will end this post on that note, there will be a bit more to come from Skye and from my Scotland trip in general in my next posts over the coming weeks. Thank you to all who have read this post, I hope that you have enjoyed it. As ever it is most welcome if you share my posts on social media.
Until next time,
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