The Best Places to Photograph in Scotland
“How do you feel about writing a blog on the best places to photograph in Scotland?”
What a question! My initial reaction was to reply with sarcasm, “everywhere,” I scoffed. But after a few hours the question was still eating away at me…What are the best places in Scotland to photograph? Is there a “best place”?
In the last few years I have learned that photography is subjective, the eighteen year old nightclub goer is going to get the same joy and satisfaction from their perfect selfie as I would from capturing an otter and her cub playing, or a sea eagle plucking a salmon from the coast of some far and mysterious island to feed its young with.
But here goes…My top 10 places in the Scottish Highlands and Islands to photograph.
10. Rannoch Moor & The Black Mount
Situated on the western side of this 50 miles squared moorland is a backdrop of beautiful mountains and cute little lochans coupled with hundreds of different compositions. The picture below was taken just 50 meters from the viewpoint carpark with my mobile phone whilst on our 1-day Loch Ness, Glen Coe & The Highlands tour
9. Glen Etive
Now first of all this little beaut isn’t on any of our scheduled tours but it can be done easily in a day via private tour.
The glen itself is situated just a few miles down the main road from Glen Coe. It has been used in several movies such as Harry Potter and James Bond: Skyfall. Within a few hundred meters of turning off the main road you are met with the beautiful sights of the famous Buachaille Etive Mor “The great herdsman of the Etive”. Stopping here will reward you with one of the most famous landscape shots in Scotland /one less shoe if it has been raining.
Continuing down the narrow and twisting road for 6 miles you will be met with a humble yet stunning view down the glen, get out here to recreate that “scene” from Skyfall….just maybe without the Aston.
Lastly, in the Glen is your chance to spot some majestic red deer. Be safe and keep a good distance, these are wild animals, but they are all well trained in the necessary Instagram poses you have all dreamed of capturing.
Side note: If stopping at the Clachaig Inn, they do excellent venison burgers.
8. Glen Coe
This place deserves hour upon hour of exploring and photographing. If you’re only here for 15-20 minutes then make a beeline for the small path down to the Old Military Road, get low and use the long grass and ferns as a foreground interest with the famous 3 sisters as your backdrop.
Next, down to the bottom of the glen beside Loch Achtriochtan (be sure to ask your guide how to pronounce the loch’s name for comical value) using the bridge or small NTS sign as your foreground interest or look to the waterfalls above the small cottage, either way you’ll come away with an iconic photo of this stunning end of the Glen.
7. The Three Ladies, Mull
These mysterious boats are possibly one of my favourite subjects for a snap.
The rustic charm they possess matched with the beautiful Scottish mainland behind them.
Otters (lutra-lutra) and seals (Atlantic grey or common) can be spotted here…also keep an eye out for Sea-Sheep (Caoraich Amaideach in Gaelic)
The ferry crossing over to the island can also be an excellent opportunity to spot wildlife such as the pods of dolphins that call our waters home.
6. The Sound of Mull
Head to the back of Café Fish in Tobermory and walk along the little path for about 2.5km, eventually you will be met with the sight of Tobermory lighthouse and the Sound of Mull heading towards the north west. Across the sound is the Ardnamurchan peninsula which can boast as being the most westernly part of mainland Scotland. The sunsets from this point are truly breath-taking and make the 5k round trip well worth every step. If you are here overnight, then bring a tripod and a high powered torch to take some interesting night-time photos.
5. Eliean Donan Castle
“There can be , only one”
Possibly one of the most iconic and photographed castles in Scotland, this lovely rebuild has been in movies like Highlander, Robert the Bruce and even Maid of Honour (yes, I cried!). There are many compositions to take away from here, and you could easily spend a few hours watching the other groups of tourists come and go like sheets of rain on a highland mountain. My advice would be to get up close and personal with the stunning stone bridge.
Or, get to the back roads of Dornie and look down to the castle from the small clearing in the trees.
4. Fairies, Skye
Now many will have heard of the stunning misty Isle of Skye, but not all have heard of its magical inhabitants. Goblins, trolls, witches and wizards all call this island home, but the most important / famous creatures are the fairies! They come in a few different species as well.
The view of the Black Cuillins from the Sligachan bridge are breath-taking, and the many rock pools make for excellent reflections and interests. Or you could take a picture of the old stone bridge that crosses the river, thought to be where a fairy from the island helped a little girl solve a worrying problem many years ago…
On the other side of the Cullins are the Fairy Pools, home to the Ashrays of Skye. The Aqua clear waters make for some stunning shots while you look for a glimmer of an Ashray (a Scottish water faery) swimming under the surface. Just make sure to keep an eye on where you put your feet or it won’t just be your memory card that is full after this stop.
Finally, on our fairy good adventure (get a grip laddie) we arrive at the Fairy Glen, home of the brownies (helper fairies). Words cannot describe this place, from the old fairy castle to the tunnel like bulges on the hillsides, it’s just incredible. One thing’s for sure though, the brownies will come for you if you move any of their rocks. They especially hate stone stacks.
Along the famous NC500 you will find Bealach Na Ba. The famous mountain pass road over to the cute village of Applecross. The drive itself is best left to those with nerves of steel (and up to date health insurance) but the rewards for reaching the top are crazy. Looking back down the road you will get a sense of how difficult it would have been for the farmers who had to move their cattle along this beautiful road.
Continuing along the road to the village of Applecross you can take a walk along the beaches and maybe spot some eagles and otters.
2. Luskentyre beach
Arguably the best beach in Scotland it is situated on the Isle of Harris and Lewis and is one of my favourite stops on the Hebridean Escape tour. The Atlantic Ocean and North Harris mountains combine to blow your mind away (and your hat). Personally, I prefer to use my phone for photographs here, so I have one less thing to worry about when out in the water swimming. You also get excellent views of the uninhabited isle of Taransay from the beach, famed for its hosting of the series castaway which was aired in the year 2000.
1. Anywhere and Everywhere
I warn you now, this may get a little soppy. But for me, photography is not always about the quality of the image or the subject of the image. Sometimes it’s just a way of creating a shortcut to a fond memory of time spent on your own, with friends or if you’re on a Highland Experience tour, with strangers. The fact that people from all walks of life can be brought together by something as simple as a waterfall…
Or a picture on a dark, alcohol filled bus can spark flashbacks of an unforgettable weekend on Islay, is why I love photography.
I hope this helps you on your quest for some spectacular photos while you visit our beautiful country. If you bump into me don’t be afraid to ask for tips or advice with your camera, I’ll be more than happy to help…unless you have a Canon… (Nikon for life yo!)
Written by Tommy, Driver-guide