Back in April, I was lucky enough to spend 4 days on the Isle of Skye. My wife and I were due to be near Glasgow for the weekend for a friend’s wedding and I decided that, given I would already have flown ‘most’ of the way (i.e. from south-east England to Glasgow), I would extend my trip by a few days and travel on to Skye.
Skye is an island of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. It is home to a wealth of different landscapes including the coast, lochs, waterfalls and mountain ranges, all on a scale rarely seen in the UK. For that reason, it had been on my wish list to photograph for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity to go. Before planning this trip, I didn’t really know the geography of Skye that well. I knew a number of the well photographed locations, but had to do a lot of research into planning potential locations for my time there. Therefore, I wanted to write a trip report/location guide to help anyone else who is planning a similar trip.
(At this point, I feel that I need to share this link to Nick Cockman’s Skye location guide. Whilst this, and the up-coming subsequent post were languishing in my drafts folder for months, Nick recently published a very comprehensive guide to locations of Skye just a week ago. It was a good read, and finally pushed me to finish and publish these posts, so do go and take a read).
Below, I’ve written the first half of this guide, discussing the various locations that I visited, accompanied by at least one image from each place. I’ve added the locations (either the actual place, or where more useful the easiest place to park a car) to the Google map below:
View Skye Location Guide in a larger map
First up, accommodation. Not knowing Skye well, I was looking for accommodation fairly close to the centre of the island, and soon came across Hotel Sligachan (red marker on the map above). It’s located a few miles north of Broadford on one of the main roads (A87) that travels north/south, as well as being situated at the junction with one of the main roads leading to the north-west of the island (A863). That makes this the perfect place to stay if you intend to visit Skye, as most locations on the island can be reached within a one hour car journey from Hotel Sligachan (in fact, I was able to be out at a location for sunrise, shoot for a couple of hours and still make it back in time for the breakfast on a couple of occasions!).
On to the locations…
I spent my first evening down at the village of Elgol. It is a coastal village on the tip of the Strathaird penninsula (western side of the island) that is famed for its rocky shoreline (popularised by Joe Cornish and a round boulder, I believe). Luckily, it is worth a visit in any weather, as the conditions were not particularly kind with fairly constant rain, however, with some nifty use of an umbrella and a lens cloth, I was able to keep my ND grads free from water droplets. I arrived to find that I had the beach to myself (which must be a fairly rare occurence, given that everyone visits Elgol) just as the tide turned and started to go out – perfect for a couple of hours exploration.
If you make the trip to Elgol, it is worth considering stopping along the way, at Loch Cill Chriosd. It is a more understated location than some of the other popular spots on Skye, however the reed filled loch has a lot of potential for great images.
Old Man of Storr
A token mention for the Old Man of Storr here. The Old Man of Storr is one of the instantly recognisable locations on Skye. It is probably over photographed, however, it was a place I just had to see for myself. I planned to walk up to the Old Man for sunrise on my first morning ton the Island, however, after getting in the car and driving the 40 or so minutes from Sligachan, I found myself in the middle of a heavy snow storm with no sign of sunrise on the horizon (the forecast for the day wasn’t pretty!). As I hadn’t had chance to scope out the path before hand (though I believe it is fairly straightforward) I decided to give it a miss, and return to my bed in the hope of friendlier weather when I awoke.
No such joy! Rain had set in for the day, so I decided to take advantage of the poor weather and head to the Fairy Pools. I love photographing waterfalls and in most instances, overcast/wet weather is favourable. After finding the car park (marked on the map above), it is a short walk across the road down to the River Brittle and the path that winds up the mountain side, revealing lots of bright aqua-ablue pools and water falls. It’s very easy to spend an afternoon here, well worth a visit (a polariser is essential).
Another one of the ‘big’ landmarks on Skye that is best visited at sunrise. I had only scoped the location on maps before this visit, so didn’t really have any idea how far I would need to walk from the road to get to where I wanted to be. Therefore, I arrived about 1hr 15 mins before sunrise to ensure I would plenty of time to scout the area (in the dark) and work out where to go. From the marker indicated on the map, it was literally a case of crossing the road and following a footpath for about 5 minutes before I was confronted with the silhouette of The Needle:
That meant I had plenty of time before sunrise to scout around and take advantage of the blue tones of twilight before waiting for the sun to crest the horizon and spending the next hour exploring the area. This is looking south, towards Cleat and Bioda Buidhe:
And this is looking west towards The Needle and The Prison:
The Faerie Glen
This is a really bizarre little place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. One minute you’re driving along a tiny road filled with sheep (though that could be said for a lot of roads on Skye), the next you are confronted by what looks to be a “mini-Quiraing” sitting behind a tiny lake. I only visited after spending a long while at The (actual) Quiraing, so the light was fairly harsh:
That takes me up to the mid-point of my tip, so to save this post getting too long, I have split the remaining locations out into a second post, that I will publish in the coming days. Please check back soon to take a look.