The Isle of Skye - Jay Birmingham

The Isle of Skye

We decided to have a ‘staycation’ this year, and so we took the opportunity to go on an extended roadtrip to Skye via Glencoe.

Glencoe is a favourite haunt of ours – this is the third time we’ve been in about a year, so we are starting to get to know the places fairly well. When we left it last, there were frozen rivers and lochs, so it looked rather different after the recent hot weather. However, it rained for almost the entire time we were there this time, but it still looked beautiful!

Waterfalls were one of the objectives of our Glencoe visit (the rain was useful for something!) so we also visited the falls on the River Coe, which have a good view of the Three Sisters. We also had a look at the rapids at Glen Etive. These are down a side road, and we had to climb through a few brambles to find them, but they were worth seeing, and watching the clear water make its way downstream.

Whilst we were at Glen Etive, we couldn’t resist doing something quite touristy, so we found the layby from ‘Skyfall’ where James Bond and M stopped the Aston Martin to enjoy the view. I’m sure if James Bond could have had a Corsa, he would have, but perhaps they couldn’t find one in time for filming!

Glencoe itself is on the shores of Loch Leven, which is about 6km long, and once had Mary, Queen of Scots imprisoned on one of its islands (in Loch Leven Castle). We tried to catch a sunset, with some fishing boats for  interest, but the rain didn’t really stay away for very long!

There were just two more locations for us in Glencoe. One was ‘The Study’, which is a viewpoint above the A82. It has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains ,and has been used as a location in several films (including Highlander, The 39 Steps, and Rob Roy).

Finally, we took a visit to one of our favourite places in Glencoe – Glencoe Lochan. We arrived in heavy rain, and we had the whole place to ourselves. It is immensely picturesque, and as the rain cleared, we felt truly blessed to see firstly a rainbow, reflected in the lochan, and then a very tame deer who spent about half an hour very near us. If you ever go to Glencoe, I heartily recommend visiting this place – in the still and quiet it seems magical.

We then headed over to the Isle of Skye, which is only a few hours drive from Glencoe. It seems like it is a bit of a pilgrimage for landscape photographers. As we crossed the bridge, we could see why. Skye is a paradise! It has mountains, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, mountains and whisky! However, it rained everyday we were on the island. As there were some sunny interludes for the first few days, this did make for interesting photography, but then the weather descended into constant drizzle.

As soon as we had got the tent up, we went exploring, as there were so many places that we wanted to see. The Quiraing is an impressive place. It is a landslip, and the winding roads and jutting hills look really interesting. We would have liked to visit at sunrise, but the weather didn’t quite allow for this. It’s on our list for next time!

That evening, we visited Talisker Bay for sunset. This feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, and there is a bit of a walk in, but the beach is covered in rocks, and wonderful for photography. Standing on the beach, viewing the distant waterfalls, and the sea and sky beyond was a humbling experience, and it felt very special to be there. The distillery nearby chose to name their whisky ‘Talisker’ and this rugged beach is worthy of a whisky that is ‘made by the sea’. They say their whisky is like the island itself – easy to enjoy, and hard to leave, and we couldn’t agree more.

The next day, we thought we would go and see one of Skye’s famous sights, so we went off in search of the Fairy Pools. Skye seems to have a bit of a link to fairies, and this magical place does indeed look like the sort of place mythical creatures would want to be. The clear water cascades down a series of drops, and through blue pools, and has the beautiful Black Cuillins behind (when the rainclouds aren’t obscuring them!). The Fairy Pools have a muddy path next to them, but this is fairly short, so it is quite popular with tourists. We usually visit places at sunrise or sunset, so when we accidentally arrived at 2pm, we weren’t quite prepared for the volume of people (and camper vans!) that were descending in droves. However, the people were all there to enjoy this special site, and it was wonderful to see that so many people of varied nationalities were happy to take a walk in the mud and rain in order to enjoy a natural beauty.

Later on, we decided to drive to Neist Point to have a little walk and explore the cliffs and rocks. This place has amazing rock formations, which are a little like those of Giant’s Causeway, in Northern Ireland. It has a lighthouse, and some 100ft cliffs, so it isn’t hard to find a nice photo composition. The lighthouse itself was built in 1900, and used to be manned, but now the light is automatic. We waited until the evening darkened, and the light came on. This can be seen for 16 miles, so still ensures ships have a safe passage so many years after it was built.

My wife had been telling me that she wanted to take a little stroll. However, she wasn’t very impressed when I organised an hour's uphill ‘stroll’ at 4am. Despite the early effort, the views were definitely worth it. We went to see the ‘Old Man of Storr’ at sunrise. This iconic sight is synonymous with the Isle of Skye, and this is one of the places that convinced me I wanted to visit the island. The jagged rocks here are the result of another landslide many years ago, and I knew I wanted to see them in the beautiful morning light. As the sun rose, the rocks were silhouetted against the colourful sky, and then I ran to a different hill to try and catch the low light of the sun lighting up the rocks. It certainly looks dramatic, and this rugged and beautiful scenery is part of what makes Skye so special.

We decided that this would be the best day to visit Elgol – a fishing village which was quite a drive away. This did mean that we were up for 20 hours on that day – but we knew the rain was going to become worse over the next few days, so we wanted to make sure we saw as much as possibly before the weather turned. Elgol is at the bottom of a very steep and windy hill – I don’t envy people driving down that in winter! It has a rocky shoreline, and wonderful views of the Cuillin Ridge. I took some long exposure shots, as there are many rocks which provide foreground interest. The sunset wasn’t colourful, but it felt peaceful watching the blue colours in the sky and sea as the evening turned into night.

After this, for the rest of our trip, we could only go to places in the heavier rain, so although we returned to Fairy Pools, and to Neist Point, it was difficult to take many shots, as the cloud was fairly thick, and we had to hide under umbrellas. We did visit the falls at Sligachan, which are worth of a mention for the uniqueness of the name! We also went to Fairy Glen, which is a bizarre landscape of mounds and hills (another landslip!). One of the hills is topped with rock, which is called Castle Ewan. We spent quite a while at this place – visiting fairly late, and in the rain, meant we had the place to ourselves on several occasions, and it felt like stolen moments from Father Time. I set my camera up on an adjoining hill, and then ran up and down Castle Ewan several times in order to take a jumping shot. I was pleased with the finished shot, although it was a lot more effort than ‘selfies’ usually are!. However, I thought that this shot really showed how much I loved this wonderful, rugged, beautiful island. As we prepared to leave Fairy Glen, a Golden Eagle soared gracefully overhead.

This place had everything. This scenery is so big, so full, but yet so empty, that it does remind you that any worries pale into significance compared with the wider picture. I think I will print out one of my photos from Skye, so that when there are stresses and strains in everyday life, I can look at the beauty of Skye and feel calm and centred once again.



Powered by SmugMug Log In