Just back from a lovely 3 days on the gorgeous and thankfully quiet Isle of Skye. Donald would definitely have kept his troosers on in the Bothy I hired on Airbnb. Despite a lovely log burner it was a tad chilly with my breath clearly visible even with the log burner roaring away all night. Saying that it was far cosier than the back of my Mondeo which is my usual Landscape Photography abode.
I had travelled up on the off chance of some broken weather but for all the technology used to forecast weather Skye and Scotland seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to clouds and grey skies. Not to worry though as my previous visit had seen blue skies for two days and very harsh light. Give me clouds every day and for Skye the photos always look better with a bit of a moody and foreboding cloud at the top of the frame.
The journey up passed quickly with the help of a Spotify playlist and it was pretty much traffic free. I stopped for a couple of hours of sleep and planned to arrive at Sligachan for sunrise. I was on the road bridge in darkness waiting for the light to come but in retrospect I should have travelled to Elgol as the chance of light was slim and because the River under the bridge was about as dry as a Steven Wright joke the image never worked.
Next up was the Fairy Pools. If you have never been it is a busy car park even in January so go in the morning as early as you can. The lack of water again made this a tricky venue. Walking up I made my mind up that I would just shoot the top pool as it has the best composition and I may have to wait my turn. I was puffing like a 20 a day man when I reached the pool as I had foolishly taken loads of kit up with the thought of making a Vlog. The purple face and sweat put that right out of my head and I thought that losing a couple of stone would be far more productive than the recently purchased vlogging gimbal. I’ll definitely give it a go at some point but it seems a real hassle.
Anyways the Fairy Pools didn’t disappoint. The walk up saw the cloud shrouded conical peak of the mountain slowly uncovered and peak out in perfect time for my arrival. A very productive and gloriously solitary couple of hours in my wellies brought a huge sense of well-being. Perhaps it was the magical water or the crisp air but it was more than likely just doing something I love.
A spot of lunch in Portree and a spectacular Black Pudding and Bacon Wrap, that couple of vlogging stone can wait, was followed by a drive north towards my digs. I wasn’t sure about where to go as the allure of the Pools had made me a bit late but I decided on Neist Point. I got there a in the nick of time as it was already getting dark but never missed anything as the sunset was greyer than a John Major speech. It was still good fun on the side of the hill and again I was the only tripod in sight. Although the weather wasn’t great the compositions are so strong it was well worth a visit.
Day two saw an early rise and a sharp intake of breath as my feet hit the frozen concrete floor of the Bothy. No time to waste though as I made the 45 minute drive to visit the Quiraing for the first time. I listened on the radio to talk of 5G network coverage being deployed in Orkney but there were no Gs at the Quiraing and as I arrived in the pitch black I realised I never had a clue where to walk. I walked down the road and up a likely looking hill before looking round and seeing a small stream of what looked like fairy lights on the hill opposite. The thought of walking back 20 minutes to where I started didn’t deter me as you get a rush when waiting for sunrise, at least I do, and I was so early that there was plenty time left. I took consolation that the fairy lights walking along the ridge were moving horizontally so there wasn’t much of a climb. The walk along the Quiraing isn’t too tricky. It was narrow but clear and there are a few spots to stop and park a tripod. There is one small bit of “climbing” but even this 17 stone chunkster, with a giant photography bag, made like a mountain goat and got down and over easy enough. Another grey sunrise was witnessed but boy the view made up for it. I think this is now my favourite spot in the UK. It is a simply breath-taking panorama that awaits you and the walk is incredibly easy for the reward, well it is if you go the right way!
Next up was the Old Man of Stor. I went for a drive by and a waterfall took my fancy. I had hoped to take a shot with the loch in the foreground but it was fairly breezy so no chance of reflections.
As I planned to go all the way down to Elgol for Sunset I decided to just crack on although I did stop for a quick recce at Lealt Waterfall. I might try the descent another day but there wasn’t an obvious route. The road to Elgol was nice and quiet and I love when you round the final corner and see the Cullins as that stunning backdrop. Again, the skies were grey and the sea never had much energy. I was flagging too, truth be told. I spent a pleasant hour or two jumping from rock to rock but I never nailed a composition and left feeling I hadn’t done as well as I should. To me that is all you can do. You can’t control the sea or clouds but you can make the most of the opportunity and despite working away it never happened for me.
Another chilly night in the Bothy was followed by another trip to the Quiraing. The forecast had a tiny little bit of promise and I pulled up in the Car Park, the only soul on the hill. I walked to the spots I had found the day before and set up my first Panoramic shot. The clouds were thick but the sun was working hard to give a show. As the clouds parted the sky lit up pink and I walked as quickly as safety allowed to try and get as much colour as I could in my shot. That pink sky was as long lived as a Bacon and Black Pudding Wrap in my greedy digits and almost as quickly as it had lit up the light was gone. I walked back to the car and spoke to a family who had missed the show. We were the only ones on the hill on a Saturday morning, amazing, and I felt quite privileged to get a solo show.
I normally don’t look at my pics until I’m home but I couldn’t resist a sneak peak. What a disaster, my loaned D850(thanks Tony) had been played with by some idiot who thought he was customising it to his tastes and that cretin had left it in Square crop mode(I can't help it). That meant every image was short at either the sides or the top and bottom and I had missed 1/3 of every shot.
That same idiot decided to see what settings he had messed up and noticed a 5:4 crop. That looks good he said internally before forgetting to set it back to FX. Next up was Fairy Glen, I took a few shots but there wasn't any light or mood. Nice place for a visit and all the stones have now been removed.
Still in 5:4, eedgit of a man, I headed to Elgol again. I walked right past the headland but never really found a composition. The tide was lower and the sea had even less energy so that never helped. Another couple of hours went by and I again left with the feeling of leaving some shots on the beach.
With around 5 hours drive to get home I decided to pack up and head down to Eilian Donan Castle. Again a grey backdrop awaited me but at least you are guaranteed a bit of light when the Laird of the Manor switches on the floodlights at sunset.
A fantastic three days with a mix of frustration and satisfaction. I won’t wait too long before returning as Skye is magical.