James’ trip to Scotland

Landscape photography & timelapse in the Highlands.

The north west highlands of Scotland have been up there on my bucket list for as long as I can care to remember. I finally got the chance to visit in May, with my good friend and professional landscape photographer, Karl Holtby. This area held a similar draw to Karl, and we met up several times before the trip for planning sessions, with meeting resulting in the both of us getting more and more giddy with excitement and anticipation!

The initial plan had been to travel to the Isle of Skye, another place on the bucket list, but this was kyboshed by a lack of available accommodation on the island, and even when we’d found potential cottages using sites like Airbnb and Home Away, the owners either didn’t respond or were extremely unhelpful. So we went back to the more “traditional” means of the Sykes Cottages website and widened the area, eventually stumbling upon “Sail Mhor View” in Durnamuck, near Dundonnell. The cottage looked a little dated, but this was reflected in the reasonable price and, as we’d left it somewhat late to book, our options were limited so we took a punt.

The big day arrived, and a relatively early start then degenerated into faffing around condensing two cars’ worth of stuff into one. We eventually set off to blue skies and fine weather; this was not to last! The rain started on the A66 near Brough and did not abate for the remainder of the journey. Which was a long time. Setting off around half 8, we arrived at the Dundonnell hotel 6 miles from our destination at around half five, in desperate need of sustenance. Despite the length of the journey, it remained interesting, heading over the Pennines, past Glasgow (where both Apple Maps and Google Maps decided to throw wobblers), and up through the Cairngorms to Inverness and the Highlands proper. There’s something quite sobering when satnav instructs you to stay on the same road without even so much as a roundabout to break things up for nigh-on 100 miles AND the whole stretch is covered by average speed cameras.

After inhaling a couple of decent burgers in the hotel bar, we progressed on to the cottage, which was easy to find and delightfully situated at the top of a lane which wound its way down towards the shores of Little Loch Broom. We dumped the kit (and I bagsied the solitary double bed) and, despite ten hours on the road we couldn’t resist a quick exploration of the area. I decided to travel light and focus on enjoying the moment but Karl couldn’t resist the urge to bring his Sigma SD Quattro, H. As we walked down the lane towards the loch, a friendly and helpful local explained the best routes to the shore.

A fine night’s sleep on a very comfortable bed ensured I was ready for more exploration on Sunday morning. The cottage, as the name implied, nestled in the shadow of Sail Mhor, with the range of An Teallach stretching beyond that. Karl had scoped out a low level route through the valleys that would bring us out at the top of the secluded Loch na Sealga, whilst offering up the chance of some expansive shots of the An Teallach range. Sunrise times of just after 04:30 at this time of year meant that we were unlikely to be undertaking any pre-dawn shoots on this trip; instead we set off mid-morning from a parking spot eight miles or so from the cottage. It’s fair to say that the route was more challenging than anticipated, and it then dawned on us neither of us had extensive supplies for a longer, harder route. Still, we made do with a few Belvitas and protein snacks.

Back at the car, we were both feeling the effects of the walk, and decided to head to the nearest town of Ullapool to stock up on supplies. This being Scotland, the supermarkets are not subject to the Sunday trading laws south of the border, so we needn’t have bothered rushing. A quick pint at the Seaforth Inn went some way to restoring us. The Seaforth was reasonably busy but didn’t appear to be particularly well run; certainly the surrounding tables that ordered food seemed to be waiting a long time for the orders to arrive. Not fancying the possibility of a long wait, we indulged in the attached chippy.