Richard Peters Photography


A week on The Isle of Skye
September 1, 2008, 11:04 am
Filed under: Photo Shoot Stories | Tags: , , ,

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A 654 mile drive door to door to spend the week in a cottage with the sea at the bottom of the garden, was it worth it? oh yes…

Nikon D3, 70mm, 1/650, f5.6, ISO200

One of Skye's stunning views

The journey
After visiting Mull in 2007 we decided 2008 was The Isle of Skye’s turn for a week of fresh air and photography. About 90 or so miles further up from Mull, Skye is much larger and more populated but the drive there is pretty spectacular, even though the weather was pretty dire on the way! Its a long old drive from West London at 654 miles so we stopped off over night in Glasgow on the way up, as we have done for the previous two Scottish breaks. The drive through Glencoe is jaw dropping the first time you see it…I’d love to stop and take my time exploring the area but we are always on a deadline when we go through so make a quick pit stop at one of the many viewing points then its back on the road. You get to Skye via the Skye bridge as apposed to the ferry crossing for Mull and I suppose this goes to explain, in part, why this island is so heavily populated compared to the smaller islands. When we first drove across there were lots of people, cars and houses everywhere and our vision of a relaxing holiday in the middle of nowhere seemed like it may not come to be. Thankfully Skye is a big place and the further north we drove the more isolated things became…phew!

12 shot stitch from Glencoe

Glencoe, 12 shot pano

Location Location Location
We stayed at High Tide Cottage which, although not as modern as the lovely farmhouse we stayed at on Mull, offered all the creature comforts we needed and most importantly…its location was second to none! In fact, from the comfort of the living room, the large, wide, floor to ceiling window offered stunningviews of the bay as well as all kinda of wildlife, which I will explain in more detail further down. You really could not ask for more to be on your doorstep! It was also about 50 yards away from the award winning Three Chimneys Restaurant, in fact the cottage should be viewable along the shoreline on the restaurants homepage picture but they have been sneaky and photo-shopped it out!

The view from High Tide Cottage back garden!

The view from High Tide Cottage back garden (at low tide!)

Neist Point, where to begin!
Pulling out of the cottage drive your faced with two options…do you follow the road left and head back down the island or do you turn right and head towards Neist Point which is only a 15 minute drive. I must admit I visited Neist Point on several occasions. Our first visit we walked straight down the very steep path at the end of the car park and right to the end for a walk around the rocks near the lighthouse…which you really must do, the rock is in giant slabs and very unusual. 

Neist Point lit by a golden sunset

Neist Point lit by a golden sunset

The walk back to the top of the hill is hard going with lots of heavy camera equipment, especially if its a hot day so take lots of waterto keep you going. From the car park you can also walk up the small hill to the right which gives spectacular views of Neist Point and also the Outer Hebrides, especially at sunset at this time of year (May). Our first visit there at sunset was quite honestly one of themost incredible views I have ever seen. The sky and sea were lit in the most incredible pastel shades of orange and yellow which, to be honest, are not done justice by my photos – you really have to see it for yourself. Our first sunset was shared with about 10 other photographers so its obviously a hot spot…there they were all lined in a row taking the same photo so I decided to hang back a little at first and try to give the scene a different spin by including them in the photo. Then it was business as usual with my friend and I joining the line up and taking in the breathtaking view – the scale of which was almost overwhelming.

Photographers at sunset, pano

Photographers at sunset, pano

On one of our other visits to Neist Point we were walking down the long steep path with our gear on our backs when one couple taking a break on some rocks next to the path asked ‘Are you going to play those?’…slightly bemused we replied ‘play what?’, to which they replied ‘your bagpipes’. Needless to say they looked quite embarrassed and we all had a good laugh when we explained they were camera’s and not bagpipes. To add to the humour of it, as my friend and I walked on we joked about who on earth would carry bagpipes all that way down to the sea…when what should we hear half an hour later…yep, you guessed it…bagpipes coming from somewhere nearby! (we think, from the lighthouse which has a hotel, although we never saw any guests)

The Cuillins from Elgol Village – a must see
By far the most stunning part of Skye for me had to be the 15 or so mile drive along Elgol Road which leads you down , you guessed it, to Elgol Village.

One of the many beautiful views along Elgol Road

One of the many beautiful views along Elgol Road

The view of the Cuillins from here simple has to be seen to be believed. Its like something out of Lord of the Rings and a view I would love to sit and photograph in all weather conditions and seasons of the year as I would imagine the different types of lighting here could give a thousand and one moods to the scene. On this particular day the light was very harsh from the left and the distant land and sky quite hazy so the conditions were not as favourable as I would have liked. We had read that the views here were some of the best offered by Skye but really wish I knew exactly what we were about to see as we came round the corner and down the steep hill to the sea front at Elgol. There is a pebble beach you can walk along with a cottage to the right, this cottage is actually available to rent and I think staying here would give you some amazing opportunities to photograph the view at different times of the day – although its a slow old drive along the single track Elgol road so getting about might prove slow and tiresome if you stayed there.

The Cuillins from Elgol Village

The Cuillins from Elgol Village

The Coral Beach
Another point of interest near where we stayed is the Coral Beach just the other side of Dunvegan. This was actually just visible from the cottage, off in the distance on the other side of the water and well worth a visit especially on a nice hot day like the one we visited on. We were actually over there hoping to spot Eagles which we had seen in the sky over that area from the cottage so I unfortunately only had the 200-400 to try and take in the views with…not to worry, a 12 shot panoramic image soon took care of my wide angle needs! 

The Coral Beach, just past Dunevegan

The Coral Beach, just past Dunvegan

Eagles, Otters, Seals – and that’s just from the garden!
As I mentioned at the start of this article, there is a lot of wildlife to be seen on Skye and we saw the main species from High Tide Cottage. From the comfort (and warmth!) of the living room we witnessed two Sea Eagles fighting with other birds, Seals playing about on one of the islands just off shore and even witnessed a family of Otters running about on the rocks at the foot of the garden! The island itself is just full of various species of birds ranging from Eagles to Puffins. We were told there are also lots of Deer on the island but we never really saw any, not like on Mull where we saw them all the time off in the distance. The cottage was also the target of a couple of pairs of Chaffinch, who would spend their days attacking their own reflections in the windows. As the sun would move round during the day they would follow to the next window and carry on! Very amusing to watch as they would do it all day long nearly every day we were there!

Fishing Puffin

Fishing Puffin

Other wildlife included Razor Bills fishing at Neist Point as Will as Cormorants and gulls nesting on the cliff face. We also saw a pair of Great Skua’s which was very unexpected as they spend most of thier life out to sea. Needless to say I had to crawl very very slowly and as close to the floor as I could to try and get near enough for my 200-400 VR to get the Skua at a decent size in the frame. Adding a 1.4x TC I eventually just got close enough for a few shots before my cover was blown and he flew away…oh how I miss the crop sensor of the D2x sometimes!

Great Skua

Great Skua

Basically, keep an eye out as everywhere you go on Skye you’ll get a chance to see wildlife!

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler

Anything else?
Well yes, I’ve only touched briefly on what there is to do and see on Skye. The island is pretty big and you’d need to spend months there to even begin to take it all in and see everything at its best. There is a windfarm (visible to your right maybe 8 miles or so from Dunevegan), the old man of Tor, boat trips out to see Sea Eagles, the list just goes on and on. My best advice is do some research first. Work out where you want to stay, then work out where the points of interest to you are and plan your days from there. Due to the islands scale it can be very deceiving just how far you have to drive to get to some locations and the petrol stations are few and far between…!! Also, in May the sky never really gets dark but rather stays a dark blue. By mid June/July the sun barely dips below the horizon so you never really have ‘night time’.

Stars over Skye

Stars over Skye at midnight

 

Highlands in the morning, London the same evening!
Coming home we decided to do the full 654 mile drive in one hit instead of stopping off over night again. We left the cottage at 945am and got home at around 1030 that night after making a stop for lunch along Loch Lommond and a couple of fuel stops along the way. It was a tiring drive, as I opted to do all the driving for my car load of people but it was nice to get not drag out the miserable feeling of leaving such a beautiful place with an overnight stop. once your on the road you just want to get home, have a cup of tea and starting reliving all thjsoe great memories through processing your pictures!

I highly recommend Skye, if you ever get the chance, go visit! Just make sure you have a LOT of memory card space in that camera…

Reflections

Reflections

Outer Hebrides sunset

Outer Hebrides sunset

McLeods Table

McLeods Table

Razorbills yellow mouth

Razorbills yellow mouth

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