If a picture truly paints a thousand words, the landscapes of the Scottish Highlands would fill all 4,224 pages of Harry Potter (much of which was filmed here). Blessed with quite simply the most sensational landscapes in Britain, Scotland’s rugged northern Highlands lend themselves to phenomenal landscape photography… even under the darkest of brooding skies. In fact, Scotland’s famously fickle weather is a bonus: Within the space of one hour, it’s possible to shoot the same location under gorgeous blue skies, when roiled by bruising clouds, and gilded in shafts of golden sunlight. Plus, off the western coast is the Isle of Skye, considered among the most dramatically picturesque places in all Britain, with its breathtaking physical formations and elemental battered landscapes of epic grandeur.
Our itinerary spans the full range. Enchanting waterfalls… Huge soaring sea stacks… Surging peninsulas… Improbably white-sand beaches… Wind-ruffled lochans and moors carpeted in thistles and heather… And hauntingly beautiful glacier-scoured mountains. Plus, this remote region is replete with wildlife: our chance to photograph auks, eagles, and puffins; mammals from pine marten to deer; plus otter, porpoise, harbor seals, and giant basking sharks, all of which frequent the waters.
We’ll visit in early October when the autumn colors are at their most spectacular. As travel should expand the mind, provide a learning experience, and inspire an appreciation for local culture, we won’t forget the human component: The living culture that defines this magnificent region… from weathered fishermen to the shepherds herding their flocks with sheepdogs. Plus, we’ll sample a wee dram or two, get to learn about malt whisky, and photograph at the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye. Other highlights viewing the Jacobite Stream Train (aka Hogwart’s Express) thundering across the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct… Glencoe… ancient Neolithic standing stones… traditional earth-roofed croft houses… Urquhart Castle… Loch Ness… plus Edinburgh.
Trip leader, Christopher P. Baker, a native Brit, is editor of the National Geographic Traveler Scotland guidebook and has written and photographed widely about Scotland for several publications. He frequently visits his sister and cousin, both of whom live in the Scottish Highlands.
We hope you’ll join us and experience the mystical appeal of this superbly photogenic and immensely soul-satisfying part of the world.
Day 1: (Oct. 4)
Participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Edinburgh. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, then a welcome dinner. Overnight in Edinburgh.
Day 2: (Oct. 5)
Depart Edinburgh this morning via exquiste Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park for Glencoe, one of the most spectacular glens in Scotland and a setting for films from Harry Potter to the James Bond movie Skyfall. Here we’ll stop to photograph at Etive Mor Waterfall, our first chance to practice long-exposures to capture the cascades with milky soft effect. Overnight in Fort William.
Day 3: (Oct. 6)
This morning we journey via the Glenfinnan Viaduct—a fantastic 21-arch curving bridge—in time to photograph the Jacobite steam train (the famous ‘Hogwarts Express’ of Harry Potter fame) puffing across the viaduct. Arriving Mallaig midday, we then take the ferry to Armadale, on the Isle of Skye. Our first stop is Elgol, a fishing hamlet with sensational ocean views towards the Black Cuillin Mountains. Overnight in Isle of Skye.
Day 4: (Oct. 7)
We’ll rise early and travel to the Old Man of Storr for sunrise as dawn’s light illuminates this incredible mountainside volcanic formation and adjoining pinnacles. Arriving the foot of these massive basalt spires, we’ll hike for about one mile uphill to reach our favored viewpoint. Weather permitting, expect some of the most sensational images of the trip. We then continue the short distance to Quiraing, another stunning geological formation offering fantastic landscape photography.
Nearby, completing our geologically themed morning, is Kilt Rock waterfall—a cascade tumbling over a cliff into the sea. A polarizing filter will prove useful here to bring out the undersea rocks to full effect. We’ll then return to Portree in late morning for lunch, a well-earned afternoon nap, and free time. We’ll have an optional visit to Neist Point Lighthouse and its dramatic headline to photograph sunset before returning to our hotel for a well-earned dinner. Our final night in Isle of Skye.
Day 5: (Oct. 8)
Begin today with a stop at Sligachan to photograph the famous old stone bridge and sensational cottage and mountain backdrop; then visit the Talisker Distillery for a tour and tasting. Time permitting, we’ll also visit the remote Fairy Pools, a magical cascade with crystal-clear pools. As we depart the Isle of Sky, we’ll photograph the modern Skye Bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh—another dramatic setting. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Eilaen Donan Castle, perhaps the most photogenic (and most photographed) castle in Britain thanks to its enviable location on an isle in Loch Duich. We’ll linger as long as feasible to take advantage of changing moods. A final one-hour drive brings us to Torridon and our luxury hotel, where we’ll rest up throughout the afternoon—a chance to photograph around Torridon, including the estate’s highland cattle on its own farm, and Loch Torridon and the Torridon Peaks. We’ll spend the night in Torridon.
Day 6: (Oct. 9)
The morning we’ll drive via Loch Maree to Gairloch, a fishing town overlooking turquoise waters and a beach the color of Valspar Perfection. Here we’ll visit the Gairloch Marine Wildlife Center, and take a two-hour cruise with scientists to spot minke whales, basking sharks, dolphin, porpoise, and a plethora of seabirds, from eagles to puffins. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Inverewe Gardens to photograph this sensational garden, where species from around the globe thrive thanks to a warm microclimate. Arriving the lovely fishing village of Ullapool, overlooking Loch Broom, we’ll have free time before dinner at a gourmet restaurant with Chris’s sister and brother-in-law, who live nearby. Overnight in Ullapool.
Day 7: (Oct. 10)
Our hotel overlooks the lively and supremely photogenic Ullapool harbor, with its colorful traditional fishing boats, many of which are beached at low tide. We’ll make the most of the early morning light to photograph the fishing boats and the fishermen tending their nets and crab baskets. We’ll also have a chance to relax with afternoon tea beside Loch Broom at Chris’ sister’s beautiful renovated cottage! Expect to see otter, seals and perhaps even porpoise. A relaxing day today and final night in Ullapool.
Day 8: (Oct. 11)
Today we’ll drive via Glen Glasgarnoch and Garve to Drumnadrochit for lunch at Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness. Chris’ cousin Mark–a professional guide at Urquhart Castle–will give us a personal, privileged tour. We’ll linger around Loch Ness this afternoon to photograph Nessie (?) Overnight in Drumnadrochit.
Day 9: (Oct. 12)
Today we head via Inverness to Leaudlt Working Sheepdogs, at Aviemore–a chance to meet farmer Neil Ross to learn about, and photograph sheepdogs working flocks of sheep. Continue to Edinburgh, with time to relax or explore this historic city before a slide show of everyone’s favorite images followed by our farewell dinner. Overnight in Edinburgh.
Day 10: (Oct. 13)
Today we will all head to the airport for flights back home.