If you’re going away to visit a new country, there are always going to be the key sights that you want to try and photograph. While, as a landscape photographer, you might want to avoid some of the more tourist-centric attractions, there are still locations that should be on your bucket list. If you’re visiting Scotland, try to plan your trip so that you can get to photograph at least a few of these locations. Your portfolio will thank you!
Everyone’s heard of Loch Ness – or, at least, the famous monster that supposedly lives there. While you aren’t likely to get a snap of Nessie, you will still be able to admire the beautiful countryside here around the most famous loch in the world. This large and deep freshwater loch has very murky water, which means it can create some interesting images as the appearance of the water may be different than in other locations.
It’s the second largest loch by area, but the largest by volume, which means it also takes up a lot of the frame. There are some interesting monuments which you can choose to include in the frame or not, such as Urquhart Castle and a couple of lighthouses. Near Fort Augustus, you will find Cherry Island – a crannog which was actually built by humans. You can also visit a Loch Ness Centre for a bit of history on the area, as a bonus to your trip.
Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie
Eilean Donan Castle is the main feature of Eilean Donan, a small tidal island at the convergence of three lochs: Loch Duich, Loch Alsh, and Loch Long. You might recognise the castle itself, as it has appeared in films and television series – as well as being one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland. There’s a footbridge between the island and the mainland, so you can get right up close to the castle – or shoot it from across the water, which affords a fantastic opportunity to utilize reflections of the sky in your composition.
The area lends itself well to panoramas, particularly used to highlight the castle along with the footbridge and the surrounding countryside. The way that the lochs all meet together is particularly stunning, turning the whole area into a glass mirror with the castle suspended in the middle. It makes for some gorgeous shots, and even if yours might be similar to those taken by other photographers, it’s worth going just to have that shot in your gallery.
The Queen’s View, Perthshire
If you want to shoot a panorama, there’s no better place in Scotland to come than The Queen’s View. So named because it was enjoyed by both Queen Victoria and Queen Isabella, who was the wife of Robert the Bruce in the 14th century. To get there, you can drive from Pitlochry along a scenic road which follows the River Tummel, down to a vantage point that looks out across Loch Tommel. When the weather is clear, you can also see the mountains around Glencoe, but even on cloudier days it’s still a view to behold.
There’s a tea room and visitor centre on site, which makes it a perfect stop for a few hours on a lazy afternoon. There are also plenty of forest walks nearby which might provide further opportunities for shots – if you haven’t spent hours filling your memory cards up at the vantage point already.
Buachaille Etive Mor, Glen Etive
If you’ve been hankering after a mountain view, they don’t get much better than this. Buachaille Etive Mor is one of the most impressive peaks in Scotland and the world – when you see it from the approaching road, the A82, you won’t believe that anybody could ever get up to the peak. Around it, mossy and heather-filled plains allow the road to meander in curves that cut across the landscape to create fantastic leading lines.
If you want to climb it yourself, you’ll find steep and rough terrain, with a boulder-filled ridge in your path. The descent is similar, so it’s not for the faint-hearted – though you will enjoy the view from the top. Having said that, this peak is the most stunning when viewed from below. You’ll see this angle on postcards and calendars in just about every gift shop in Scotland. Most recently, it featured in James Bond’s outing Skyfall.
Pass of Glen Coe, Lochaber
Part of the Ben Nevis and Glen Coe National Scenic Area, this is a fantastic spot that can’t be missed. It is known for dramatic rises and falls, with a high mountain pass transitioning into a lightly wooded path through the lower part of the glen. It’s considered to be on one of the classic roads that everyone should drive in Scotland, the A82, which means you can combine this location with our fourth pick, above, in a single trip.
It’s very popular with mountaineers, climbers, and hillwalkers, and is also the historic site of the Massacre of Glencoe back in 1692. A river runs through the glen, with several lochs and a narrow pass to explore as well. This pass is one of the most popular areas with photographers thanks to its high drama, but there are plenty of peaks behind it that you might also want to check out.
Near to Glen Coe is Fort William, a conveniently located town that normal serves as a base for many tourists who want to explore the Munro mountains, including Ben Nevis. From afar, the town has an incredibly scenic look, especially with the mountains behind. One viewpoint you can take is to get onto a boat on Loch Linnhe to set up your frame.
Within the town itself, there are lots of scenic areas to admire, including historic buildings and structures which have stood for hundreds of years. You can also go further out to Corpach to take a shot which frames the whole town and its environs. Nearby is a bridge which was used in the Harry Potter film series.
Ardlui, Loch Lomond
Though Ardlui is only small enough to qualify as a hamlet, rather than a town, it still qualifies as one of the most scenic areas in Scotland. It is situated right at the head of Loch Lomond, and is positioned on the same A82 road that will bring you to some of our other top spots.
The hamlet is not frequented much, though tourists do come to stay here. There are two main shots you might find yourself wanting to take: one is to get up high above the hamlet and shoot right across the loch, framing the buildings in the foreground with sweeping hills around them. The second is to shoot across the water towards the hamlet itself, with the quaint appearance of many of the buildings giving it almost an old world appearance.
St Andrews, Fife
Another beautiful town that lends itself well to the landscape around it, St Andrews is also home to the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. It’s also considered to be one of the top universities in the UK to this day. It’s also known as the home of golf thanks to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which is often used for The Open Championship and has a huge significance in the history of the sport.
Sandy beaches also bring tourists, but you’ll be coming for the views. Again, you can choose to shoot towards the town from the water, capturing the dramatic medieval buildings and monuments. The ruins of St Andrews Castle will be a particular highlight, as they are nestled in gorgeous scenery and provide an interesting juxtaposition of man’s failure against nature’s flourishing.
It might be a small town, but Ullapool is very important – it’s actually the largest settlement for quite some distance, so tourism and commerce is big here. The North Atlantic Drift passes by to cool the temperature, and Loch Broom is there for your water views. Rugged mountains are all around, with Beinn Dearg, Bheinn Ghobblach, Ben Mhor na Coigich, and An Teallach to choose from. Of these, An Teallach offers the most dramatic profile, but it requires quite a long trek to reach the foot of the mountain before you can even begin to climb if you want the view from the top.
Nearby hills such as Maol Calaisceig also offer opportunities for views across the town and then down over the water. The sheer scale of the mountains and the loch as contrasted with the small town make for interesting shots.
Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Another very small town, Tobermory lies on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, and was the only burgh in the region until as recently as 1973. There’s a rumour that a Spanish galleon loaded with gold lies wrecked at the bottom of Tobermory Bay – but much more likely to be valuable to you are the brightly-painted houses along the shorefront. Decked out in shades of blue, red, yellow, and white, they stand out against the trees directly behind them and afford a quaint view of the fishing port.
Notable shots close by include Calve Island, which shelters the harbour, the Sound of Mull, and a lighthouse to the north.
Once you have explored these sites, you’ll have a portfolio of Scottish wonders that can’t be matched. Although they may sound similar, each mountain range or loch village offers a unique and stunning aspect that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.