Martin Lawrence Photography
Photographers Guide to the Isle of Skye
Posted on 16th April, 2018
Whether you’ve been to Skye on many occasions or you’re about to go for the first time then this Photographers Guide to the Isle of Skye will have something for you. From iconic places to photograph to the best time of day, from places to stay to a schedule that will optimise your time – this guide has it all.
Having photographed the Isle of Skye on many occasions, this guide is my personal preference on routes, locations and the best time of day but it needn’t be yours. You can obviously do things differently but the main object of this guide is to give you what are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful locations Scotland has to offer.
Firstly, don’t underestimate the size of Skye - it’s 640 square miles. The road structure is great but there are many single track roads that mean you will need to travel at a reduced speed. Happily, they all have ample passing places. There are many watering holes where you can get a bite to eat – these range from The Three Chimneys a first class restaurant striving to get back its Michelin Star to roadside butty bars.
Image 1: Portree Harbour
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My recommendation is that you stay in the beautiful harbour town of Portree. It’s the largest town on Skye and its capital. There are plenty of places to stay, eat and to re-fuel the car. This will be the starting point for all the day trips that are listed in this guide. They are not in any particular order so by all means change the schedule they are just listed as great days out with plenty of photographic opportunities. What I will say, and say only once, is that there are plenty of photographic opportunities on Skye in between the ones I have listed so be sure and take the time to stop and photograph them – it’s always great to capture something different.
PORTREE TO ELGOL
From Portree to Elgol is a distance of 40 miles duration 1 hour one way. There is parking and food at the Sligachan Bridge Hotel, Broadford and Elgol plus lots of roadside pull-ins where you can park safely but please make sure that you do not park in a designated passing place.
Image 2: Marsco and the Sgurr nan Gilean Mountain of the Cuillin range from Sligachan Bridge
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Take the A87 south towards Sligachan; this will be your first location. The best shot for me is this view from the path on the road over the Old Bridge towards Marsco on the left and the Sgurr nan Gillean Mountain of the Cuillin Range on the right. As the bridge faces due north, you will only get the sun on this side of it in mid summer very early in the morning enabling you to catch the perfect sunrise over the mountains.
Image 3: The Cuillin and Allt Dearg Mor watefall, Glen Sligachan
After photographing Sligachan Bridge, walk along the right hand side of the River Sligachan up Glen Sligachan. There are simply hundreds of opportunities to capture water shots from slow moving water to fast flowing waterfalls. After a short time, a tributary comes down to meet the river. This is the Allt Dearg Mor where there is a beautiful little waterfall with a great back drop of the Cuillin. You can continue on until you reach a footbridge where you have two choices. You can either cross it and continue on to Alt Dearg House or retrace your steps back to the bridge.
Image 4: The road to Elgol
Back in your car, continue south on the A87 to Broadford. You will get great views looking north towards Loch Ainort and Loch na Cairidh. At Broadford take the B8083 that takes you straight to Elgol along one of the most picturesque roads on Skye. Along this road there are numerous opportunities especially when one of the little lochans appears on the right hand side of the road. Stop here in the many little pull-ins to photograph reeds in the foreground with this fantastic mountain range in the distance.
Image 5: Camasunary Bay and the Sgurr Na Stri from Am Mam Pass
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Continue on the road towards Elgol until you reach a parking area with a walking sign post to Camusunary. This is an optional trip as it takes about an hour and a half to walk to the bay. The view of the bay when you reach halfway is fabulous but it will be a big chunk out of your day so you will have to way up what’s best for you.
Image 6: Across Loch Scavaig to the Black Cuillin
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Continue now towards Elgol passing loch after loch which are always worth a stop especially if there reflections to be had. Once reaching Elgol you can park your car at the harbour and buy a coffee and a snack if it’s that time of day before you start. The view across Loch Scaviag over to the Cuillin is one of the best on the island. There are many shots to be had all along this short stretch of coast line from the harbour especially round the first headland where there are many flat slabs and boulders giving you great foreground interest.
Image 7: Loch Coruisk
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Another option if you’ve planned ahead is the boat trip across Loch Scavaig to Loch Coruisk on the Bella Jane. Trips can be booked in advance or if you’re lucky on the day if there are places left. This is really a great boat trip and well worth doing if you have the time. Loch Coruisk is very photogenic and you have plenty of time to capture many fabulous shots for your portfolio. On your return to Elgol then consider a long exposure shot towards evening with the sun setting over the Cuillin. Return back to Portree the way you came.
Image 8: Bla Bheinn from Elgol Harbour
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PORTREE TO THE QUIRAING
Portree to The Quiraing is a distance of 20 miles duration 35 minutes one way, plenty of parking at all the different locations along the way. There are limited options for food so take a packed lunch.
Image 9: Loch Fada and the Old Man of Storr
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Take the A855 out of Portree signposted to Staffin. Soon after leaving Portree you will see in the distance one of the highlights on Skye – The Storr. In fact I must admit this is my favourite area on the island so the day will be packed full of exciting and fabulous locations that you will be hard pressed to get them all in. If fact you may want to do just some of these and return for a second day as it’s very close to Portree and the traveling time is minimal. I have however for this article written all the locations for this area in one day but I doubt whether they all could be accomplished.
First stop is Loch Fada giving you the classic view of The Storr perhaps reflecting in the loch. There are a couple of parking places close to a cattle grid with just a short walk down to the loch. Best time to visit would be early morning to capture a sunrise plus the stillness to get those reflections. There is always boats moored on the loch together with trees on the shoreline all give great foreground interest with The Storr and the Trotternish Peninsular giving you the perfect backdrop.
Image 10: Brides Veil Waterfall
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Continue along the A855 for a couple of miles until you come to The Brides Veil waterfall. An aptly name waterfall and if you can get in the right position to the left of the falls then you can again get The Storr as background interest. Early morning would be best and not in the summer months so you are sure of plenty of water in the falls. There is plenty of parking complete with picnic benches.
Image 11: The Old Man of Storr
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Continue on for a couple of miles to reach one of your main objectives The Old Man of Storr a 160 foot pinnacle which is Skye’s most famous landmark. There is lots of parking in a newly built car park or on the side of the road if it’s full. This is a very, very popular location. Walk through the trees on a well-trodden footpath until you come to a clearing where The Storr and other rock formations come into view. There are many routes up to The Storr but have a plan of action in mind so you get the best out of your stay. This view can be mind blowing when you see it for the first time, don’t rush up but take your time and capture some images that you will be proud of. Always remember there are other images to be taken other than The Storr like The Needle so take your time.
Image 12: KIlt Rock
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On returning back to the car continue along the road for a few miles until you come to a car par on the right hand side of the road opposite Loch Mealt. Go to the viewing platform and lean over (not too far) to capture Kilt Rock Waterfall. This is a 400 foot cliff straight down with Kilt Rock in the background.
Image 13: Sunrise over The Quiraing
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Drive along the road for about another 4 miles until you come to Brogaig and take the single track road sign posted to The Quiraing on the left. Drive up hill passing the cemetery until you come to a car park at the top of The Trotternish Peninsula. Be prepared to go through several SD cards here, as this is another highlight of your trip on Skye. The first time I saw the Quiraing I couldn’t believe I was in the British Isles or in fact on this planet as the scenery is nothing like I’d seen before. Spend as much time as you have left here – there are plenty of images to be taken just away from the car park or you can walk towards the Quiraing and capture breath taking images all along the way. Don’t forget to look out for a small tree just past the car park that has been ‘hanging on’ here for many years. It’s the perfect image to get especially at sunrise. Return back to Portree when your battery is flat!!!
Image 14: The Quiraing Tree
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PORTREE TO THE FAIRY POOLS AND GLEN BRITTLE
Portree to The Fairy Pools and Glen Brittle is a distance of 25 miles duration 44 minutes one way, plenty of parking at the different locations along the way. There are limited options for food, The Old Inn at Carbost is one, so take a packed lunch.
Image 15: Fairy Pools at Coire na Creiche
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Take the A87 to Sligachan and then take the A863 Dunvegan road. Drive for about 5 miles and turn left onto the B8009 Carbost road for about 2 miles signposted to Glen Brittle. This single track road gives you fabulous views of the Cuillin across the Minginish Peninsula. After about 4 miles you will find a car park on the right. The footpath for the Fairy Pools is across the road from the car park.
After a little way, take a branch off to your left to explore a tributary with a series of small waterfalls. There is a particularly good one hidden away in a corner so watch carefully for this. You can then retrace your steps back to the main path where you will need to cross the river to continue. This can be tricky after heavy rain. Look for a couple of places where you can actually get down into the river bed to get some very dramatic images. Just before the path starts to climb there is another stream to cross (again difficult after heavy rain). As you climb the scenery gets more and more dramatic and eventually you will reach the Fairy Pools. You can spend most of the day here photographing the many pools and waterfalls. It really is worth walking to the end as the views change all the time always with Allt Coir a Mhadaidh in the distance.
On returning back to the car park don’t forget to look down to the right hand side of the footpath just before the road to capture the impressive waterfall. Anytime of day would be good for the Fairy Pools. If you have time, then you can continue along this road to Glen Brittle beach to capture a stunning sunset. Drive back to Portree at the end of the day.
PORTREE TO NEIST POINT
Portree to Neist Point is a distance of 33 miles duration one hour one way, plenty of parking at the Lighthouse. Perfect for a sunset trip.
Image 16: Sunset at Neist Point Lighthouse
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For me this is the best location to capture a sunset although I must admit there are several around the island. Do not under estimate the journey time to this location – it will take you an hour so if you want to get settled in at your location and get the golden hour as well then set off a good two hours before sunset.
Head along the A87 towards Dunvegan, after about 4 miles turn onto the A850 and drive for about 17 miles. Turn left onto A863 for about half a mile and then turn left onto the B884. Drive for about 8 miles always heading for Neist Point Lighthouse. Park the car at the lighthouse carpark and descend the concrete steps towards the lighthouse. There are quite a few so gird up your loins especially on the way back. Once down the steps you can go either way. The conventional way is to the right to get the classic shot of Neist Point. After capturing this then you can go back and re-join the path and turn left to capture Neist Point Lighthouse with the sunset behind. Both images from right and left are seen below.
Image 17: Neist Point Sunset
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For me these images are best done over two nights so that you can concentrate on each individual location. You don’t want to sacrifice one location just to try and capture a few images whilst there is still some colour in the sunset. Concentrate on one side and return another night for the other. Return back to Portree for a well earned pint.
As mentioned at the beginning, this guide is just a series of suggested locations around Skye that I have found particularly rewarding and should take you about three days to complete – search others out for yourself perhaps at a time when the weather is not kind as I’m sure, like me, once you get hooked on Skye you will return time and time again.
All of the images in this article can be purchased in the Isle of Skye Gallery.