Exploring the Scottish Islands

March 21, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Doesn't time fly !!. I can't believe it was last October when I lasted posted on my series about the British landscapes.  Hopefully you will be pleased to know  that today I am continuing with a look at the Scottish islands.  Scotland has over 790 offshore islands, most of which are to be found in four main groups: Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides sub-divided into the Inner and Outer Hebrides.  There are also clusters of islands in the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, and Solway Firth, and numerous small islands within the many bodies of fresh water in Scotland including Loch Lomond and Loch Maree. Despite my extensive travels through Scotland I've only been fortunate enough to visit just over a dozen of those so I have a very long way to go.  Those visited lie mainly off the west coast within the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Some years ago I visited the Outer Hebrides starting on Lewis and travelling all the way down to Vatersay.  The two islands I found the most photographic and presumably therefore the most scenic were Harris and Barra/Vatersay. On the south west tip of Harris is Huisinis, a remote place which lies at the end of a 12 mile long single track road. Nearby, and to the north, lies the uninhabited island of Scarp. The beach shown below is at the north end of the sandy, shallow and notoriously treacherous Caolas an Scarp (Sound of Scarp) which separates the island of Scarp from the mainland of Harris. The white sand is partly ground shell, blown onto land which forms the fertile machair that dominates the west coasts of the Outer Hebrides.  Anyone would think you were in the Caribbean although I was very lucky with the weather. 


Traigh Mheilein- HarrisTraigh Mheilein - Harris


So from the north of the island chain we move on to the very south and Barra and Vatersay. Castlebay on the island of Barra is overlooked by Ben Heaval, which rises 1260 feet behind the town and forms the highest point on the island. From here, there are spectacular views over the bay and beyond to Vatersay.  High on the steep southern slopes of Heaval stands "Our Lady of the Sea" a marble statue of the Madonna and child, symbolising the islanders' main religious faith.  The climb was certainly worth it especially on a day like that.


Our Lady of the Sea - BarraOur Lady of the Sea - Barra


Having taken a very brief visit to the Outer Hebrides - we'll be back in a future post, lets take look at two of the Inner Hebrides chain those being the Isles of Mull and Iona. The Isle of Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides and has an incredible coastline of 300 miles. Iona was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty.  My visit in the early Autumn was littered with typical Scotland west coast weather from beautiful clear blue skies to force 9 gales and everything in between. Just perfect for a landscape photography trip. There is no better way to experience Iona's spirituality and special atmosphere than on foot, from the miles of white sandy beaches to the granite boulder-dotted interior, with its green sheep pastures, and the rockier south, streaked with green marble or Iona greenstone that has been dubbed St Columba's tears, shed for his native Ireland. Tiny, rocky St Columba's Bay on the south coast, looking out to Sheep and Mouse Islands, is reputedly the spot where St Columba first landed from a coracle and is a bracing trail for footloose walkers and one which I took as you can see from the image below. I can assure you that he heart shaped land art was already there on my arrival and I felt it was very appropriate at this location so I decided to make it the focal point of the image.


St Columba's Bay - IonaSt Columba's Bay - Iona


Stride across the fertile grazing ground of the sandy, flower strewn machair to the haunting vistas of the westerly Bay at the Back of the Ocean. It is a wide, west facing bay and is so named because the next westward stop is North America 2,000 miles away. 


Bay at the Back of the Ocean - IonaBay at the Back of the Ocean - Iona


Ben More, the highest point on the Isle of Mull is the only Hebridean Munro (mountains over 3000 feet) outside of the Isle of Skye and is therefore held in high regard on the island. Its huge bulk dominates the southern half of the island and is clearly seen when passing through Glen More on the road from Craignure in the east to Iona in the west. The image captured below was on the way back from my trip over to Iona and was another of those moments that landscape photographers are always waiting for.  The timing could not have been more perfect although it did necessitate the slamming on of the brakes and partially blocking the road to get the this point of view. 


Glen More - MullGlen More - Mull


So another aspect of the British landscape has been shared for all to see. Where or what would you like to see next time? Please let me know and hopefully I will have some memories to share with you.


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