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Isle of Skye Photography Locations – Portree & Waternish

This is the second in my series of articles on photographing the wonderful Isle of Skye, one of my favourite places in Britain. Don’t miss the first part, focussed on the Sleat Peninsula and the Cuillins.

Portree

A boat in peaceful Portree harbour

 

Portree

The main town on the Isle of Skye, Portree is a popular destination for photographers due to its lovely harbour and colourfully painted houses near the waterfront. There is ample free and paid parking in the center of town. A very scenic circular walk skirts the northern edge of the harbour and gives excellent coastal views. Near the southern edge of Portree is the Aros visitor center. The main attraction here is not the center itself, but the woodland behind it, where paths lead through quiet woodland with small burns tumbling down the hillside. The scenery is not dramatic, but the woodland gives nice protection on a rainy day, and the mossy greenery allows for some enjoyable ‘moody’ woodland landscape photos.

Aros woodland, near Portree, Isle of Skye

Aros woodland, near Portree

 

Dunvegan

Dunvegan Castle, the seat of Clan MacLeod sits atop a rocky cliff on the edge of Loch Dunvegan. There are two good places to photograph the castle, one ‘official’ and one that I discovered by accident. For the official one you’ll have to pay the admission fee to access the castle grounds. Take the path signposted for seal viewing trips, and you’ll find yourself around the head of the loch, with tidal water between you and the castle. For the best light come in the afternoon, and get right down close to the water’s edge with a wide-angle lens. The second, unofficial viewpoint, is reached by bypassing the castle parking area and traveling north until you reach the end of the castle grounds (approx grid ref NG245492). A field to your left is marked with a ruined croft. Hike across the field and look back south for excellent views to the castle itself – you’ll need a telephoto lens for this location. This viewpoint is best in the early morning. Keep going further and you come to a lovely area of reeds and water, excellent for early morning photography.

Morning near Dunvegan

Morning near Dunvegan

 

While at Dunvegan take advantage of the seal viewing trips into the loch. You’ll need the longest telephoto you can muster, and you’ll be shooting from a small motor boat, so a vibration reduction lens or camera body, and fast autofocus, will really help. If you shoot at 400 ISO or faster you can use a faster shutter speed as well.

Neist Point

From Dunvegan take the A road south, then turn onto the B884 signposted Glendale. The road passes through some of the most scenic countryside on Skye until it fetches up at Neist Point, where the old lighthouse sits atop the most westerly point of land on the island. There is a small free parking lot available. The cliffs here show fantastic geological striations, and the lighthouse is a popular subject for sunset shots taken from the south side of Moonen Bay.

Late afternoon near Neist, Isle of Skye

Late afternoon near Neist

 

The Coral Beach

Take the minor road north from Dunvegan, past Dunvegan Castle, and stop at the free parking area near Claigan. A track leads north a further mile or so along the shore of Loch Dunvegan to the aptly named Coral Beach, a lovely stretch of white sand and pure blue waters that would not be out of place in the Mediterranean. The ‘sand’ here is actually composed of millions of pieces of broken coral. The beach faces west and north, and as such is well positioned for late evening and sunset photos.

Coral Beach, north of Dunvegan

Coral Beach, north of Dunvegan

 

Stein

The town of Stein is the main settlement on the western side of the Waternish peninsula, and the whitewashed buildings – particularly the 18th century Stein Inn – are very picturesque. The loch is a popular mooring place, and there are often good opportunities to capture boats bobbing at harbour. The area is famous for its sunsets, but I like the very early morning for shots along the waterfront.

Sunset at Stein, Waternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye

Sunset at Stein, Waternish Peninsula

 

Trumpan

The ruined, roofless church of Trumpan stands atop an exposed hillside at a short distance from the westernmost tip of the Waternish peninsula. The church was the scene of a bloody battle between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods in the 16th century, and carries with it an aura of mystery and age. The church is very photogenic, but Trumpan is also a good base for exploring the coast of Waternish, and for experiencing the sunsets for which the area is famous.