Scotland is a big place. There is so much to see, always not enough time to explore them all. When I visited Scotland for the first time, it was mainly for my photographic assignments and partially a wanderlust to explore the region. Driving from Glasgow through parts of the Scottish highlands and around to Edinburgh, I’ve seen the magical landscapes of the highlands, bewitching castles, rugged coastlines, whisky, wildlife and of course, the friendly locals. On my second visit was purely for holiday as I brought my folks around. It was also a second chance for me to return back to places I have missed before.
This article documents my experiences in Scotland and some of my favourite images I have captured in this region, presented in a narrative order. These journeys were truly once in a lifetime experience. If you have never been to Scotland highlands or want to but haven’t got the time, it is time you should really consider!
Huge windmills looked like miniature toys from above. When the weather is good, you can see a lot of details of the landscape from the plane windows.
An aerial view of Glasgow city, where the second longest river in Scotland, River Clyde flows through the city in the distance.
A street scene from St Vincent street, Glasgow city.
St George’s Tron, Church of Scotland from West George road. Glasgow has a rich and varied architectural heritage. It’s wealthy past has also left a legacy of the finest Victorian architecture in the UK.
Buchanan Street is Glagow’s main pedestrianised shopping street where there is no shortage of mega malls, well-known brand names and speciality shopping. As the largest retail centre in the UK outside London, all lined with big names you’d expect from the great British high street.
Glasgow has been consistently voted as the top place to shop in the UK outside London’s west end. The cobbled streets and lanes are where you will find a mix of vintage stores and independent boutiques.
High end retail shopping mall, truly a shopaholics’ paradise!
Visiting the carnival during the summer are some of the favourite activities for the children.
A family patronises a candy stall. Notice their shirts had the same colour as the stall.
A twelve-year old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky in a Stag shaped decanter on oak wooden stand, spotted in a souvenir shop in Glasgow.
Tarbet lies on the west shore of Loch Lomond some two thirds of the way towards its northern end. When driving out of Glasgow and into the highlands, many people tend to overlook this interesting and attractive location as they simply see Tarbet as a passing, en route to even more spectacular scenery. The weather was ridiculously good that day and I just had to stop by to enjoy the picturesque scenery of Loch Lomond.
As Elvish as it may sound, the Falls of Lora is actually a tidal rapid, a popular destination for kayakers and divers as well as a stunning sight for visitors and photographers watching the eddies and swirling waters. Connel Bridge is a cantilever bridge that spans Loch Etive at Connel Village. Interestingly, there was never such a person called “Lora”.
I loved the beautiful pastel colours of the sunset as I happened to pass by Oban. As a small resort town, Oban is protected by the island of Kerrera and beyond Kerrera, the Isle of Mull.
The water in Oban bay is clear enough to see marine creatures from the harbour. We spotted a handful of fishes and moon jellyfish, a common jellyfish found in many estuaries and harbours in the UK.
The brilliant sunset at Connel made us stay longer than we intended. We got hungry decided to try out some food at the Oyster Inn restaurant nearby. By our experience, it has excellent food and services.
Fish and Chips from Oyster Inn Restaurant in Connel. In my humble opinion, this is by far the best chips I have ever tasted, beating Norwich Grosvenor chips and Manhatten fish Market (which I still loved), even the chips in Portree, Cromer and London, hands down. I think its because the batter on the fish was done differently. Perhaps it was a special cooking oil. But whatever it is, if you have the chance to pass by this area, I recommend giving it a try.
A pot of steamed mussels in coconut milk and chilli. I know, it sounds like a weird combination for mussels with coconut milk, but it was delicious to our taste. We’ve tried mussels of other flavours in other parts of Scotland and still think coconut milk was a great combination. I’d probably try and find the recipe online and see if my mum to cook it at home.
The Corran Ferry crosses Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows. We stopped by this little area to take a breather as we head up north towards Fort William.
New housing structures were being built along the coast of Corran, most likely accommodation from a nearby inn. Against the backdrop of the mountains on a sunny day, it sure looked as though we were in another exotic place such as Hawaii or New Zealand.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you would be familiar with the Hogwarts express train scenes. Glenfinnan is where those train scenes are located. The train passes through the viaduct at a regular intervals everyday. I didn’t had the time to explore paths near the viaduct though.
Glenfinnan is a small village with many paths linking the village to the loch and the viaduct. It is possible to walk everywhere but it will require some time to explore them. Above the visitor centre is a vantage point which most visitors would hike up to. It is possible to go higher up a little beyond the designated vantage point to where I took this photo.
A memorial tower was erected here in Glenfinnan in tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. However, the statue of an anonymous highlander, commonly referred to at the point of commission as Charles Edward Stewart, was added much later.
A beautiful stag was spotted near the Glenfinnan monument. Much care was taken not to go too near to the animal.
Fort William is the second largest settlement in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a centre for hillwalking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. You can put your feet up in a cosy traditional pub and enjoy a distinctly flavoured Highland single malt or even a traditional ale straight from the local brewery. You can also indulge in the local delicacies at shops, cafés and restaurants along the High Street.
Halfway up Scotland, I met a Scottish busker performing with his bagpipe and apparently he sells his own CD albums.
Once during my journey midway, I was stopped by a patrol police. As with the drivers before me, I was asked to pull over one side to allow an incoming vehicle to pass through. I complied, not knowing what happened initially. A while later, as it turns out, a long vehicle appeared from the opposite side. It carried a huge blade-like object, which looked like the wings of an aircraft. Just as I thought that was it, two more vehicles appeared. As I continued my journey though the next harbour town, it then occurred to me that these long wing-like objects where actually windmill blades!
The thing about staying in the highlands is that I always preferred accommodations that are slightly off the beaten track. It is more quiet and tranquil, which gives me more opportunity to relax and enjoy the view of the highlands in isolation. This accommodation in Ratagan is a perfect choice, with friendly staff and well maintained facility. Its slightly challenging to get to this neighbourhood though.
Common dinning room of my accommodation in Ratagan. Although the facilities here were basic, but they were really well maintained!
Part of the mountains which make up the Five Sisters of Kintail. When I showed this image to the folks in UK, many were impressed by the mood and atmosphere I was able to capture. Some suggestions I received on improving the image was to add a human element in the landscape, to which I appreciate the feedback, but not feasible in this case.
You see, these mountain peaks were actually shot from Ratagan, across Loch Duich, which is at least two miles apart. To include a human element in the shot would be quite difficult and dangerous.
Low tide over Loch Duich. This fantastic view is right outside my accommodation in Ratgan!
Eilean Donan Castle perches on a tidal island where three sea lochs meet. It is without a doubt one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands. It is also recognised as an official James Bond location. I remembered the fourth time I passed by this castle, I saw a glimpse of golden light of sunset. Unfortunately I had to rush back to my next pit stop and wasn’t able to capture the magical light. Eilean Donan’s setting is truly breath-taking.
The bridge to Isle of Skye from Loch Alsh Viewpoint. There are many viewpoints around Scotland highlands roads where you will be able to pull over to one side and admire the scenic views. The only thing is that you can easily drive past the viewpoint without realising and miss it altogether.
The lonely road ahead. The Old man of Storr can be seen in the distance. These roads look like suitable for racing like the Fast and Furious. Over here, the clouds changes very quickly. With the unpredictable weather conditions, and sheep, much care must be taken when driving along these roads.
The Old man of Storr is a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Famous for its magnificent scenery and views, the Old Man of Storr is a popular hotspot for hikers, hill walkers and photographers. It is also the location where the opening scenes of Ridley Scotts’ Prometheus was shot.
This gigantic pinnacle is called the Old man of Storr. Twice I have visited here, and twice I had not been able to hike past this spot. The first attempt was due to the in-coming morning fog and I felt my safety would be compromised as no one was around with me at the time, and i had no map and compass. The second attempt was due to raining clouds and high winds which discouraged me from hiking further up.
This was the spot where the steep trail splits into two directions: one eastwards and the other westwards. The Needle Rock is where the eastward trail begins. I regret not being able to advance further from here as the conditions were not favourable to me.
Loch Mealt is an inland fresh-water loch. The viewpoint is located close to the sea and its eastern side comprises of the spectacular tall sea-cliffs of Kilt Rock, a dramatic waterfall created from the outflow of Loch Mealt.
The cliff edges of Loch Mealt and the Kilt rocks are pretty well fenced, but visitors should take particular care in walking near the edge.
It was summer time and I did thought of setting up my tent outside. The temperatures were cold in the morning, and I thought I could endure that. But when I saw how much midges there were, I changed my mind.
Loch Mealt with Beinn Edra in the background. Days like this its hard to predict how heavy the rain will fall. Better to head back early than getting stuck outside with low visibility.
Two visitors standing on the cliff of Lealt Falls looking over the coast.
Lealt Falls from above the first viewpoint where you can look into the depths of the gorge and see the waterfall finding its way down the gorge. The trail has no fences so it can be quite dangerous when there are high winds. There are more sights to see at the bottom of the gorge, but I didn’t have enough time to explore.
A view of Uig village from vantage point. So I took the wrong turn at Portree and reached Uig instead. As I followed through route A855, driving up the narrow path at such a great height can be a frightening experience. I continued my journey through the same route and only to find out later that I had driven around the whole isle and back to Portree, missing out the Quiraing.
The adventure of driving around the Isle of Skye and not knowing exactly where I am. I happened to find some cattle grazing on top of the hill at a random location which made me stopped my car. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a highland cow. I didn’t manage to see any throughout my trips.
The colourful town of Portree is the largest “small town” in the Isle of Skye. It’s the ideal base to explore sights around the island.
Portree is also a natural harbour, and the shape of this rugged coastline of peninsulas and bays, sea arches and stalks, has been likened to a lobster’s claw and is rich with wildlife. With the unpredictable weather conditions in the highlands, the view of its surrounding landscapes are always different every day.
Street lights reflected onto the boats moored at Portree harbour as the clouds cleared at twilight, offering a contrast of colours.
Morning breakfast at Café Arriba, Portree, Isle of Skye. Its menu changes every once in a while, and I was deeply saddened this delicious burrito was no longer available on my second visit.
Langoustines, or scampi, at the Sea Breezes Restaurant, Portree. They’re basically delectable mini lobsters.
Fish and Chips at the Sea Breezes Restaurant, Portree.
Have you tried a venison steak before? We had one for diner at the Portree Hotel. It was delicious!
Chargrilled Cod fillet, Creamy Mushroom Gnocchi and Crispy Onions at the Portree Hotel.
Lunch at Seuma’s Bar, Sligachan was delicious!
Lunch at Seuma’s Bar, Sligachan was delicious!
The Sligachan Bridge is on the main road to Portree, in the heart of the Cuillins. It is situated at the junction of the roads from Portree, Dunvegan and Broadford. The hotel was built in around 1830 at this road junction. Many early climbers chose this as a spot to start their ascents of the Cuillin. Today there is also a campsite and bunkhouse adjacent to the hotel. There is also a small microbrewery, which is operated in the same building as the hotel.
I was inspired to visit this location because of the works of a British photographer, Julian Calverley, as well as a brilliant Johnny Walker ad made by two students. Legend has it that if you dip your face in the river water by the Sligachan Bridge, you will be granted eternal beauty.
The Sligachan trails are long. There are two hiking trails towards different directions with no circular paths, yet both trails offer stunning views of the peaks of the Cuillin. The Cuillin is a range of rocky mountains dominating the landscape on Skye: the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin separated by Glen Sligachan.
The iconic ridge of the Black Cuillin is considered as one of UK’s most challenging mountain range.
Marsco, a red Cullin mountain. Red Cuillin hills are lower and, being less rocky, have fewer scrambles or climbs.
Waterfalls along the Sligachan trail.
Can you imagine playing Pokemon Go in this setting?
My longest hike at the Sligachan trail was only up to about 7th klick, and then back to the starting point. If you can see a tiny white peck near the horizon, that is the Sligachan hotel, the starting point of the trail. I had only brought a litre of water with me.
An interesting view of a neighbourhood in Sligachan; a patch of trees amidst the seemingly barren land.
The weather had been ridiculously good that afternoon. As we drove out of Isle of Skye through the Skye bridge, we were treated to a stunning view of the bridge and its surrounding water. The nearest village Kyle of Lochalsh is visible from where the Skye Bridge. On foreground is actually a tiny island called Eilean Bàn.
A woman walks through the coast of Stonehaven with her dog on a windy day. Stonehaven is a pretty harbour town south of Aberdeen, famous for its Hogmanay fireballs ceremony. The storm had just passed and the winds were high, I stopped by this little town out of curiosity.
On the way down from the highlands, we chanced upon a wine distillery called the Dalwhinnie Distillery. We stopped by to take a look at the visitors centre for a short while. I was driving, so couldn’t taste a bit of whisky.
Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland, at 1,164 feet above sea level. The name Dalwhinnie is derived from the Gaelic language, meaning ‘meeting place’, referring to the meeting of ancient cattle drovers’ routes through the mountains.
Limited edition Dalwhinnie whisky bottle on display. Quite tempting to buy a bottle of whisky back, but unfortunately our baggage had limited space.
Mannochmore 12 Years Old Flora & Fauna, surprisingly clean, dry and refreshingly direct, which makes it a good apéritif. Auchroisk 10 Years Old Flora & Fauna, an apéritif whisky, pleasant and light, which opens sweet, fresh and balanced then dries to a short finish.
An interesting drinking apparatus on display.
A special released, limited edition Dalwhinnie 1989, 25 year old bottle on display. Deliciously fruity, with notes of plum, greengage, strawberries and melon, and a touch of toast and liquorice.
One can hear the sound of the sheep’s call from the wine distillery, only to realise a heard of sheep right beside the wine distillery!
Our next pit stop was Perth, Scotland. It took us a while to figure out the location our accommodation was actually inside the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College. As it turns out, these apartments were let out during the summer break as the college students would have gone away for holiday. How cool is that?
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is a city with amazing views, hidden courtyards, secret gardens and stunning architectural details to be discovered almost everywhere you look. Here is a skyline of the old town of Edinburgh.
The most common way of visiting Edinburgh from London is through the train. Edinburgh Waverley railway station is the principal station serving Edinburgh. It is believed to be the only railway station named after a work of fiction.
This Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world.
The New Town contains Edinburgh’s main shopping streets. Princes Street is home to many chain shops, as well as Jenners departmental store, an Edinburgh institution.
Beautiful interiors of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The art museum holds the national collections of portraits, all of which are of, but not necessarily by, Scots. The museum’s collection totals some 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings, and 38,000 photographs.
Let’s Circus performing in the city. The Edinburgh castle stands proudly in the background.
From outside, the Tartan Weaving Mill looks like just another souvenir shop in an old mill house. But once inside, my goodness, it is really a labyrinth!
The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. It runs downhill between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile is the busiest tourist street in the Old Town, perhaps rivalled only by Princes Street in the New Town.
The Royal Mile especially the higher end near the castle, has many tourist-oriented shops selling Scottish souvenirs from postcards to whisky and kilts.
The streets which make up the Royal Mile are Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand. During the annual Edinburgh Festival, the High Street becomes crowded with tourists, entertainers and buskers.
It is common to see buskers performing with Scottish bagpipes. Here, a pair of buskers performs with harp and flute on the streets.
Near the Edinburgh castle is the The Scotch Whisky Experience, a visitor attraction which offers tours and whisky tutoring sessions, alongside a shop, corporate spaces and Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar. On the first occasion I visited, the streets were so crowded I couldn’t get in. The second time I came back up, I had not been told that the streets were closed due to some major event going on. I never got taste the scotch whiskies..
A view of Edinburgh city from Holywood park, a short walk from the city centre. There can’t be many cities with a volcano (albeit dormant) slap bang in the centre, but Edinburgh is one such place. During summer time, the last light could be near 11pm.
A brilliant sunset over Edinburgh city, from the Salisbury Crag in Holyrood park.
Carlton Hill in a distance. When the weather is clear, the Forth Road Bridge connecting Edinburgh can be seen over the horizon.
Edinburgh city at twilight, from the Salisbury Crag in Holyrood park.
In attempt to capture the evening skyline from another vantage point, here is a view of the old town of Edinburgh city from Carlton hill.
The city lights lit up at twilight invokes a mystical feel of the Edinburgh city. Here, You can see peaks jutting out of the horizon. It is called the Lomond hills, also known locally as “Paps of Fife”.