In this article, I will cover my top photographic locations in the Scottish Highlands. Scotland is blessed with some of the most dramatic and picturesque scenery in the whole world. Visiting its photographic hot spots and photographing Scotland has become a labor of love for me. I am lucky enough to live in the Scottish Highlands, so pretty much anywhere I want to get to in the region is just a stone’s throw away.
However, for those photographers visiting for the first time, it’s worth planning your visit ahead of time. That way, you will get the best out of the location. One of the things you can’t guarantee in Scotland is the weather! For this reason, whilst most of the images in this post are mine, some are not.
I have sequenced the article in a way that is logical from a travel perspective. i.e. If you chose to visit some of these locations, you can do it quite easily in chronological order. You can also jump in at any point, as the locations pretty much take you on a circular tour around the Highlands.
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The Falls of Dochart
The starting point for this photographing Scotland journey is the Falls of Dochart which is found in a quaint village called Killin. The village sits at the western head of Loch Tay in Stirling. Stirling being the “Gateway to the Highlands”, I thought it was an apt starting point for this journey.
The falls themselves are crossed by a narrow, multi-arched stone bridge. It is from this bridge that most try to photograph the falls. For me, this is not the best spot for two reasons.
1) The bridge is narrow with a mix of cars and pedestrians. Not ideal if you have a tripod.
2) Regardless of traffic, it’s not the best perspective/viewpoint of the falls.
Instead, this was taken down a small footpath to the water’s edge. A sunrise or sunset would have made me much happier with this final image. However, this is Scotland, and you get what you are given on the day. This shot was photographed with an 8-second exposure at f5.6, 100 ISO with a Canon EF 17-40 USM lens.
If you are in the area, and you are into hiking. Then a short trip from Killin, and you are at the foot of the famous Ben Lawers mountain range. I have included it here because it is a spectacular and dramatic place to go.
We are still in Perthshire, and my second photography Scotland location is Drummond Castle. The castle is known for its gardens, described by Historic Scotland as:
“The best example of formal terraced gardens in Scotland.”
You get two castles for the price of one at this spot. The castle comprises a tower house built in the late 15th century, as well as a 17th-century mansion, both of which were rebuilt in Victorian times. The gardens themselves date to the 1630s, although they too were restructured in the 19th century.
The formal gardens at Drummond are protected as a category A listed building and are included on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland. Both the tower house and mansion are category B listed.
The whole location is a photographer’s paradise, whether you are into flower photography (in the summer) or landscape and architecture photography. The gardens are so large, there are so many picturesque viewpoints to be had.
Traveling West into the central highlands of Scotland now. Loch Earn is a freshwater loch famous for the Loch Earn Man. Sometimes also known as the Mirror Man, and pictured below. If you are lucky enough to visit the loch on a day when ‘golden hour’ actually happens, then you can get some unique sunrise/sunset shots. There is not so much to do in the nearby village, but the loch itself is stunning.
The whole area of Inveraray is a little photographic paradise all on its own and sits on the shore of Loch Fyne – Scotlands’ longest loch. The main street through the town looks straight from a picture postcard. Inveraray Castle (pictured below) is a country house and the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th century.
This aerial view was photographed using a DJI Phantom IV at 1/4000s f2.8 20mm focal range, ISO 100.
The Castle itself is open to the public and worth a visit, particularly if you are into architectural shots; both inside and outside the castle. Perhaps unusually nowadays, photography is allowed inside, but without a flash. Whilst at the castle, it is also worth a walk up through the gardens to the small ridge overlooking the village. From this vantage, you get fantastic views of the town as well as the surrounding countryside.
Traveling North now, our next spot is Kilchurn Castle. Sitting on a rocky peninsula at the Northeastern end of Loch Awe, Kilchurn Castle is a ruined structure. This is one structure that is difficult to get a good perspective on for a photograph due to its accessibility. Photographed here with a DJI Phantom IV at sunset, and 1/640 second, f2.8, ISO 100 with a 20mm focal range.
Perhaps saving some of the best locations until last, the whole region of Glencoe is another photographer’s paradise. The most iconic shot in this region is the Buachaille Etive Mor waterfall. This spot does though tend to be a bit of a tourist hot spot, and unfortunately, the view in the other direction shows the damage that people can do to the environment. So if you do visit Buachaille Etive Mor, please bear that in mind! The other iconic location is the hut at Buachaille Etive Mor. Both views are shown here.
If you are into hiking, whilst in Glencoe, you need to venture further into the Buachaille Etive Mor. The region is probably Scotland’s most photographed mountain range, and also known by some as the Three Sisters due to the iconic peaks. If you are walking, this is probably one of the easier walks you can do in the Scottish Highlands. You can though get great shots of the mountain range directly off of the A82.
Traveling now up to Fort William, my next location is Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The summit is 1345 meters above sea level. If you don’t like heights though, Glen Nevis gets you some stunning views of the mountain at lower altitudes and with less stomach-churning.
Traveling North again, no tour of the Highlands would be complete without stopping in Inverness. Inverness is a city on Scotland’s northeast coast, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. It is the largest city and the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands.
Inverness is a Cathedral city and Its old town features 19th-century Inverness Cathedral, the mostly 18th-century Old High Church, and an indoor Victorian Market selling food, clothing, and crafts. Photography-wise, it is mostly for those interested in architecture and/or street photography, but there is a lot to see and do regardless.
Traveling South again from Inverness, we find our way back into Stirling for our final photographing Scotland location. No visit to Stirling would be complete without a visit to its Iconic caste. Stirling Castle, is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle sits on an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation.
I do not find views of Stirling Castle very picturesque, as any of the views I have found of it lacks any depth of interest, other than the castle perched on a hill. Albeit, I grabbed this shot using a DJI Drone.
What does make for some interesting photos though are panoramic views from the castle grounds, as well as architectural and still-life photography shots inside the castle building. Well worth a visit, and bringing us to the end of this article.
You may have noticed through this photographing Scotland tour, I have guided you away from some of the big tourist spots. I genuinely do hope that my local knowledge of the area has helped you plan and get some great photographs in this beautiful region.