Rain and Scotland go together, it’s the package you sign up for if you decide to go. As I sit here I can close my eyes and imagine the rain falling outside, in my mind I can see the unique blue light that radiates from the water in the North West Highlands and I know that one day it will be home.
A romantic notion and an image it is difficult to yearn for if your travelling time is limited and, if it is a spot you may not return to again. For photographers it can be hard keep the enthusiasm going when you have days and days of wet and grey. Most travellers would feel themselves fortunate to spend a week in Scotland without wet stuff coming out of the sky but it is often water in the atmosphere that provides photographers with the light we dream of.
During the weeks preceding the Ardnamurchan/Mull trip we had snow, frosts, mist, beautiful sunrises and exquisite light at the end of the day. It was disappointing to arrive on Rannoch Moor with snow deep on the ground but rain all around. Not the conditions I’d have wished for to try out a new camera. But, when you find yourself in some of the most magnificent scenery that Scotland has to offer, the desire to go out and get something is always strong.
That kind of set the scene for the coming days, though on Ardnamurchan any snow had gone. The dreary days ahead gave us the opportunity to make the most of the accommodation. It is part of my dream to look out of the window to the sea. As the rain falls and the wind whips up the waves I can sit comfortably warm inside with one of the many books yet on my wish list to read. Shoreline Cottages are just the place to make this dream a reality. From the windows we could watch the clouds scudding by, watch the rain fall on the decking and watch all the birds that came to feast on the pickings left for the pine martin (Claire will tell you the tale)
On one of the dreary days we journeyed to Mallaig and Arisaig (a very welcome cup of coffee in the Spar store, as the 2 nearby cafes were closed), it made a good reconnaissance trip. The day could have been a write off but for the uplifting experience of spotting an otter silhouetted against the skyline on a rock as it finished its feast. It returned to the waters of Loch Ailort to its cubs and we were able to watch the three of them dip and dive and play together. They were not close enough to photograph well, but they did make us smile and gave us a feeling of triumph.
In the rain and grey we kept an eye on the forecast and made ourselves go out, to at least explore and we did find some light, it may be that the subject matter was not what I had in mind and that it was too cold for some people to hold a camera.
Then there was the time it all came together at Ardnamurchan lighthouse, though it was a bit of a wait in a wicked wind before the sun slipped through the break in the cloud to make the rocks glow.
I’m always suspicious of those who use the description of ‘interesting’ for any outdoor activity, but it is the word I would use for our crossing from Kilchoan to Mull. The ferry took only 2 cars, and it was necessary to reverse down a wet and windy slipway and up a steep ramp onto the ferry that bobbed quite violently in the waves. Not a manoeuvre for the faint hearted! The crossing was wild, but I was glad to be inside the car as the foot passengers on deck got more than a little wet.
A revisit for me to the Isle of Mull, my last having been close to three years ago and I had a dream to replicate some of the light I caught there before. It was not to be. The spell of dreich weather followed us like a cloud of midges at sunset on a still summer’s day.
Once again our accommodation provided us with a luxury retreat and we had the added bonus of it being on the path of a sea eagle that flew over us at breakfast though, unfortunately, before we had the chance to realise what we were seeing. Again here the wildlife abounded and it was a very special moment to watch an otter run over the dunes at Calgary. Dougie, I think, caught a glimpse as it ran in front of his wide-angle lens and into the sea at his feet.
As the grey continued it added to the mood and we did find stuff to point our lenses at. These boats are well known and were so close to our accommodation it was difficult not to stop and take them in. The island though is scattered with abandoned boats, you just need to explore to find them.
Something I try to tell myself at home is that you need to keep getting out if you want to capture something special. It’s easier to put into practice when you are away from home as you want to see as much of a place as possible and are always looking for spots to return to. We’d had a day driving around in thick mist and an unsuccessful otter hunt, we were tired and hungry, but some light moving down from the north spurred us on – - -
As I sit here putting together these few words I know I want to be back there. The rain of Scotland is part of my blood. Rainy days I can deal with, I need a little more help with Mondays.
Both the above are delightful volumes from the Clan Walk Guides and both were used in this and previous trips.
For a little sense of history of the places visited try these from Birlinn: