It is the week before Easter and we are heading north through the drizzle on rain soaked motorways awash with standing water and edged with a tide line of rubbish. Plastic bags hang in the trees, bottles, food wrappers and coffee cups litter the verge. A man made toxic spill spewed from passing vehicles. Overhead kites patrol the polluted verges. Nature is still here but is drowned out visually in the face of so much litter.
We motor slowly through the flatlands of the agricultural south as the sky changes from flat white to stormy grey, and as we munch through bags of sugary sweets the flat fields of the south gradually give way to the rolling pastures and treeless moors of the borderlands. Chinks in the cloud spill sunlight over the stonewall stitched landscape, hemming in flocks of new spring white lambs. Spring is just beginning to show her face.
After hours of motoring and an overnight stop in the Trossachs we finally reach the Corran Ferry, our gateway to the West Highland Peninsulas – 5 areas of land (comprising Ardgour, Moidart, Morvern, Sunart and Ardnamurchan) that make up this western area of Scotland. This is a quiet, rugged landscape of lochs, ancient Atlantic oakwoods, volcanic landscapes and stunning beaches. A tranquil haven in which to recharge our batteries.
We cross the blue waters of Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows and meander our way along Ardgour the most easterly of the peninsula’s before reaching the shore of Loch Sunnart.
The main village here is Strontian, which gave its name to the mineral Strontainite which was discovered nearby in 1790. This area was once home to a thriving lead mining industry and remnants of this activity can be seen in various locations.
We have come to visit the Ariundle National Nature reserve which comprises some of the best preserved areas of Atlantic Oak woods in the country. Whilst the trees are still leafless, the woodland is a vibrant mass of green. Mounds of verdant mosses cover the ground, and the bare branches hang with ferns, lichens and lungworts. Overhead the sound of birdsong echoes around the valley and spring feels a little closer.
We visit Castle Tioram (pronounced Cheerum) which sits on a small island in Loch Moidart. The castle dates back to the 13th century and was home to the Clanranald branch of Clan Donald. It has been empty since the Jacobite rising of 1715. The castle is accessed by a causeway, cut off at high tide. We wander along the beach imagining life here hundreds of years ago and capture the sunrise on a windy blue sky day.
Ardnamurchan is our final destination – the most westerly point on the British mainland. It is a name I associate with the Shipping forecast having grown up listening daily whilst waiting for the main land based weather forecast to air on the radio.
The point has a lighthouse surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastline in Scotland.
We arrive in the dark with the moon spilling its light over a cool blue sea, joined intermittently by the flashing beam from the lighthouse. We have come to photograph sunrise from the small sandy beach opposite the point. Staggering in the half light we cross bog and moorland and two small streams before reaching Dubh Rubha Mor beach where we startle an otter who scampers quietly away across the black rocks.
Whilst I love the photography it is these additional encounters that give me so much pleasure and make the trip so memorable.
After sunrise we continue west around the bay squelching through boggy grassland to a sandy cove marked as Port Min on the OS map. We find the remains of an old stone building with amazing views across the bay to the lighthouse. We sit and dream in the sunlight and gentle breeze of life here long ago and it hard not to romanticise what it must have been like. In reality we know how quickly the weather can change and the true wildness of Britains most westerly point.
I hope this post gives you a taste for the photographic possibilities within the landscape of the West Highland Peninsulas. I plan to run a workshop here in October 2024 – if anyone is interested in joining me please drop me a message and I will keep you updated as the plans come together.
A gallery of my images from this trip can be seen below.