13 May 2017 Silver linings in Scotland’s north
The next stage in my personal photography project took me to the northernmost point on the British mainland: Dunnet Head, a storm-lashed promontory in the north of Scotland. For landscape photographers the whole place is a gift: one proud white lighthouse, plunging cliffs and a handful of fall-down wartime buildings (more to follow on those…). Standing at the head of the cliffs near the lighthouse you can watch squalls passing through the Pentland Firth, half-concealing the Orkneys on the horizon. If you and your camera are suitably weatherproof, you can wait for them to make landfall. I shoot with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II, which is more than capable of withstanding the elements – essential for making the most of passing storms.
Stormy weather can seem soul-sapping at its worst, but it’s often worth hanging about to see what it can deliver. After visiting Dunnet Head I headed – via the wonderful Dunnet Bay Distillery – to Duncansby Head, the northwesternmost point of Great Britain (close to John o’ Groats). After a few hours of dull, watery light I noticed a storm blowing towards me, away from the sun and out to sea: perfect rainbow conditions. A quick sprint back to the lighthouse – fumbling a polariser on to my lens on the way – rewarded me with some truly magnificent views of rainbows drifting towards the horizon. These, I think, made every drop of rain worthwhile.
From Duncansby Head’s wild cliffs – noisy with gannets and other seabirds – it’s a reasonably short drive south to Wick. Outside the old town there’s an older settlement: the derelict Sinclair Girnigoe Castle, abandoned for hundreds of years, sits atop cliffs plunging down into the North Sea. Just below the castle a natural cove has turned into a spontaneous art installation as hundreds of visitors have built cairns from sea-smoothed pebbles. More proof, if any were needed, that sometimes a short walk from the beaten track brings some incredible rewards.