Silver linings in Scotland’s north

Rainbow seascape

A rainbow frames Muckle Skerry Lighthouse in the Pentland Firth, near John o’ Groats, Scotland.

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.

Sunset storm

A storm passes over Dunnet Bay, Caithness, Scotland.

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.

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