Black Dots - Isle of Skye, March 2016
As my time in the Cairngorms drew to a close, I became increasingly more frustrated at not being able to stride off into the mountains. Telling a landscape photographer to "sit and rest" when the scene from the hostel window is an infinite view of snow-capped summits is essentially torture, and the doctors advice was destined to be forgotten/ignored. I'm an advocate of allowing room for the unexpected in my photography and so as the last bits of kit were being flung into the boot of my car, I changed my plans and extended the trip and headed West towards the Isle of Skye.
It's my understanding that the vast majority of landscape photographers make several pilgrimages to Skye, and fall in love every time with it's unique landscape. I was aware that there were some bothies on Skye, and that the walking distances were probably manageable with my damaged knee but my research was limited.
As I crossed the bridge onto the island and followed the winding roads, it was easy to understand why people speak so fondly of Skye. Mountains of black, green and gold soar into heavy skies, and fall away to reveal a dramatic and varied coastline. The foothills are peppered with tiny white cottages, positioned in a somewhat random fashion. It was difficult not to pull in at every lay-by and carpark, but I had limited time here and after studying the maps decided to focus my attention on two bothies: Camasunary to the South, and The Lookout to the North. Both lay in coastal locations, which is something I'm yet to include in the project.After an obligatory stop to salute the Old Man of Storr I headed to Elgol; a tiny village on the end of the Strathaird Peninsula. It is from here that you can take the relatively short walk to Camasunary Bay where the bothy sits tucked away in the shadows of the Black Cuillin mountains.
The original bothy at Camasunary is now closed after being destroyed by a storm not too long ago. There is however a new bothy at the other end of the bay. I was incredibly fortunate to find myself there on the day it opened and had the honour of being the first to write in the visitors book! I stayed at the bothy for the rest of the day, even donning some overalls and joining an MBA work party to help paint the new porch. I was joined by a solo traveller from Germany, and together we hauled stones from the beach up to the bothy and laid the pathway which now crosses the bog and takes you to the bothy door. I'd set the camera up on the cliffs overlooking the bothy soon after I arrived, but as the evening drew in the clouds gathered and the light went flat. I hung on, hopeful that the setting sun would break through the clouds but the clouds were here to stay. I packed down, shook hands with my fellow work party members (there were now several) and headed back to the car at Elgol.
My final full day on Skye was dedicated to visiting the famous Lookout bothy on the northern tip of the island at Rubha Hunish. The bothy was initially constructed in 1928 as a coastguard station, and was taken over by the MBA in 2006. It's in a jaw dropping location and offers panoramic views across to the Outer Hebrides. It is this view from the windows positioned on three walls which makes The Lookout bothy so popular, and was something I was eager to capture.
Driving to Uig, the road hugs the western edge of the island. Rain storms blew in over the water, providing light relief from the otherwise warm, sunny conditions. Parking in the small car park just east of Duntulm, you follow a boggy track which leads directly to the bothy on the headland. The fleeting rain had now passed and as the sun shone brightly from the West, I sat in the cosy sitting room thumbing through the pages of the visitors book. As the sun began to set, golden light illuminated the wooden clad walls of the bothy and lit up the islands on the horizon; although no dolphins or orcas could be seen (I'd been promised this!) watching the sun set in such a spectacular location was good enough for me. A stark contrast to the conditions I'd experienced in the Cairngorms the following week, and a relaxing conclusion to another brilliant Black Dots trip!