Scotland’s western edge is a picturesque upheaval of geology, where rocky crags jut out of sweeping valleys and islands loom in the sea’s mist. Encounter the untamed Highlands and the Inner Hebrides islands through your camera lens. With guidance from a National Geographic Photographer, photograph glittering lakes and waterfalls, fantastic geologic formations, and ancient sites. Hike to cliff-top castles and Iron Age forts for photo shoots, document lively street life in Edinburgh, and hike among the Cuillin mountain range to capture its jagged peaks.
Hone your photo technique as you explore two islands, two national parks, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Edinburgh on a variety of hikes and walks.
Document the colorful traditions of Highland life on visits to remote villages.
Photograph medieval architecture and evocative ruins on shoots at historic castles and forts.
Hike beneath Ben Nevis with a conservationist and historian from the John Muir Trust.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Edinburgh, Scotland
Arrive in Edinburgh and transfer to our hotel. After time to relax, meet for a mid-afternoon photo walk along the Royal Mile, which offers a wealth of architectural inspiration. Wind your way down from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Park, photographing church spires, cobbled alleyways, and Holyrood Palace—the 16th-century home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Tonight, gather for an orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel. (D)
Day 2 — Loch Lomond National Park to the West Coast
Head west after breakfast, stopping for a warm-up hike in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park—Scotland’s first national park, established in 2002. Our trail takes us from the banks of Loch Lomond itself, over a low pass before descending to the village of Arrochar, known for its incredible views of a mountain known as ‘The Cobbler’. Afterwards, continue to the West Highlands and settle in to our hotel, enjoying the wonderful sea views or taking a walk in the garden. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Kerrera: The Green Isle
Directly across from Oban lies the isle of Kerrera. Here, we’ll set off on a hike through history, taking advantage of evocative photo opportunities at every turn. Photograph Horseshoe Bay, where King Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249 while preparing to drive the Norwegian army out of western Scotland. Zoom in on the rugged stonework of Gylen Castle, perched dramatically on the cliff’s edge. Built as a stronghold of the MacDougall clan in 1582, the castle was besieged and burned in 1647. Head up into the hills to enjoy a wide-angle perspective of the Island of Mull. Return to Oban by ferry this afternoon. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Jura/Kilmartin Glen
Take a photo walk in Kilmartin Glen, home to the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. Document the standing stones, burial sites and ancient monuments, before we transfer for a photo shoot at the ruins of Dun Add, an Iron Age fort considered by some to be the birthplace of Scotland. (5 miles hiking, 3-4 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Glen Nevis/Isle of Skye
As we head north, tracing the eastern shores of Loch Linnhe, fill your lens with a spectacular landscape of sweeping slopes and rocky peaks. Pass the western end of Glen Coe, scene of a historic massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692, before continuing to Fort William. Join a conservationist and John Muir historian for a guided photo hike beneath the hulking summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. Later this afternoon, follow the “road to the isles” and cross over the sea to Skye. (3-4 miles hiking, 3 hours) Bosville Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Cullin Hills
The southern edge of the Island of Skye is fringed by the rocky Cuillin mountains, often called the Black Cuillins for their dark volcanic gabbro. We’ll take the less-traveled—and wonderfully photogenic—route into the Cuillins, approaching from the south by boat to the inaccessible Loch Coruisk. On an incredible photo hike among these fabled slopes, explore the loch, capturing panoramic shots of the peaks that tower over its shores. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Bosville Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Northern Skye/Perthshire
The spectacular landscapes of northern Skye are a photographer’s dream: undulating, grassy slopes that drop off in sheer cliffs, adorned with rock formations that spike and curl. Set off on foot into this magical place, rich with legend and intrigue. Document the unusual rock formations of the Quiraing and learn a fascinating story of geologic turmoil. Leaving Skye, stop for a photo shoot at the spectacular Eilean Donan Castle. Then continue south to Perthshire and settle into our hotel. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Fonab Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Pitlochry to Edinburgh
With your camera in hand, enjoy a guided tour through a local distillery, capturing the essence of the traditional whisky making processes. After lunch, enjoy some free time wandering the streets of the charming village of Pitlochry. This afternoon, a short transfer south returns us to Edinburgh, with drop-offs available either in the city center or at the airport for your flight home. (B,L)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
National Geographic photographer and naturalist Jeff Mauritzen traveled to Africa, South America, and the Pacific on assignment photographing wildlife for the Society's Animal Encyclopedia. Jeff is also a seasoned and popular photography expert, guiding and lecturing on natural history-focused trips for National Geographic Expeditions. His adventures have immersed him in vivid landscapes on all seven continents and in more than 60 countries around the world. Whether capturing 360-degree panoramas of wildlife along an African savanna or photographing sharks in the Pacific depths, Jeff’s work expresses an unwavering passion, respect, curiosity, and awe for the natural world. An avid traveler and explorer, Jeff has lived in Venezuela and Ireland, as well as at sea aboard seven different ships. His photography is represented by National Geographic Creative and has appeared in more than a dozen National Geographic books and numerous other publications, as well as on the Society's website.
We will be hiking 3 to 5 hours per day (2.5 to 7 miles) on moderate to steep grades at low elevations. During hikes, vehicle support is provided at various points while in the highlands, but will be limited while on the islands.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
We will stay in ideally located hotels that reflect the local character.
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