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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.document lively street life in Edinburgh and Scotland’s harbor villages, and cruise deep into the Cuillin mountain range for a photo hike among 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. A short hike brings us up the knoll of Arthur’s Seat, which provides a bird’s eye view over the city. Tonight, gather for an orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel. Bruntsfield 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, and visit the local whisky distillery for a guided tour. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Jura/Kilmartin Glen
This morning, bring your camera along for a private catamaran cruise on Loch Craignish and along the coast of Jura. Amid the rich waters and scattered islands, watch for nesting sea eagles, minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, and seals, as well as a wide variety of seabirds. Witness the swirling surf of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the third largest whirlpool in the world, and enjoy lunch back on land. Take a photo walk in Kilmartin Glen for a chance to document some of the hundreds of ancient monuments, and stop 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, 2-3 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, circumnavigate 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
Enjoy a free morning to explore Pitlochry with your camera or take a short hike in the woodlands around the nearby Blair Castle and Gardens. Arrive in Edinburgh in the late afternoon and transfer to the city center or to the airport for your flight home. (B,L)
National Geographic Adventures 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.
Macduff Everton is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler, where he has photographed more than 20 stories from Paris to Beijing to Big Sur. His other editorial clients include Condé Nast Traveler, Life, LA Times Magazine, NY Times Magazine, Outside, and Smithsonian. Macduff’s photography focuses on sense of place, whether portraits of individuals or portraits of a landscape. His work is in the collections of many public and private institutions, including the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the British Museum in London, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Macduff lives in Santa Barbara, California, and has taught workshops nationally as well as in Mexico and Tuscany.
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. Participants always have the option to rest a day and ride to the next hotel.
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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