The Isle of Skye is easily one of the most picturesque areas of Scotland. With its rolling hills, majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and untouched wilderness, it has everything a landscape photographer can dream of. In this photography guide to the Isle of Skye, I’ll cover the best photo locations on the island and share some tips for getting incredible images.
- Isle of Skye — a Photographer’s Dream Destination
- Photography Locations on the Isle of Skye
- Getting Around the Isle of Skye
- Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
- Tips for Landscape Photography on the Isle of Skye
- Recommended Gear
- Final Thoughts
Isle of Skye — a Photographer’s Dream Destination
The Isle of Skye is located off the northwestern shore of Scotland, in the Scottish Highlands. This entire area is known for its astonishingly beautiful scenery. No wonder the Isle of Skye is widely recognized as one of the top places to visit in Scotland.
It’s a must-see destination for any outdoor enthusiast but especially so for landscape photographers. Home to some of the most prominent landmarks in the country, it boasts a seemingly endless supply of fabulous views.
They say an image is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the photos in this article speak for themselves. Suffice it to mention, the Isle of Skye has a landscape for every taste. Imposing mountains, rugged coastlines, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls are just some of its highlights.
Despite its relatively small size, one could spend weeks exploring the Isle of Skye. There are the popular “classic” shots of course, but the Isle of Skye is so much more. Honestly, it offers so many unique compositions that it feels like a candy store for photographers!
What impressed me the most, however, is its wilderness and remoteness. Somehow, the Isle of Skye reminds me of Patagonia. A harsh seemingly barren land full of surprises if you’re willing to look for them.
I spent three days on the Isle of Skye and I wish I could stay for a few more. All of Scotland is beautiful but it’s the Isle of Skye that stole the show for me. It’s there that I took my favorite images from the trip, and I would gladly visit it again.
Photography Locations on the Isle of Skye
For this article, I selected the 10 best photography spots on the Isle of Skye. From celebrated classics to lesser-known but equally marvelous areas, these are all worth a visit. This isn’t an exclusive list but If you’re only staying for a few nights, you’ll have plenty to occupy yourself with.
For convenience, I’ve marked the exact locations on the map above. Feel free to come back to it whenever necessary, and let’s get started.
The Old Man of Storr
Undoubtedly the most famous location on the Isle of Skye, the Old Man of Storr is an iconic rock formation. Visible for miles around, it is beloved by photographers for its distinctive shape that has been captured in many photos.
Old Man of Storr is reachable by a short 2-kilometer walk from the car park some 10-minute drive north of the island’s capital Portree. It’s not an overly difficult hike, but expect some rocky terrain and a decent 330-meter elevation gain. I do recommend a pair of reliable hiking shoes.
Old Man of Storr is situated on the northeastern coast of the Isle of Skye which makes it a sunrise spot. In the morning, the sun illuminates its cliffs and surrounding hills with soft golden light. Sunsets are usually less impressive as the landscape is covered in shadows.
So if you want the best light, plan to wake up early and hike in the predawn darkness. Luckily, the path is well-marked and easy to follow even if you haven’t been here before. Time-wise, the conventional estimate is about an hour, but we managed in some 40 minutes. Be sure to take the headlamp!
There are several viewpoints to choose from. The most common one is past the Old Man of Storr and slightly higher up, allowing for a top-down perspective. It’s off to the side of the tourist path and somewhat hard to notice unless you know where to go. Check the map beforehand.
Once you’re happy with that composition, stick around and look for other, less conventional ones. There’s plenty to shoot here including the Storr itself — I’ve seen some very unusual takes on this iconic rock.
The Quiraing is a hilly area in the northern part of the island. It’s another indisputable classic and my favorite photography location on the Isle of Skye. In many ways, the scenery here is similar to that around the Old Man of Storr but much more varied.
Much like the Old Man of Storr, Quiraing is a sunrise destination. In the evening, the shadows are typically too long and deep for a compelling photo. Fortunately, the most famous view is just five minutes away from the car park. At least you won’t have to do much hiking in the dark!
That’s not to say you won’t be hiking at all, however. The parking lot is a starting point of a 7-kilometer Quiraing loop trail. The path takes you on a journey through some of the best landscapes on the Isle of Skye so I highly suggest you do it.
What I love most about Quiraing is that apart from that initial shot it is all an open game. There are tons of lovely compositions around but no clear indication of what to photograph. No must-shoot scenes and no particular place everybody goes to.
So instead of trying to reach some predetermined viewpoint, you can wander at your own pace concentrating on what’s around you. Just keep your eyes open and you’ll soon discover plenty of charming scenes as well as epic vistas.
The Neist Point Lighthouse
The Neist Point lighthouse completes the unofficial “Big Three” photography locations on the Isle of Skye. Situated on the westernmost tip of the island, it’s an incredible spot to watch and photograph the sunset.
You can walk down to the lighthouse and explore it if you wish but the common photography viewpoint is on the upper plateau, a short 10-minute walk from the parking lot. There are normally quite a few people with cameras there, so you’ll know where to go.
For the best conditions, aim to be there during the evening golden hour. Neist Point Lighthouse is one of those places where you absolutely need good light. It paints the cliffs with soft golden hues adding contrast and depth to the shot. Without it, the scene just won’t look the same.
Unfortunately, the Neist Point doesn’t offer much in terms of variety. There’s pretty much just one conventional composition. If it doesn’t work out for some reason, you need to get really creative to find a decent alternative.
A drone could be a big help with that. We were quite unlucky with the sunset, so I took mine to the air and went hunting. You can see the result above — and I have to admit I am rather pleased with this image.
The Fairy Pools
Fairy Pools is a series of waterfalls and natural basins filled with crystal-blue water formed by the River Brittle. It is popular with tourists but also makes for a great photography spot, especially after the rain.
There is an easy hike that follows the river for approximately 3 kilometers allowing you to explore it at your own pace. You’ll be passing several waterfalls and pools along the way so put aside enough time to photograph anything you feel like.
To me, there isn’t much sense in visiting the Fairy Pools during sunrise or sunset. The sun won’t reach the canyon’s bottom leaving it covered in shadows. It is, however, an excellent location to come to during the day. Just keep in mind that Fairy Pools tend to get fairly busy.
As is always the case with waterfalls, a tripod and an ND filter could come in handy. If you anticipate leaving the path, wellies or other waterproof shoes are advisable. The land might be quite boggy.
Portree is the capital and largest town on the Isle of Skye. And while it’s probably not the most exciting photography spot on the island, it does feature a couple of cool little gems. Since you’ll inevitably be passing through Portree at some point, might as well stop to check them out.
An obvious choice is the Bosville Terrace, a mini-promenade of sorts. It offers a nice view over Portree harbor with the town’s colorful houses in the background. You’ll notice this scene on half the postcards from the Isle of Skye so don’t miss the opportunity to capture your version of it.
You might find a few more interesting images walking the town’s narrow alleys. That said, I wouldn’t come to Portree specifically for photography. Just wait till your itinerary brings you there. For example when searching for a breakfast venue after shooting the Old Man of Storr.
Speaking of which, Birch Cafe is very nice.
The Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen is an area I wish I had a chance to get more familiar with. It is almost like the Quiraing in miniature — grass-covered dreamy hills with lochans (small ponds) in between. It’s incredibly picturesque yet still underrated among photographers.
Depending on the day, the Fairy Glen may look charming or mystical. There’s something otherworldly about it as if the fairies could indeed live there. Adding to the ethereal feeling is the giant spiral of stones at the foot of Fairy Glen’s largest hill.
The stones, as it turns out, are brought by tourists and not a part of the original lore. Every now and then the locals remove them to preserve Fairy Glen’s natural state. Personally, I’d rather just keep them there as they look pretty awesome.
Either way, there is quite a bit to shoot at Fairy Glen. I’d say, allow at least an hour and a half to walk around and discover the best angles. As for timing, misty mornings are probably ideal but I reckon Fairy Glen works well in all sorts of conditions.
Sligachan is one of the main crossroads on the Isle of Skye. Chances are you’ll be passing it occasionally purely by accident. And when you do, stop for a bit as here you can photograph another famous postcard view.
What you have here is a cool-looking old stone bridge that aligns nicely with the mountains in the background. A simple concept, yet very effective. In many ways, it captures the very essence of Scotland in a single image.
You can photograph Sligachan either from a new bridge next to it or down from the river level. Both will produce decent results, especially if the weather cooperates. Note that lower composition only looks good when there’s enough water in the river.
The Talisker Bay
Those of you who like Scotch whiskey have probably heard of Talisker. It’s the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye and well worth a separate tour. And if you go there, you might as well check the Talisker Bay, a lovely beach just 15 minutes drive west of the distillery.
One of the few choices for a beach retreat on the Isle of Skye, Talisker Bay will also be of interest to photographers. Facing directly west and featuring sand, boulders, and even some sea stacks, it has all the right ingredients for an amazing sunset photo.
There’s just one caveat. Talisker Bay is at its greatest during the low tide. That’s when the rocks are visible giving you an interesting foreground to play with. So check the forecast and pick an evening with the most favorable tide schedule.
Note that the beach is 1.5 kilometers away from the car park, so plan accordingly. In a location like this, it is always a good idea to set aside enough time to walk around, scout, and settle on the best composition.
The Duntulm Castle
Since we’re in Scotland, no list could be complete without at least one castle. Luckily, the Isle of Skye has no shortage of old fortresses. Dunvegan and Armadale might be the most impressive ones architecturally, but for photography, I much prefer the Duntulm castle instead.
To be fair, Duntulm is more a ruin than a proper medieval castle but perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean it makes for a fantastic subject. A relic of an era long gone, it is a lonely reminder of the past with a fascinating story to tell.
Duntulm castle is a bit too far north to go there specifically but worth a quick detour after shooting Quiraing. And who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to witness one of the ghosts who are rumored to haunt it. Just don’t let them chase you off the cliff!
The Elgol Beach
Elgol is a rocky beach in the southern part of the Isle of Skye. It might not look like much at first sight but has been growing in popularity among photographers lately. Indeed, when the weather cooperates, Elgol makes for an incredible sunset spot.
Elgol is pretty far south and quite a drive from other Skye highlights. I suggest watching the conditions closely before going there. The trick is once again to be there during receding (or advancing) tide. That reveals more of the rocks and creates some interesting movement in the water.
The parking lot is right next to the beach but arrive well in advance to scout out a suitable composition. In my experience, seascapes require some careful thought to come up with a compelling frame. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last moment as the sun is setting.
Getting Around the Isle of Skye
Technically, you can navigate around the Isle of Skye using public transportation and taxis. However, if your main goal is photography, this will be extremely inefficient and pricey. Therefore, I would highly advise renting a car.
With a rental, you can be at the location whenever you want and stay for as long as you need. Of course, driving on the left side of the road might be intimidating at first but you get used to it fairly quickly.
Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to invest in complete insurance coverage. The roads in Scotland are narrow and I’ve hit the curb more than once, even getting a flat tire at some point. Not my proudest moment but it all worked out smoothly because of the insurance.
As for the company, I wholeheartedly recommend Arthur Clark / Celtic Legends who I had no issues with whatsoever. But of course, all the big brands also operate in Scotland.
If renting is not an option for whatever reason, Stagecoach operates buses on the Isle of Skye. There is no rail connection and the only other alternative is taxis and sightseeing tours. Check out this article for more details on using public transport.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
As a photographer, you want to stay as close to promising photography locations as possible. Unfortunately, there is no ideal place for that on the Isle of Skye. Everything is spread out, and no matter where you settle, you’re looking at quite some driving.
That said, my recommendation would be to stay somewhere north of Portree. Quiraing and Old Man of Storr are close by and easily reachable. These are probably the two main locations you want to shoot and both are sunrise destinations. Helps to avoid crazy early wake-up calls.
Besides, as a capital, Portree is probably the only place on the Isle of Skye where you can find food after 7:30 PM. I honestly don’t understand what it is with restaurants in Scotland. They all stop serving super early. So Portree is your best chance at dinner after the sunset shoot.
More specifically, we stayed at Hartaval & Baca Ruadh. It worked out perfectly well for us and I’m happy to give them a shoutout.
Tips for Landscape Photography on the Isle of Skye
Photography on the Isle of Skye comes with a few peculiarities. So if you plan on visiting (as any landscape photographer should!), here are a couple of useful things to remember.
– All the horror stories about midges are true. They’re horrendous. If you’re coming in summer or early autumn, get a midge net. Honestly, just do it. I kid you not, they are relentless and unbearable and will ruin your photo shoot in a matter of minutes. Trust me on that.
– Dress in layers and bring warm clothes. Even in summer, it gets quite chilly on the Isle of Skye, especially in the mornings. On the Old Man of Storr, in particular, it was so windy that I was freezing despite wearing a jacket. Even more painful was watching the people who showed up for sunrise in shorts and t-shirts. You don’t want to be like them.
– As already mentioned, most restaurants stop serving food early so plan your evening meals. And don’t rely on the opening times that Google tells you. After 7:30 PM most venues will only sell drinks. So either eat dinner before the sunset shoot or find a restaurant that is open until late (like some Indian places in Portree).
– Be up for every sunrise. That’s a tough one for me but the weather on Skye is completely unpredictable. You never know if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. I nearly slept through my favorite shot from Quiraing. As I woke up, it was all cloudy and gloomy and I was ready to go back to sleep. Changed my mind at the last second, and the sky just blew up during sunrise.
– Have a contingency photography plan or better still, several. The weather can change in a matter of minutes, so be ready to react and pick another spot. Otherwise, you might be caught scrambling at the last moment, unsure of where to go.
– The UK and thus Scotland have a power plug of type G that is different from the US or European ones. If coming from abroad, you’ll likely need an adapter or two to charge your stuff. There aren’t many shops on the Isle of Skye, so I suggest buying those at home.
– Credit cards are universally accepted on the Isle of Skye. I never ever needed cash during my stay there.
These days, you can capture great photos with any gear, even smartphones. But for my fellow photo nerds, here’s what you might need for your adventures on the beautiful Isle of Skye:
- A camera. Truth be told, all modern cameras are brilliant, so you pretty much can’t go wrong. I use an oldie-but-goodie Sony A7III* and it still delivers amazing results.
- A versatile travel lens, such as Sony 24-105 mm. This is the lens I use the most no matter where I go and the Isle of Skye was no exception. If you could only take one lens, that’s the one I would pick.
- Wide-angle zoom is a must in landscape photography. Sure enough, I’ve used my Tamron 17-28 mm on quite a few occasions while on the Isle of Skye.
- A sturdy tripod. For me, Benro Travel Angel has long been a faithful companion in all my travels, but there are other awesome brands out there.
- A drone. The Isle of Skye is gorgeous from higher up and by having a drone you unlock a ton of new and exciting compositions. I use DJI Mini 3 Pro and absolutely love it.
- ND filters and a polarizer are often quite handy. I’m not a big fan of bulky rectangular filters and prefer the screw-on ones instead, like those from Breakthrough Photography.
- A lens cloth and a raincoat for your camera bag in case it gets wet, as it often does in Scotland.
The Isle of Skye is truly a dream destination for landscape photography. With a grand variety of dramatic vistas, unpredictable weather, and near-limitless potential for exploration it has everything a photo enthusiast can ever wish for.
Stunning as they may be, the wilderness of Quiraing and the formidable Old Man of Storr are just the beginning. There are plenty of less obvious but equally remarkable locations and compositions throughout the Isle of Skye.
I highlighted a handful of them that I think deserve a mention. But I urge you to not limit yourself to just these. Get off the beaten path and let the Isle of Skye surprise you. As I’m sure it will.
I hope you enjoyed this quick photography guide to the Isle of Skye. If so, I’d appreciate you sharing it with your friends and on social media. Feel free to leave a comment below or ask a question if you have any. I’ll do my best to respond.
I do have a bunch of other articles related to photography and travel that I think you’ll love. So help yourself around the blog or check some of these suggestions of mine:
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- Mont Saint-Michel Photography Guide: Best Locations and Tips
- A Land of Wonders: 10 Great Reasons to Travel to Slovenia
- Lisbon Photography Guide: 10 Fabulous Spots to Capture
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