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"Skye Big 5" - Five Most Popular Spots on the Isle of Skye

"Skye Big 5"

The Isle of Skye is known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles. Before we head to the secret spots, I wanted to make sure that we cover Skye's most popular places with the usual information, including parking, photography spots and ideal gear. Join me while we drive almost 100 miles across the island and visit the five places everyone talks about.

A863 towards Carbost and Fairy Pools

1. Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are located at Glenbrittle and are beautiful rock pools of crystal clear spring water fed by a series of waterfalls from the Cuillin Mountains. The Fairy Pools are becoming increasingly popular with walkers thanks to being featured as a must-see destination on TripAdvisor and other media outlets. When you visit, please be careful on the single-track road and remember that the closest toilets are located at Glenbrittle Campsite Cafe along with some great hot chocolate and speciality coffee served up by the baristas at the Cuillin Coffee Co. The Fairy Pool car park is owned by a separate community organisation who is currently trying to develop this area and make it more suitable for the thousands of visitors each year. There is currently a parking fee of £5.00 per vehicle for all day parking. This will have to be paid on entrance to the car park and remember that they only accept cash.

Coming to photography, you will find hundreds of photography opportunities all over the fairy pools. Use the moving water and rocks as your foreground and then try to place one of the majestic mountains at the background. The character of the location is calling for a slow exposure and it can create almost magic like results, so don't forget to bring your ND filters or research the slow exposure function on the latest iphones.

Jakub's secret tip: Most of the photographers and visitors venture only to the first part of the pools, but I like to walk little further where you can find even better compositions (1) and avoid some of the tourists jumping in front of your camera.

Fairy Pools from Jakub's favourite location

Location: Here

What to shoot: Landscape, Water

Ideal kit: Tripod, Polarizing Filter, ND Filter, Wide Angle Lens, Normal Lens

When to go: This spot is great to go to all year round, but watch for the slippery surface

Ideal conditions: Dusk, Dawn, All Weather

2. Neist Point Lighthouse

The second on the list is one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland. The Neist Point lighthouse can be found on the most westerly tip of Skye near the township of Glendale, and it was first lit on 1 November 1909 when it was a manned lighthouse. Since then the internal light system has been updated to an automated system that no longer requires daily maintenance. Since 1990, the lighthouse has been operated remotely from the Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh. The keeper’s cottages that surround the central tower are now privately owned and for a few years were used as holiday lets, but recently don’t seem to have been used.

Let's start with parking. The car park is located at very end of the single track road 10.5miles from Dunvegan (taking 30 minutes to drive). If travelling from Portree, it is 31 miles and will take about 1 hour to drive.

To visit the first and most popular photo spot, you walk back along the cliff to the right of the car park until you get to one of the ideal positions. I prefer to avoid the very top of the cliff and always try to walk a few meters down to one of the stone platforms which will give you a steady base for fantastic sunset photography.

The second spot offers a very similar view, but it's located under the cliffs. People generally avoid this spot, but I love to go there as it gives you the opportunity to highlight the size of the rock formation and hills surrounding the lighthouse.

To get to the 3rd and 4th location, you have to walk for about 30-45 minutes to get to the actual lighthouse. Once you get closer, you will notice a several composition possibilities from the front of the lighthouse. You can use the old path as a leading line or the puddles for a reflection effect.

The fourth location is my favourite as I always come back with a different photo from there. The spot is located on the rocks behind the lighthouse on the left. You have to walk past the lighthouse and keep walking until you get on the actual cliffs. When you arrive at the location, you can play around with the waves, cliffs and puddles of water.

Jakub's secret tip: Make sure you plan your visit with extra time and explore the area near the lighthouse. I especially like to visit the landing point where supplies used to be delivered by boat; the crane remains in place. This location is great for some excellent long exposure photography.

Neist Point from the third location

Location: Here

What to shoot: Landscape, Water, Panorama, Long Exposure

Ideal kit: Tripod, Polarizing Filter, ND Filter, Wide Lens, Normal Lens, Telephoto Lens

When to go: This spot is great to go to all year round.

Ideal conditions: Daytime, All Weather, Sunset, Night Photography

3. Fairy Glen

The third spot is a bizarre and delightful miniature landscape of grassy hills. The Fairy Glen is a fascinating and mysterious place to visit. Skye has a long history involving the Fairies, most of which are related to Dunvegan Castle and their ‘Fairy Flag’. The Fairy Glen (much like the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle) has no real legends or stories involving fairies that can be traced. The simple fact that the location is unusual so it has been given the nickname Fairy Glen. One of the hills still has its basalt topping intact which, from a distance, looks like a ruin and has been called Castle Ewan. It is possible to climb to the top where there is not much room, but does have wonderful views. Parking is very limited in the Glen and it is recommended to keep everyone safe while you are parking your car or park in Uig and walk into the Glen (30min).

The Fairy Glen is very high even on my list when it comes to photography locations. I have had some amazing moments there in past with beautiful sunsets and blue hours. This location gets very busy and if it's photography you coming for, I would avoid the general day time when you going to share this spot with hundreds of people. Head somewhere else instead and comeback two hours before the sunset. Most of the popular tours will be gone and you will be able to enjoy this spot alone or with few other photographers. When it comes to composition you need to move around the main area and look for elevated spots to include the "Castle Ewan" and the stone structures in your photo. If you take my advice and come around the sunset time, you should be looking towards the west for the best possible colours and clouds.

Jakub's secret tip: I usually go for two compositions, one is directly behind the "Castle Ewan" structure where I try to hide the actual sun behind the rock. This way you get beautiful golden glow around it and still enjoy the beautiful clouds and sky. My second favourite is the little hill behind the main stone spirals. This location will give you the opportunity to capture the entire character of this place with the hills and glens.

Location: Here

What to shoot: Landscape, Panorama

Ideal kit: Tripod, Polarizing Filter, ND Filter, Wide Lens, Normal Lens

When to go: This spot is great to go to all year round.

Ideal conditions: Golden Hour, Sunset, Night Photography, All Weather

4. Quiraing

As part of the Trotternish ridge it has been formed by a massive landslip which has created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. The Quiraing loop is an essential walk for any photographer as it passes though some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and therefore it definitely deserves a place on our "Skye Top 5". The Quiraing walk is a loop, returning you to the same point (the carpark). It covers a distance of 6.8km, with the average time to complete the walk being 2 hours (with no stops). When we look at the parking the carpark is located at the highest part of the single track road 5.5miles from Uig or 2.5miles from Staffin. If traveling from Portree it is 21miles and will take about 30 minutes to drive. Finally, just a reminder that this walk is not suitable in all weather conditions as it takes you near high cliffs so it cannot be recommended in windy conditions or if it’s misty (low visibility).

The last two locations offer as many photography opportunities as you can imagine. The advice is to bring all the kit you have and reserve enough time to really explore the area while walking the loop. The correct clothing is equally important for this trip as the weather may change quickly and you want to stay dry and comfortable while waiting for the perfect shot. If I would have to suggest a location for your first visit, I would have to send you to the "Quiraing Tree". This easily accessible spot is only 5-10 minutes away from the carpark and it is one of the most iconic views from the whole walk. Once you leave your car, start by following the path to the north west. After walk for about 5 minutes leave the path and get closer to the edge of the cliffs (while staying safe). If you keep walking, you should run into a mini-glen with a little stream and you should be there.

Jakub's secret tip: I love the entire walk, but personally I think that the first part of the walk offer the best photography opportunities and unless you coming back to the Quiraing for many times, I would suggest to stick with the area as far as the "Needle" rock formation. This area is big enough for a full afternoon of photography and you will come back home with amazing photos.

Location: Here