There are many icons of Scotland. Thistle, bagpipes, tartan, shortbread and so on. And yes, the Highland cow. Come and follow me to three of my favorite locations for seeing these magnificent animals on the Isle of Skye while I give you advice on where to park, what camera gear to use and what your basic camera setting should be for going home with your own photo of the real ginger Scottish icon.
Before we get on the road, it's good to know that the temperament of a Highland cow is generally good and this is worth remembering when approaching them for those memorable photos. Caution should always be exercised of course, especially if they have young calves as they can be very protective of their young. Particular care should also be taken if you are with a dog. Dogs should be on a lead when around livestock. This avoids stressing livestock and also keeps you safe as cattle (including Highland cows) can be unpredictable around dogs. I am also happy to let you know that all my photos were captured while keeping the safety of the animals and me as the main priority and always working from behind the fence.
Despite their fearsome appearance, you may be surprised to learn that Highland cows are not known to be aggressive to each other. Indeed, behavioural studies have found that their social hierarchies and ability to read each other means that they have little reason for conflict.
Location no.1 - Sconser (here)
The first and probably the most ideal location for capturing the Highland Cows is located on the way from Broadford (Skye Bridge) to Portree, near the village called Sconser. This location is ideal for multiple reasons, one of them being the perfect multi-car parking located just opposite the Sconser golf course. It also has the feeding station located by the parking, so the chance of seeing cows is high. You can stay safe behind the fence and capture as many photos as you want there with beautiful mountains used as a natural background for your photos.
Location no.2 - Scullamus (here)
Next location is ideal for those who are not planning to travel as far as Sconser while visiting the island. The Scullamus photography spot is located opposite the Old Church House B&B, and it has limited parking. I would suggest you pick one of the little parking spots along the A87 and make sure that you stay safe and don't hold the drivers up on this busy road.
Once you get near to the feeding station, it's easy enough to capture one or a few cows spending day wondering around their field. The composition works well with the forested area and the Inner Sound as a backdrop.
Location no.3 - A850 & A87
A850 - Between the Fairy Bridge and Dunvegan (Here)
A87 - Picnic Spot near Sconser (Here)
The last locations have the least possibilities of seeing the cows, but they are still worth a mention in case you're driving in the location. The reason why I mention the A850 & A87 spots is that I captured some of the most undisturbed photos at both of them as they are not crazy busy with tourists and the cows are usually nicely settled making your photography just bit easier. The parking is quite easy in both locations as there are plenty of parking spots available alongside the road. Please stay safe and avoid stopping in the middle of the road regardless of the traffic around you.
My camera setting
Camera mood: Shutter-priority mode
Shutter speed: 1/250 and faster
Aperture: Automatic as per the camera
ISO: Automatic (If available) / After based on the current light conditions anything from 100 - 1000 will do
Focus mode: Continuous autofocus
Focus area: Flexible spot (while working with one cow, focusing on the head) / Wide
My Camera Gear (Check my full camera gear here)
Camera: Sony A7r ii / Nikon D5500
Lens: Wide lens (around 24mm) for cool looking close-ups and 50-240 when including the landscape.
Let's end this blog post by sharing a few interesting tips about the "HEILAN’ COOS":
- When Highland cattle are mentioned, people often immediately think of their ginger-red coat. However, their colouring can vary between black, brindle, yellow and even white!
- Their hair is always long, sometimes reaching about 13 inches (33 cm), with a slight wave.
- They have long and distinctive horns, which actually help them forage for food during snowy winters! They can use their horns as a way to dig deep into pastures that have been covered with snow.
- Interestingly, a group of Highland cattle is not called a herd, but a 'fold' instead.
Thank you for your visit today and don't forget that you can purchase my favourite Highland Cow photos in my Art Store here.