Experiencing the Scottish Highlands in April

It has been well over ten years now that my wife and I have had the privilege of visiting the Scottish Highlands and surrounding area each year. Normally this would be over the new year, and then in the summer. Always an opportunity to spend time with the part of the family that moved up there years ago.

This time we had booked a week in early April, and I was unsure how the different season would change the photographic opportunities.

Travelling the 10+ hour trip overnight, as has become the custom, the first day was then spent resting until after sunset when I went out with the camera down to the local harbour. I was hoping for a chance to see the aurora after checking to my phone apps. It was not to be, but still was able to capture the Milky Way as its tail spread across the sky.  

We were staying in Nairn on this occasion, a lovely location east of Inverness, which boasts fantastic beaches and a renown golf course!

It was the beaches which became a frequent subject of the photos. With a limited number of suitable sunsets/sunrises due to cloud cover, I attempted to make the most of getting out at the opening and closing of the day. The first two photos below were from the beautiful location of Findhorn around sunset, then two different sunrises at Nairn itself.

Despite the weather apps showing cloudy weather each day, more often than not it turned out sunny, with opportunities to get out further a field with Willow into the mountains.

One such trip was to Loch Glass, a long loch tucked away in the wilderness near Ben Wyvis. I have great memories of an adventure with my boys six years ago at the same location. It was in the middle of winter with the loch totally calm and displaying incredible reflections. Back then we walked the length of the loch and then made our way back over the snow laden mountains in the dark, nearly getting lost in the process! No such adventure or reflections on this occasion, but a great time with Willow enjoying playing in the loch.

Below is a comparison of a photo from those years ago and this visit!

On another day I headed out with Willow to my favourite area of Glen Affric. Although a cloudy morning, the weather apps gave promise of brighter weather during the afternoon. Rather than just take photos near the car park, I decided to head off over the mountains, about a 9 mile hike. The route chosen took us up past the mountain Sgurr Na Lapaich that I hope to scale one day, and over the moorland towards Gleann Nam Fiadh, reaching a river about 4.5 miles from the car park. Willow had the time of her life, demonstrating her true stamina as she covered vast areas of the moorland running and chasing down the scents she was picking up.

Another day, another trip, and this time it was to Portknockie. It was very much a recce from a photographic perspective, as it would be the ideal location for sunrise and sunset photos when the lighting is always much better. However, it really gave me a taste of the potential. A location I plan to visit again for sunrises in the summer when we are back up in the area. It was also great to meet Neil Hamilton, another photographer while I was there. Neil has a place locally and if you check his superb images on his website, they demonstrate the true potential of the location for stunning photographic opportunities.

Below is a selection taken as the tide started to come in:

As always is the case, it was a great week and has stirred up ideas and thoughts about the next trip in August. To finish off, here is a evening photograph of the pier at Nairn Harbour looking east as the sun was setting, with the gulls riding the strong stormy winds: