Visiting the Isle of Skye: Portree and Neist Point

After the solitude of the West Highlands, my next stop would be the Isle of Skye. It is a bit more difficult to avoid tourists here, but as I get up at 4 A.M. anyway, I did not expect any tourists for the first 5 hours of the day. I rented a car in Fort William and planned to stop at Eilean Donan Castle along the way before heading to Portree and my final destination, the Neist Point Lighthouse.

Neist Point

The coast of Waterstein is one with dramatic cliffs. Perfect for sunsets as it is positioned in the west. This is where I ended my day.

The first foundations of Eilean Donan Castle may origin from around the year 617. The castle self was built (or extended) in the 13th century. However, in the year 1719 it was destroyed by governmental ships, to be rebuilt in 1919. Today this castle has no residents and is used as an important tourist attraction in the Highlands. As there indeed were many tourists, I looked for a calm spot to take a picture. I did not want any people in my shot. Because there are many tourists crossing the bridge that connects the island to mainland, I decided to use my Natural Density filter (the Big Stopper by Lee) to create a one minute exposure. The moving people, are now (almost) completely blurred, as if it was a calm day. Natural Density means that the filter has no colour, except for dark grey. The dark grey does not affect the colours of the photo, but reduces the light hitting the camera’s sensor by about a thousand times. Hence, a long exposure is required to still create a correct exposed picture.

Eilean Donan Castle

My first stop was the tourist attraction Eilean Donan Castle.

I still needed to get used to having lots of people around me, so after taking the picture, I hopped in my car and moved on to Portree. Portree is largest town on the Isle of Skye. It is a lovely place to visit and enjoy some fish for diner. But with only 2,5 thousand people living there, it is a quiet place with not much going on. You could take a boat trip around the coast of this area, and with some luck spot a Sea Eagle, but since the chances of seeing one is small, and my time was limited, I decided to have some fish and move about. There is a little discussion about the Gaelic name of the town. While the official Gaelic name is Port Rìgh, which means the Harbour of the King, many believe the original name should be Port Ruighe (that is right, just like the Talisker whisky), meaning Slope Harbour. This because the arrival of King James V, was not in peaceful times.

Portree

The colourful harbour of Portree, Port Rìgh, or Port Ruighe.

After a quick diner I enjoyed at the beach, I drove of to the west of Skye to arrive at Waterstein just before sunset. Whenever I go out to take some pictures, this is always during sunrise or sunset. My goal is to arrive at least one hour early at my destination, to explore the area and see how the light is on that spot.

Waterstein

The coast of Waterstein.

Being there early, I realized the light was nice, and the Golder Hour (read here what this is) yet had still to begin, that looked promising! I took my time to walk towards the cliffs and take the panoramic picture above. I shot five pictures in landscape orientation. I usually take much more pictures portrait oriented, to create even more detailed shots, but I considered this image just a warming-up session, before the real work would start (lazy, I know).

After exploring the area, I decided to work out my plan: first start with a picture from the cliffs, and than descend 150 meters in altitude during a 1 mile hike to capture the lighthouse during sunset from up close. I would finish it by returning to the cliffs up high to capture the lighthouse after sunset, during the Blue Hour.

Neist Point

In the far distance is the Neist Point lighthouse.

Near the lighthouse, I decided to take a selfie, as this is a spot crowded with tourists, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Neist Point

Not your average selfie, but it will do.

While most people think that a sunset is beautiful (and they are absolutely right), the real fireworks starts when the sun has just disappeared behind the horizon. Hiking back to the cliff, the sky exploded with too many colours to describe.

Sunset Neist Point

A photographer capturing the sunset.

I already knew this spot is a favourite for many photographers and I decided to include them in my pictures. Including people in landscape pictures adds a scale reference. We know the average size of a human being, so to see how tiny they look near the rocks, gives a good impression of the height of the cliffs.

Sunset Neist Point

The colours and the view… You would be stone cold if your not touched by the beauty of nature.

As I almost left the peninsula, to get back on mainland, the number of photographers disheartened me. What did I expect? To capture an unique shot? Trying not to copy one of the many photographs that would be taken that evening, again I decided to capture the photographers. As mother nature worked on her grande finale and gave us a spectacle of all the colours she had, the silhouettes of the people on the rocks worked for me.

Neist Point

So many colours, and so many photographers!

Back on mainland, I turned around to see the lighthouse one more time. All the tourists left the area, it turned dark and I was there, with only a few people left. I smirked and thought: “don’t you know that after sunset there is always one more surprise“? And sure enough, as the visitors and most photographers walked back to their cars, the lights of the lighthouse went on.

Neist Point

The lights are on during the Blue Hour!

It was one final goodbye, as the Isle of Skye went to sleep. Have you ever visited this spot? And do you always turn around one more time, just to be sure you won’t miss anything? Leave comment for us!

Kind regards,

Tieme


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3 Comments

  1. Roger

    Reply

    Tieme,

    these pictures make me feel homesick to a place I’ve never visited (unfortunately). But it’s definitely on my short list when returning to Scotland.

    Keep up the good work!
    Your friend, Roger.

    • Reply

      My dearest friend, fellow whisky drinker, and the only person I know who goes to the gym at midnight!

      Thank you for your message, so happy to see you here online too! Skye is a touristic hot spot, but if you don’t mind that (or hike during sunrise) than it is fantastic!

      See you soon buddy!

      Cheers,
      Tieme

  2. Pingback: Visiting the Isle of Skye: The Quiraing - Luvo Photography

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