A short drive to the east from the busy touristy village of John O’Groats, there’s a short yet spectacular coastal walk along the far north-eastern tip of Scotland. On a clear day, magnificent views as far as the Orkneys await those who venture out along the three-mile (there-and-back) clifftop walk. You may even delight in finding yourself alone there, as I was when I scouted this location for a photography tour.
Although this walk could be completed in little over an hour, I’d recommend taking several hours. Park at the lighthouse and follow the signs south to the Stacks of Duncansby, sticking as close to the cliff edge as possible for the best views of these wonderful sea stack formations standing proud in the North Sea. Along the way, keep an eye out for the seabird colonies and seals that frequent the area.
The grassy path can be boggy in places, and the occasional duckboards can be slippery. For the adventurous, there’s also a steep and sometimes slippery path that leads down to the rocky shore. Once you’ve walked beyond the last stack, I suggest that you stay awhile, enjoy the views, and take in some of Scotland’s finest fresh sea air.
Ideally, aim to walk this route starting just before dawn with a clear horizon over the sea. Early light illuminating the cliffs and turbulent seas will add to the atmosphere in this stunningly beautiful setting. This is both a walker’s and photographer’s paradise. I plan to return here many times in years to come.
The Isle of Muck is the smallest of the Small Isles, a tiny archipelago of islands in the Inner Hebrides off Scotland’s west coast, which includes Canna, Eigg and Rum. It is one of the most peaceful places on earth. Spending an afternoon there is like re-entering the real world.
I visit this island every June, landing at Gallanach on the north coast where ponies, cattle and sheep can be found on the white sandy beach, grazing on seaweed and sweet machair grasses. The piping calls of oyster-catchers echo around the bay.
Measuring one mile long, the walk is simple – though getting there is less so. Follow the road to Port Mor on the south side of the island: there is only one road. It is fringed with meadows full of flowers from which the rasping calls of corncrakes can often be heard. Larks and pipits provide a higher stratum of sound as they hover in the clear blue sky.
There is a wonderful tea shop at Port Mor, and an attractive harbour. It’s all completely relaxing.
Light & Land run photography holidays and workshops across the UK and worldwide, to destinations such as Italy, Norway, Kyrgyzstan, Albania and Namibia. The trips are guided by Charlie Waite and other photographers, including Joe Cornish, Doug Chinnery and Phil Malpas. See lightandland.co.uk for details.
The company is celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2018 with an exhibition, Evolving Landscapes, at the OXO Gallery on London’s Southbank from July 18-22, featuring photos by Charlie Waite and other Light & Land photographers including Joe Cornish, Antony Spencer, Sue Bishop and more. See lightandland.co.uk/25-year-anniversary for details.